Paul Ryan Can’t Lose (NYT)
New York Times Magazine profiles Paul Ryan, and punctures the myth of him as a serious "idea guy": Paul Ryan Can’t Lose
Skeptics say Ryan owes his superwonk standing as much to comparisons with his colleagues than to any great knowledge or depth. In a recent profile of Ryan by Alec McGillis in The New Republic, Barney Frank dismissed his colleague’s brainy reputation as being relative to that of other House Republicans, some of whom had just been implicated in a late-night escapade during a Congressional trip to Israel last summer. “He is being graded on a curve,” Frank said of Ryan, “with a bunch of guys who jump into the Sea of Galilee because they want to be closer to God.”
Jared Bernstein, who read Ryan’s fiscal proposals when he worked as chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Biden, was more pointed regarding Ryan’s credibility. “He definitely talks the talk,” Bernstein told me. “He has a great facility with a particular set of words, like ‘baseline,’ ‘nondefense discretionary’ and things like that.” Bernstein said he eventually came to the view that while Ryan might understand basic concepts, “he does not actually understand what it takes to craft a budget.” This became clear when Ryan was chairman of the House Budget Committee after 2010. “I would say at this point that his budgetary knowledge is a stalking horse for his ideology,” Bernstein told me, meaning that what was important wasn’t the actual balancing of the budget but the slashing of government spending and programs like Medicare and Social Security and the revenue-generating taxes that pay for them.