PAUL RYAN, free market extremist: With an economics degree in his pocket and small-government conservatism in his blood—Calvin Coolidge appointed his grandfather as a U.S. attorney—Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan rose quickly from Jack Kemp acolyte to ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee before the age of 40. A supply-sider and deficit hawk, Ryan is the author of the GOP’s only Congressional Budget Office–certified “road map” to balance the budget and eliminate the long-term deficit. His proposal calls for politically courageous cuts to beloved entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid—cuts so drastic that New York Times contributor James Kwak summarized their effects under the headline: “People will die.” Ryan has argued that the central battle in American politics is between “individualism and collectivism” and said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”
Paul Ryan, free market sellout: Ryan voted in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the widely despised bank bailout. He also endorsed the taxpayer-funded auto bailout, citing “mounting hardships” in a part of his state once dominated by carmakers. His ballyhooed spending plan is so incrementalist that it wouldn’t balance the budget until 2063. And this year, while defending his policies to The New York Times, the congressman declared, “I’m not trying to win an award from the Cato Institute.”
Which of these two snapshots represents the real Ryan? They both do.