It's no secret that Rep. Paul Ryan is the intellectual leader of the GOP's fiscal resurgence (though "intellectual" isn't the word Paul Krugman would use), but what's less known is the biographical impetus behind his youthful crusade: His family's health history. "Ryan’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all died before their sixtieth birthdays, so Ryan, who is now forty-two, could be forgiven if he seemed like a man in a hurry," writes Ryan Lizza, in a lengthy profile in this week's New Yorker. Per Lizza:
[When his dad died] 'It was just a big punch in the gut,” Ryan said. “I concluded I’ve got to either sink or swim in life.” His mother went back to school, in Madison, and studied interior design; his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, moved into their home, and Ryan helped care for her. “I grew up really fast,” he said.
That drive to "grow up fast" certainly shines through in the lightning pace he set out to reinvent the Republican Party in just three short years. "Ryan's long-range plan was straightforward: to create a detailed alternative to Obama's budget and persuade his party to embrace it," Lizza writes. "He would start in 2009 and 2010 with House Republicans, the most conservative bloc in the Party. Then, in the months before the Presidential primaries, he would focus on the G.O.P. candidates. If the plan worked, by the fall of 2012 Obama's opponent would be running on Paul Ryan's ideas, and in 2013 a new Republican President would be signing them into law."
Unfortunately for Ryan, his youthful fiscal crusade would seem a lot more intellectually consistent if he hadn't spent the early oughts voting for budget-busting measures like tax cuts, the prescription-drug entitlement program for Medicare, TARP, and two wars. While he seems a bit repentent (he tells Lizza that as a fiscal hawk he was "miserable during the last majority") that certainly would've given his current crusade the flattering gloss of consistency.
Read the entire New Yorker profile here.