Paul Ryan may be Barack Obama’s worst nightmare. On the day after Obama launched his re-election bid with a soft, ambiguous, and oddly passive ad imploring people to come to his rescue, Ryan and his team have released a sharp, focused three-minute video on his plan to rescue America from its looming debt and entitlement crises. Obama and his fellow Democrats have chosen not to lead for short-term political gain. Ryan fills the leadership vacuum in three minutes, explaining the nature of the crisis in easily-understood terms, and the solution to it — cutting spending. If we don’t do that now, the federal government will have to take nearly 50% of the American economy in 40 years to meet its obligations:

Graphs and charts are good, but usually a little dry. Ryan makes them come alive in this video, as much as possible at least, and tells a story to which most people can relate. The presentation would have included a look at economic growth for the next 40 years, but the computer models kept choking on the conditions caused by out-of-control spending and entitlements, and couldn’t project past 2037.

“We will cut spending,” Ryan promises, to save those programs that people value. Regarding those who keep offering Chip Diller “All Is Well!” reassurances, Ryan says, “Washington has not been telling you the truth.” Some suggested that Ryan needed to sideline this fight if Obama didn’t agree to lead on it, and that Ryan should not act to tell the truth. That’s not what leaders do — and by taking on this fight, Ryan has made the difference between himself and the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue clear.

Update: Geoff at Ace’s place says that Ryan’s plan is necessary — but not sufficient:

So here’s the bottom line. If you believe that the GDP will start growing at a healthy rate and continue at that rate forever, and if you manage to reform Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and if you reform the budget process, and if you reform the tax code, and if you accomplish all these reforms in FY12, then you might be able to pay off this year’s spending within 11 to 12 years. Or maybe the decade after.

This is what the President and his crackerjack economic team have wrought. A one-year deficit that is so large that it can only be paid back if everything goes exactly right. And if everything goes exactly right, we’re still looking at decades before we can get back to the debt level we had only 6 months ago.