The Straight Dope on Paul Ryan

How much do you know about the next potential vice president of the United States? Here are his views on major issues from the federal budget to immigration to social issues and more.


Firmly grasping grassroots voters by the hand, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney chose Wisconsin Congressional Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate, setting off an enthusiastic wave of Twitterings, Facebook posts and congratulatory messages..

Already well known among political observers, seven-term Congressman Ryan is the co-chairman of the House Budget Committee and the author of the “The Path to Prosperity,” which ultimately became the blueprint for Romney’s economic vision for America’s future.

Ryan is widely respected by members of both parties as a federal budget expert and a fiscal hawk of the highest order. He supports amending the Constitution to include a balanced budget requirement. He recently voted his conscious and joined Democrats as well as three House Republicans in denying passage of a watered-down version of the balanced budget amendment that did not include spending limits, risked much higher income taxes down the road and had little chance of passing the Senate (and never mind ratification by the states).

With this pick, Romney is rolling the dice – wisely, I think -- that the economy is the top issue for voters this election year. Yes, there is a lot of background noise. But even Bill Clinton's strategist James Carville observed wryly: it's "the economy, stupid.”

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but wonder: where else does Paul Ryan stand on the issues? So, for those of you who holler that my column is not “rhetoric-free” as advertised, here are his views on a number of important issues of the day in a real “spin-free” zone (my apologies, Mr. O’Reilly).

For your consideration:

Medicare. Ryan supports maintaining the existing Medicare program for current seniors as well as those who are near retirement. “Younger workers” would receive a voucher that would offer, in Ryan’s words, greater choice through the creation of a Medicare Exchange that would put insurers in competition with each other, which Ryan believes will drive down costs. The voucher plan, born from the Clinton health care commission, is a bipartisan solution, Ryan says.

Social Security. Ryan believes, as do most fiscal hawks, that Social Security is in deep trouble. He believes that there is a bipartisan path forward and points to the progress made by President Obama’s Fiscal Commission, which supports revising Social Security to include a progressive payment structure and providing additional financial help to those who fall below the poverty line.

Immigration. Ryan does not support amnesty for illegal aliens. Instead, he “hopes” to solve the problem through better border security procedures and an updated worker registration system. He sympathizes with the DREAM Act but does not support its “piecemeal”, “symptom”-treating efforts. He supports a temporary guest worker program – essential for his agriculture-dependent home state.

Health Care. Ryan supports repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Environmental Issues. Ryan, by all accounts, is an “avid outdoorsman” and he has focused his environmental legislative efforts in the Wisconsin region. He vigorously supports Congress’s Asian Carp effort as well as the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force. He supported removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list; the gray wolf population has been increasing in numbers, and many Wisconsin farmers have reported losing livestock to gray wolf attacks.  He is a member of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus.

Foreign Policy. Ryan supports maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan. He is staunch supporter of Israel’s “right to exist” and believes that America should not pressure it to agree to deals that won’t maintain regional peace with known terrorists and terrorist-sympathizers such as Hamas. He supports maintaining a strong, well-supplied military.

Social Issues. Although Ryan’s own website does not highlight his views on social issues, he believes life begins at conception and he is a staunch social conservative. He opposes abortion and has voted to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood. He also opposes same sex marriage and supports the rights of gun owners, saying that he believes gun control legislation won’t result in improved crime control. Thus far, he has deflected criticism, stating that he wants to focus on the issues that are affecting the economy.

With these views, the Republicans are lining up squarely against the Democrats in nearly every important area.

Things are about to get interesting.

Jon S. August 15, 2012 at 03:16 PM
As usual, Ms. Bigelow promises us “rhetoric-free” analysis and offers absolutely nothing of the kind. To base her column on Rep. Ryan’s own website isn’t exactly “spin-free,” is it? It’s nothing BUT spin, nothing but a happy PR face. To read Ms. Bigelow, for example, you’d think Rep. Ryan is an environmental champion. She states that Rep. Ryan is “an avid outdoorsman,” who supports “Congress’s Asian Carp effort,” and the “Great Lakes Interagency Task Force,” who wants to remove the “gray wolf from the endangered species list,” and who is a “member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.” These are, in the same order and same wording, the exact talking points listed on Rep. Ryan’s web page. Not mentioned on Rep. Ryan’s web page, and thus not included in Ms. Bigelow’s “straight dope,” are far more troubling examples of Rep. Ryan’s actual environmental record. Stuff like his denial of global warming, or his history of protecting big oil’s tax breaks while working against emerging energy technologies. There’s no mention that Rep. Ryan is a favorite of oil industry lobbyists or receives only a 3% rating from the 2011 League of Conservation Voters (even Michele Bachmann scored higher). No one's going to vote for president based on Rep. Ryan’s stand on the environment. But, as ever, Ms. Bigelow needs to start being more honest with her readers. “Rhetoric-free?” “Spin-free?” More like “Thought-free.”
mary August 16, 2012 at 02:52 AM
I for one, trust that Romney and Ryan will sort out this mess we are in. I am totally against all the spending going on. At some point, people who work are going to wonder why they bother when a growing percentage of the population does not, and relies on a smaller and smaller band of people to support them. Eventually, one runs out of other people's money - that is the problem with socialism (attribute to Margaret Thatcher I believe). No one's record is going to be perfect but the comment from Obama recently that small business owners did not build their businesses absolutely sickened me. I have never run my own business but know many people who have and do. The vast majority work very long hours and work 7 days a week. Many have paid themselves less than key members of their staff for considerable periods and have put up with this with the hope that all will come right in the end. In the meantime, they have provided employment to many people who go home at night and do not worry about how to make payroll or get an extension on their bank loan. How can the USA re-elect someone who is so blatantly anti-business?
Edward Michaels August 20, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I voted for Obama in 2008. I don't regret it because I think it helped to heal a lot of racial wounds. But this time I'm voting for Romney - to heal the whole country.


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