Dan Gilmore / March 24, 2016

Paul Ryan’s Confident America

It’s rare for a politician to say “I was just wrong.”

It’s rare for a politician — especially one in Washington — to say “I was just wrong.” But that’s what House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a speech yesterday. The speaker described the state of American politics (“It’s easy to get disheartened,” he said) and laid out a vision for what political discourse could become, what it was. We almost don’t have to mention the state of American political discourse, what with politicians comparing genital size during televised debates and appealing not to a better America, but scaring voters into supporting them. Ryan said:

> “Ideas, passionately promoted and put to the test — that’s what politics can be. That’s what our country can be. It can be a confident America, where we have a basic faith in politics and leaders. … In a confident America, we also have a basic faith in one another. We question each other’s ideas — vigorously — but we don’t question each other’s motives. If someone has a bad idea, we don’t think they’re a bad person. We just think they have a bad idea.

Ryan looked back to the time he was a House intern for Congressman Jack Kemp, a former pro football player who had a passion for going into poor neighborhoods and spreading the idea that Liberty and free enterprise lifts all boats. He also had a tax plan.

> "Long before I worked for him, Jack Kemp had a tax plan that he was incredibly passionate about. He wasn’t even on the Ways and Means Committee and Republicans were deep in the minority back then. So the odds of it going anywhere seemed awfully low. But he was like a dog with a bone. He took that plan to any audience he could get in front of. He pushed it so hard that he eventually inspired our party’s nominee for president — Ronald Reagan — to adopt it as his own. And in 1981 the Kemp-Roth bill was signed into law, lowering tax rates, spurring growth, and putting millions of Americans back to work.”

And then there was Ryan’s apology. In the past, the budget wonk used to refer “makers” and “takers,” the latter being the Americans that took government welfare. Yet Ryan now thinks this Ayn Rand influence isn’t necessarily helpful:

> “But as I spent more time listening, and really learning the root causes of poverty, I realized I was wrong. ‘Takers’ wasn’t how to refer to a single mom stuck in a poverty trap, just trying to take care of her family. Most people don’t want to be dependent. And to label a whole group of Americans that way was wrong. I shouldn’t castigate a large group of Americans to make a point.”

By all means, read the whole thing here.

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