This is a beta version of NNDB
Search: for

Paul Ryan

Paul RyanAKA Paul Davis Ryan

Born: 29-Jan-1970
Birthplace: Janesville, WI [1]

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic [2]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Politician
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Speaker of the U.S. House

Widely described as one of the brightest young lights of his party, Rep. Paul Ryan was elected to the House of Representatives in his twenties (becoming the youngest Republican in Congress, at the time). He quickly established himself as a budget wonk. His enthusiasm for both supply-side economics and restricting women's access to abortion garnered high praise from GOP leaders like President George W. Bush, who lauded Ryan during a September 2004 campaign event: "He's a good, solid man. I'm telling you. He's smart, capable. He's a good thinker."[3]

Ryan was Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential running mate in 2012, and was elected Speaker of the House in 2015. Still, he is probably best known for annual reformulations of his draft legislation "The Roadmap for America's Future" -- a severe economic plan that features a dramatically more austere federal government, brought about largely through spending reductions and dismantling of Social Security and Medicare, coupled with substantial tax cuts for high-income Americans. In March 2012, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives actually managed to pass the "Ryan Plan" (which then promptly died in the Senate).

In a November 2003 interview on Fox News, Rep. Ryan was asked to outline his legislative agenda. His answer focused solely on fixing the budget:

"Basically, there are three reasons I came to Congress: reform our tax code, reform our healthcare system (and that really includes Medicare), and reform Social Security. The Baby Boomers are coming. And when we have 77 million retirees in this country, compared to the 40 million we have today, it's putting an unsustainable pressure on our entitlements. [...] That is basically putting us on the road for European-style socialism."[4]
Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Ryan is a true believer in the virtues of reducing the tax burden on the wealthy and private industry. He concurs with the likes of Grover Norquist and Arthur B. Laffer (both of them Ryan supporters), who insist that cutting taxes at the top spurs economic growth across the board, which more than offsets the lost tax revenue. As a result, he yearns to completely overhaul the federal tax code. After would-be presidential candidate Herman Cain unveiled his radical "9-9-9" economic proposal in August 2011, Ryan hoped it would help generate momentum for scrapping the marginal income tax altogether: "We need more bold ideas like this because it is specific and credible. [...] I'm more of a flat-tax kind of a guy."[5]

But it isn't all about numbers for Mr. Ryan. His single-minded obsession with tackling the federal budget is motivated by more than just the opportunity to handle spreadsheets and CBO estimates. Ryan's personal crusade is to overhaul the tax system and slash the national debt, in order to save the United States from a villainous cabal plotting her total ruin from the inside. Because a spectre is haunting the United States -- the spectre of a European-style social welfare state.

Just days after President Obama was elected in November 2008, the Congressman appeared on Fox News to challenge his Republican cohorts to take on their true nemesis. (Its identity was already well known to the viewers, so he could speak in shorthand):

"Are we going to do the American people a service and give them an actual alternative to the Europeanization of America that is coming before us? And I don't use that word lightly."[6]
Yes, Ryan's dominant preoccupation concerns whether the United States is becoming too much like Europe, particularly with respect to their lavish welfare programs. This was hardly a new issue for the Wisconsin Republican. Ryan mounted an awareness campaign about the threat posed by European public assistance programs during his first run for office and he's been at it ever since, sounding the klaxons far and wide. Here he is elaborating on the implications of this menace at the Economic Club of Minnesota:

"Candidly, today's political leadership have lost faith in the American idea. They think it is obsolete and must be replaced by something like the social welfare states of Europe. In that type of government, your rights don't come from God and nature. Government's mission is not to secure your rights. No, in the European social welfare model, your rights come from government itself. Every benefit citizens receive is a gift of government, and you better be grateful. It follows that the citizens' rights and benefits can also be taken away on the government's say-so."[7]
To explain these notions of his, it must first be pointed out that Rep. Ryan subscribes to a political philosophy which teaches that it is not merely bad policy, it is morally wrong and in fact recklessly dangerous for government to help people pay for their basic needs (e.g. food, shelter, medicine). Because that leads inevitably, in the long run, to totalitarian rule -- just like North Korea.

In a nutshell, the idea is this: the more money and services that the citizenry receive from their government, the more dependent on it they become. The private economy suffers as a result, which drives more people to rely on government welfare, which hurts the economy even more. It's a feedback loop which inexorably results in the state enveloping the whole economy. By which point politicians and bureaucrats are free to revoke even the nation's most cherished rights, disregarding the wretched pleas of the people now living strictly at the mercy of their cruel and soulless overlords.

What fuels Paul Ryan's inexhaustible state of alarm is his sense that not only has America's structural integrity been critically weakened in this manner, but that it is the result of continuing sabotage. He leveled this charge in 2010's Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders. In his section of the book, Congressman Ryan accuses his Democratic counterparts of perpetrating a Machiavellian scheme to "transform this country into a cradle-to-grave European social welfare state and change the idea of America forever"[8] by purposely barreling headlong "down the path to bankruptcy, with a crushing burden of debt set to crash our economy"[9]:

Washington's self-proclaimed Progressives see the crisis in spending and debt coming just as clearly as we do. The difference is, they're not interested in applying the brakes. They want to see America hurtle past the point of no return.[10] (emphasis in original)

Our day of reckoning was always coming. President Obama and Democratic leaders in Washington are just seeing that it comes much sooner. In fact, they welcome this day of reckoning because they believe that from it will emerge a very different country from the one we've known.[11]
Here Ryan is -- in print -- accusing the Democrats of intentionally and with malice aforethought attempting to bankrupt the United States, in order to replace it with the aforementioned European-style social welfare state. So, what evidence does Ryan offer in this 198-page book to bolster his inflammatory accusation? Absolutely nothing. Well all right then. But where did Mr. Ryan get the nutty idea in the first place?

As it turns out, this nightmare was informed partly by economist F. A. Hayek, but chiefly by philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand, whose seminal works The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged Ryan devoured as a teenager. Her vision of the ideal political system, based on radical capitalism, is clear and succinct:

The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud.[12]

But what about fire departments? The Centers for Disease Control? Public schools? Drivers licenses? Municipal water supplies? The National Weather Service? Medical implants and pharmaceuticals? Dams? Bridges? Lighthouses? Interstate highways? Patents? Tax collection and audits? Nuclear powerplants? No government role whatsoever. Not even immigration? Passports and customs? Treaties and diplomacy? Espionage? Voter registration and elections? We would just have to trust private companies to take over each of those functions in a safe and effective manner, and never be tempted to cut corners, erect a monopoly, or simply walk away the minute it becomes unprofitable.

But that's fine; we can trust major corporations to exercise self-restraint. Right? Never mind the astronomically-rare exceptions, like BP, Chevron, Exxon, Sinclair Oil, Enron, Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds, American Tobacco Company, Lorillard Tobacco, Brown & Williamson, De Beers, United Fruit Company, Halliburton, WR Grace & Co., Union Carbide, BCCI, AIG, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers...

Anyway, Ayn Rand urged that welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare be ripped out by the roots, because of their unavoidable tendency to undermine a free democracy (by depleting the treasury and fostering a culture of dependence). "Morally and economically, the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull. Morally, the chance to satisfy demands by force spreads the demands wider and wider, with less and less pretense at justification. Economically, the forced demands of one group create hardships for all others, thus producing an inextricable mixture of actual victims and plain parasites."[13] At which point the economy fails, citizens are coerced into trading away their freedoms for bread and state-assigned jobs, and then boom -- you're living in North Korea.

And indeed, the Congressman has been warning us for years that America will soon cross the event horizon and be sucked into this inescapable dystopia:

"We're coming to a point where more people will have a vested interest in keeping the government growing and big than they do in being self-governing. More people will worry about their dependencies and their government benefits than they will be about liberties."[14]
This classic slippery-slope argument may come across sounding paranoid to your average man on the street, but it makes perfect sense to a true believer like Rep. Ryan. He has been an Objectivist for the totality of his adult life. And until 2012, he made no secret at all of his abiding admiration for Ayn Rand. When asked in 1999 for his "books most often reread" Ryan listed exactly three works:

The Bible, Friedrich von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.[15]
He told The Weekly Standard in 2003:

"I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well... I try to make my interns read it," he said.[16]
And most notably, in a 2005 speech to the Atlas Society (a group dedicated to Ayn Rand's teachings), Ryan professed his long-standing devotion to the Objectivist creed, and specifically credited Rand herself with the original inspiration for launching his political career:

"I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and the fight we're engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that's what I tell people. I, uh, you know, everybody does their soul-searching, and trying to find out who they are and what they believe, and you learn about yourself.

"I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It's inspired me so much that it's required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged. [Laughter.] There's a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.

"But 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 than Ayn Rand.

"It's so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand's vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding principles are. I always go back to, you know, Francisco d'Anconia's speech at Bill Taggart's wedding on money when I think about monetary policy. And then I go to the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end, and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I'm believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of Individualism."[17]

But with the 2012 Presidential election looming, Ryan abruptly found himself backtracking from his public adoration for Ayn Rand (presumably due to her vocal pro-atheist/pro-abortion/anti-Reagan views, which would be extremely unpopular with Republican voters). In an April 2012 interview with National Review Online (only four months before he was named as Romney's running mate), he dismissed any talk of his being devoted to Objectivism as having been nothing more than "an urban legend":
"I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand's novels when I was young. I enjoyed them," Ryan says. "They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman," a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. "But it's a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist."

"I reject her philosophy. [...] It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. [...] Don't give me Ayn Rand," he says.[18]

Evidently the reader is meant to conclude that Mr. Ryan now regards his interest in Ayn Rand as having been a passing fancy, nothing more than a phase from his youth. (Notice he leads off by using the word "young" twice in the first sentence.) But the truth could not be more obvious.

Notice also, in this conveniently-timed renunciation of Randian philosophy, that Ryan refers specifically to her "epistemology" but makes no mention of her political and economic teachings. Congressman Ryan is in effect disavowing only the anti-religious portion of Rand's creed, without mentioning any of her practical policy ideas (which he continues to support).

However expedient it may be, it is deliberately misleading for Ryan to imply that his socioeconomic views were taken from Aquinas instead of Rand. The 13th century theologian never wrote a single sentence on the topics of capitalism or monetary policy, since the subjects hadn't been invented yet. Common sense dictates that it is Ayn Rand's vision of government which dances in Paul Ryan's head at night, not Thomas Aquinas's.

Speaking of Aquinas, he declared that although animals possess a soul, it is nevertheless morally permissible to hunt them for food. Which is good, because in his spare time Rep. Ryan is an avid hunter. His weapon of choice is bow-and-arrow, with an apparent preference for the compound bow.

"As a big bowhunter, whenever a deer is walking within my shooting range that I'm going to shoot, whether it's a doe or a buck, my left leg just starts shaking. It's just a weird thing. And it's the only time that ever happens to me. My left leg just starts shaking, 'cause I'm just really, my heart starts beating. Bowhunters understand it's the nervousness, the excitement you get."[19]
Fellow bowhunting enthusiast and Ducks Unlimited member Ted Nugent explained Ryan's passion for the sport: "He loves the mystical flight of the arrow."[20]

[1] Mercy Hospital, Janesville, WI.

[2] St. John Vianney Catholic Church, Janesville, WI.

[3] Remarks in Janesville, WI (24-Sep-2004)

[4] "The Beltway Boys", Fox News Channel (11-Aug-2003)

[5] "Paul Ryan 'loves' the idea of Herman Cain's tax plan" The Daily Caller (13-Oct-2011)

[6] "The O'Reilly Factor", Fox News Channel (7-Nov-2008)

[7] Remarks before the Economic Club of Minnesota (9-Nov-2009)

[8] Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy, Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders (New York: Threshold Editions, 2010), p. 6

[9] Ibid., p. 126

[10] Ibid., p. 111

[11] Ibid., p. 119

[12] Atlas Shrugged, Part 3, Ch. 7

[13] The Ayn Rand Letter (1972)

[14] "Ryan's Roadmap" Human Events (8-Feb-2010)

[15] "Defending the Individual Against Leviathan." Insight on the News (24-May-1999)

[16] "Young, Wonky, and Proud of It" The Weekly Standard (17-Mar-2003)

[17] Remarks before the Atlas Society, Washington, DC (2-Feb-2005)

[18] "Ryan Shrugged" National Review Online (26-Apr-2012)

[19] "Softball", Local Vision TV, Janesville, WI (30-Jun-2011)

[20] "VP Choice Passes Nugent's Second Amendment Litmus Test" Newsmax (11-Aug-2012)

Father: Paul Murray Ryan (attorney, b. 23-Jul-1931, d. 13-Aug-1986 heart attack)
Mother: Elizabeth A. Hutter ("Betty", b. 1934)
Sister: Janet Ryan (older)
Brother: Tobin Ryan (older)
Brother: Stan Ryan (older)
Wife: Janna Christine Little (tax attorney, m. 2-Dec-2000, one daughter, two sons)
Daughter: Elizabeth Anne Ryan ("Liza", b. 2-Feb-2002)
Son: Charles Wilson Ryan (b. 2003)
Son: Samuel Lowery Ryan (b. 26-Nov-2004)

    High School: Joseph A. Craig High School, Janesville, WI (1988)
    University: BA Economics and Political Science, Miami University of Ohio (1992)

    Speaker of the US House (2015-)
    US Congressman, Wisconsin 1st (1999-)
    Dole-Kemp '96 Speechwriter for Jack Kemp
    Congressional Staff Legislative Director for Rep. Sam Brownback (1995-97)
    Empower America Staff Assistant (1993-95), speechwriter for Jack Kemp and William Bennett
    Congressional Staff Aide to Sen. Bob Kasten (1992)
    General Foods Oscar Meyer salesman, wienermobile driver (college job)
    McDonald's Janesville, WI (high school job)
    Young Men's Christian Association Camp Counselor, Janesville, WI (high school job)
    Global Warming Skeptics
    Ducks Unlimited
    Junior Achievement Board Member, Rock County, WI (1999)
    Prosperity PAC Beneficiary
    Ryan for Congress Candidate
    Delta Tau Delta Fraternity
    Irish Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Yoga

    Fahrenheit 11/9 (6-Sep-2018) · Himself
    Before the Flood (9-Sep-2016) · Himself
    Mitt (17-Jan-2014) · Himself
    Occupy Unmasked (21-Sep-2012) · Himself

Official Website:

Author of books:
Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders (2010, with Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy)

Create a map starting with Paul Ryan
Requires Flash 7+ and Javascript.

Do you know something we don't?
Submit a correction or make a comment about this profile

Copyright ©2019 Soylent Communications