Want help going beyond the horse race? ProPublica is gathering the best stories out there on Congressman Paul Ryan, his positions, and his background. Have other stories to share? Add them in comments.
Fussbudget, The New Yorker, August 2012
This sweeping profile is a great introduction to Paul Ryan and his politics. Starting in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, it lays out the evolution of Ryan’s economic beliefs, and his rise through the G.O.P – from his early affinity to Ayn Rand to failed attempts at privatizing Social Security, to his Path to Prosperity budget plan, which would make radical changes in Medicaid and other social programs. The article also looks at the ways that federal-funded projects have helped Ryan’s hometown–and notes that Ryan’s plan “would drastically reduce the parts of the budget” that are funding exactly these kinds of projects.
Ryan shines as GOP seeks vision, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 2009
A broad look at Ryan from his home-state paper at a time when Ryan’s national profile was on the rise. Ryan discusses, among other things, how having gay friends led him to break with his party on a gay rights bill in Congress and his “real passion” — bowhunting.
The Legendary Paul Ryan, New York Magazine, April 2012
A look at how the Republican party rallied around Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” putting the newcomer’s fiscal agenda at the center of the 2012 presidential campaign well before voters had even chosen Romney as their Republican nominee.
On the paradox of Paul Ryan, The American Conservative, April 2012
What does Mitt Romney gain from Paul Ryan? Romney may be betting on a boost from conservatives who view Ryan as a hero for his aggressive stance on entitlements and federal spending, but as W. James Antle III points out, that may not be enough to win over grassroots conservatives. Antle writes that despite his anti-entitlements campaign, Ryan’s voting record “more closely resembles that of the Republicans who have lost to Tea Party primary challengers than that of a ruthless government-cutter.”
Man with a Plan, Weekly Standard, July 2012
The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes wrote a favorable profileof Ryan in July in the midst of veep buzz. The piece traces his entire career with a particular focus on how, in recent years, Ryan became “the intellectual leader of the Republican party.”
How Important is Altas Shrugged author Ayn Rand to Paul’s political philosophy? The Atlas Society, April 2012
In a 2005 speech to the Atlas Society, Paul 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…you can’t find another thinker or writer who did a better job of describing and laying out the moral case for capitalism.” According to the excerpts and audio of his speech posted on the society’s website, he also said that Rand was “required reading” for his interns and staff. But recently, Ryan has said while he had read Rand’s novels when he was young, his supposed obsession with her was “an urban legend.” “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told Robert Costa at National Review in April. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.”
A Closer Look at Ryan’s Budget Roadmaps, The New York Times, August 2012
As part of an in-depth look at Ryan’s polarizing House Republican budget plan, the New York Times highlights two studies of how the plan would affect Americans. One, a long-term analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of some of Ryan’s suggested changes to Medicare and Medicaid, found that, “Under the proposal, most elderly people who would be entitled to premium support payments would pay more for their health carethan they would pay under the current Medicare system.” The other, a study by the Tax Policy Centerof the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, found that “the tax cuts in Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget plan would result in huge benefits for high-income peopleand very modest—or no— benefits for low income working households.”
What’s Paul Ryan’s foreign policy? Foreign Policy, April 2012
While Ryan has a limited record on international affairs, he has spoken about everything from how to handle China (less hawkishly than Romney) to getting cosier with rising powers India and Brazil. Foreign Policy’s helpful overview says the overall picture that emerges is “a bit of a Rorschach test.” Ryan says the U.S. should stay deeply engaged– “America is the greatest force for human freedom the world has ever seen” — while he has also called for cutting funding for U.S. international aid.
Ryan’s personal finances and connections
Ryan is wealthy–but not by Romney standards. The congressman reported 2011 assets valued at between $2.4 and $9.3 million, according to an Associated Press report looking at his recently filed financial disclosure form. The money is spread in small chunks over various stock investments and in business interests in Wisconsin and his wife’s home state of Oklahoma. You can browse his assets here(.pdf). Ryan also filed an amendment to his disclosure noting that his wife’s mother died in 2010 and the family gained interest in a trust worth between $1 and $5 million.
Paul Ryan’s Shrewd Budget Payday, Daily Beast, June 2011
The website takes a closer look at mining, mineral, and energy holdings owned by Ryan — primarily in his wife’s home state of Oklahoma — and how they would be positively affected by Ryan’s proposed tax policies. A Ryan spokesman told the Daily Beast: “These are properties that Congressman Ryan married into. It’s not something he has a lot of control over.” The piece also reports that relatives of Ryan have received federal farming subsidies.
Paul Ryan has got plenty of friends on K Street, Politico, August 2012
A brief look at the friends Ryan his wife Janna have made on K Street in their years in Washington, among them former Ohio congressman Mike Oxley (of Sarbanes-Oxley fame), who is now a lobbyist for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Janna Ryan, a tax attorney, herself worked as a lobbyist for PriceWaterhouseCooper, the article reports.
Ryan’s Unlikely Alliance with Organized Labor Mother Jones, May 2011
Ryan’s family construction business relies on union labor. “I grew up in organized labor,” Ryan told the Milwaukee Magazine in 2005. “I have a lot of constituents who are in organized labor. I really do not have this ‘us against them’ mentality.” As a congressman, Paul has worked closely with local union leaders and fought to protect the wages of construction workers. While many of his policy plans are directly opposed to what unions want, some unions have continued to support him. Over the course of his career, theCarpenters & Joiners Union has given him $57,500—only slightly less than he has received from Koch Industries, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.
FAQ: How Paul Ryan Proposes To Change Medicare
Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president, has provoked consternation from Democrats and anxiety among some congressional Republicans with his proposals to reshape Medicare.
Mitt Romney introduces Paul Ryan as his choice for running mate in Norfolk, Va., Saturday (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images).
The Republican-controlled House, along party lines, twice approved his proposals to overhaul the popular social insurance program for the elderly and disabled by giving beneficiaries a set amount of money every year to buy coverage from competing health plans. That is a fundamental shift from today’s program, where the federal government pays for as many services as beneficiaries use.
The proposals were never enacted because of opposition from the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama.
This year, Democratic congressional candidates nationwide are making the protection of traditional Medicare a centerpiece of their campaigns, just as Republicans attacked them two years ago for curbing future Medicare spending as part of the 2010 health care law. Now, Democrats are hammering their GOP opponents for voting for Ryan’s proposals, which were included in the last two House budget resolutions.
Here is a guide to some of the issues and questions raised by Ryan’s plan.
Q. What is Ryan’s latest Medicare plan?
Ryan would gradually raise the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 67 by 2034, and cap its spending increases at half a percentage point higher than the growth rate of the economy, or the gross domestic product. Ryan’s plan would provide a set amount of money annually for future Medicare beneficiaries — those currently under age 55 — to be used to purchase either a private health plan, or the traditional government-administered program through a newly created Medicare exchange.
Under the proposal all plans, including traditional Medicare, would submit bids for how much they would charge to cover a beneficiary’s health care costs. All plans would include a minimum set of benefits equal to the value of those in the traditional program. The government would pay the full premium for the private plan with the second lowest bid, or for traditional Medicare, whichever is lower. Beneficiaries would have to pay the difference if they chose a plan that set rates higher. There could be one less expensive plan option, and beneficiaries who chose it would get a rebate for the difference.
Private health plans would have to offer coverage that is at least actuarially equivalent to that offered in the traditional, government-administered plan. That means that while the benefits could vary, the value of the plan would have to be the same.
Q. So seniors could stay in the traditional, government-run Medicare program if they like?
Ryan says that is the case, but Democrats and some critics argue that the plan would so fundamentally alter Medicare that it might no longer be a desirable – or affordable — option.
“The real question is what it would cost,” and whether seniors would pay more out of pocket than they do now, said Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He cited the risk the government-run plan would attract the sickest people, driving up its costs, while private plans would lure the healthiest. In addition, medical providers could abandon the program if Medicare cut their reimbursement rates to curb costs.
Q. Would the changes apply to current seniors?
Ryan’s plan would apply only to those under age 55. Current Medicare beneficiaries and those nearing eligibility would continue to get Medicare as it exists today.
Q. Would seniors pay more under Ryan’s plan?
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Ryan’s original proposal from 2012would require a typical 65-year-old person to pay a lot more for Medicare by 2030. His latest plan is missing key details, however, so the CBO has been limited in its analysis of the impact.
Although Ryan would give future seniors the option of remaining in the traditional, government-run Medicare program, that program would have to compete with private plans. Critics predict that traditional Medicare could become unaffordable if it attracts the sickest people who require more health care and who, therefore, drive up the program’s costs.
Q. Ryan’s most recent plan is similar to one he co-authored with a Democrat last year. Does that mean it has bipartisan support?
No. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., did not endorse Ryan’s Medicare plan in the last House budget resolution. It is similar to a plan that the two wrote together last year, but there is an important difference. The limit on federal spending per beneficiary was not as strict in the plan they wrote together: The two had placed the cap at GDP growth rate plus 1 percent. Also, no other Democrat supported their 2011 proposal.
Q. How do Ryan’s proposals compare to Democratic plans?
President Barack Obama and many Democrats have said they agree the federal government needs to restrain the growth of Medicare spending, but they seek to do it without making direct cuts to benefits. Democrats want to preserve the program’s defined benefit basis, meaning that the government will pay whatever it takes to cover a specified set of services. During budget deficit reduction negotiations in Washington, Obama proposed holding Medicare spending to half a percentage point higher than the growth rate of the economy. Romney later adopted the same cap.
As part of last year’s budget negotiations, Obama also proposed gradually raising the Medicare eligibility age – if Republicans agreed to revenue raising proposals. But no agreement was reached.
The health law tackles Medicare spending growth, in part, by creating an expert panel, called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which would be responsible for finding ways to reduce spending if Medicare grows at a higher rate than the target. But the board is not allowed to recommend anything that would ration care or that would change benefits, eligibility or cost sharing for Part A (hospital services) or Part B (physician services). It also couldn’t do anything to change the percentage of premium that seniors pay for prescription drug coverage, or the subsidies that low-income individuals get. The expectation is that reductions would come from medical providers, although hospitals are protected at first.
Q. If both Obama and Ryan are proposing a target rate of GDP growth plus half a percentage point for Medicare, wouldn’t federal spending be the same under both scenarios?
There are important differences. Ryan’s plan is a hard cap on federal spending. He would automatically lower Medicare spending so that it is below the trigger level.
Obama is proposing a target that might not bring federal spending down to that level. His proposal follows an effort in the 2010 health law to curb Medicare cost growth by tying the spending target to the Consumer Price Index in early years, and later on to the rate of GDP growth plus 1 percentage point. Now Obama is proposing to lower the target to the rate of GDP plus half a percentage point. If federal spending per Medicare beneficiary rises faster than that – a determination made by the Medicare actuary – then the expert panel must recommend cuts to Congress, which would go into effect unless lawmakers passed an alternative cost-cutting plan. The cuts would come as a percent reduction in Medicare spending, and wouldn’t necessarily be sufficient to meet the target.
Moreover, the panel’s future may be in question, as Republicans – and some Democrats – have sought to kill it, arguing the board would be able to ration care and would have too much control over Medicare. Obama has yet to nominate the panel’s 15 members, who must be confirmed by the Senate.
Some health care analysts also argue that reducing payments to medical providers could drive them out of accepting Medicare patients, creating access issues for beneficiaries. Richard Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, warned in the 2012 Medicare trustees’ report that the health law will eventually lower payments to medical providers so much that “Congress would have to intervene to prevent the withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market and the severe problems with beneficiary access to care that would result.”