Journalists often describe Ryan as a “wonk”—or if you're CNN, a “legendary wonk”—mostly because he has sold himself as one. It's Ryan's #brand, which he's nurtured with a stream of lofty white papers and interviews with credulous reporters. But in truth, he's always been far better at playing a policy nerd on TV than at doing the hard work of crafting legislation that could ever conceivably pass Congress or be implemented without causing mass havoc to the poor. First and foremost, the man is an ideologue who can competently dress up his Randian fantasies with some numbers, and an ocassional magic asterisk where key details should be.
That became painfully obvious with the AHCA, a nonsensical piece of legislation that, despite his lame attempt to sell it with a slide deck presentation, somehow achieved the distinction of being panned by policy experts from the left, right, and center, without actually attracting the support that a normal, if unsatisfying, political compromise might. Ryan initially took Obamacare's basic structure, then defunded the things that made it work in order to pay for massive tax cuts. The bill only became more preposterous and unworkable as Ryan and the White House bargained away necessary regulations for support from hardliners. Now, it's possible this is not truly a reflection on Ryan's aptitude as a policy thinker; the inherent contradictions of the Republican Party may have made it impossible for anybody in leadership to craft a coherent health reform bill. But then, after making last minute changes that would have fundamentally reshaped the entire individual insurance market, the Speaker attempted to bring it to a floor vote Friday without any kind of score from Congressional Budget Office. The man pushed legislation with little to no clue as to what it would actually do to the country. Generally speaking, wonks care about that sort of thing.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment