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I told Ryan that I fear that most Americans don't understand economics and actually prefer a government that "takes care" of us.
"No. I think people believe in the American idea, (that) our rights don't come from government. ... And so we do not want a government where they give us our rights and redistribute, regulate and ration our rights."
Hope he's right.
In 2008, Ryan proposed a "Roadmap for the Future," a budget plan that would slow the growth of government. It was timid. It wouldn't eliminate the Education Department or other useless government agencies and wouldn't balance the budget for decades.
Yet even Republicans said his plan was too radical. Newt Gingrich called it "right-wing social engineering."
Last year, I invited Ryan back on my show to talk about that. By then, "the needle had moved." Ryan's Roadmap helped change the discussion. Many Republicans woke up. Newt apologized for his comment. The Republican Study Committee proposed bigger cuts.
Now, said Ryan, "I would call (my plan) mild. I was trying to get consensus. We've moved the center of gravity. We've taken on what they call the third rail, these entitlement programs which are the big drivers of our debt. We showed the country that there is a different way to go and that we can get back toward limited government, economic freedom. And I feel pretty good where we are and how we brought this conversation forward."
He should feel good. For 50 years, the needle did not move at all. Americans accepted the welfare state. Now, more understand.
"We have one more opportunity in this country. ... It is not too late to revive and reapply the American idea. But there will come a point where that moment might pass us."
Countries can get off the road to serfdom. Canada did it and prospered because of it. It won't be easy for America, but if we do it, Paul Ryan deserves much of the credit.
"What I've learned in southern Wisconsin (is that) people are ready to be talked to like adults, not like children. And they know we're in a debt crisis."
Hope he's right.