Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan's and Barack Obama's Youth Problems


In unveiling the GOP budget plan for 2014, Rep. Paul Ryan published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that laid out some of the thinking that behind the latest iteration of "The Path to Prosperity." Here's a snippet:

…the most important question isn't how we balance the budget. It's why. A budget is a means to an end, and the end isn't a neat and tidy spreadsheet. It's the well-being of all Americans.

That line got under the skin of James Poulos, the libertarian-leaning commentator late of PJTV and currently with HuffPost LIVE. At Forbes, Poulos powerfully dilates on why Paul Ryan's sort of thinking leaves so many younger people cold.

In what world is the purpose of a federal budget to ensure the well-being of all Americans? Franklin Roosevelt's? Even if Ryan's critics on the left are dead certain that his budget does precisely the opposite, it's striking — and deeply revealing — that Ryan himself views government accounting in this way. This is a terrible foundation for trying to connect with the youth vote. Not only do younger voters who lean leftward sense a huge gulf between Paul's budget and his vision of a budget's purpose. Younger voters who lean libertarian recoil from both the budget and the vision. And younger voters who lean conservative are left holding the bag — stuck with the burden of trying to account for how it is that balancing the budget in 10 years, or whatever, is part of a morally urgent mission to achieve the well-being of all.

At a time when Michael Bloomberg's machinations underscore how insanely adaptable the mania for "public health" has become to any and all interventions into private life, Ryan's budget vision reads all to well into the script: we must act now to change, because everyone's well-being is at stake.

Read the whole piece here.


I think Poulos is onto something regarding younger voters—charitably defined as anyone under 45 years old—regardless of political ideology. The expectations for government are changing in all sorts of unanticipated ways. A majority of Americans continues to say that government is doing too much but a majority also wants the government to provide basic safety net functions. Folks such as Ryan and Barack Obama seem to read that situation as one in which the state can and should continue to provide not simply for the poorest among us but for the vast "middle class" that usually includes about 90 percent of people. That was George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism—and Ryan voted for No Child Left Behind, Medicare drugs, and TARP and auto bailouts—and it's Obama's expansive notions as well. I think it's credible to see Ryan (and many conservative Republicans, Obama, and the Senate Democrats (who have zero pulse among them) as in the same basic camp of still expecting the government to be a warm blanket that pretty much covers everything you do in your regular day.

What's different now is that there is an alternative out there—in the form of characters such as Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and other "wacko birds"—that is looking increasingly viable. When you've got conservative and libertarian Republicans attacking the garrison state for 13 hours straight and also championing copyright and IP reform, gay marriage, pot and hemp legalization, even self-styled "Young Guns" such as Paul Ryan and historically youthful presidents such as Barack Obama start looking pretty old pretty quickly.

My take on the Ryan/GOP budget, which got oddly positive responses from a number of small government groups despite pledging to increase annual federal spending by 42 percent over 10 years' time, is here. My take on the Senate Democrats' budget is here.

This seems like a good time for the Byrd's magisterial cover of Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages."

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  1. In what world is the purpose of a federal budget to ensure the well-being of all Americans?

    Unless he said something not quoted, Ryan didn’t say the purpose of a budget was to ensure the well-being of all Americans. He said it needed to be balanced for the well-being of all Americans. Those are two very different things.

    1. Yeah, Ryan said the budget is “the well-being of all Americans.”

      That is not saying that the budget provides for the well being of all Americans.

      And in what world does the generation who voted overwhelmingly for Obama and thinks that the highest purpose of government is paying for their both control not buy into the vision of government as providing for everyone’s well being?

      1. Nobody but fucking nobody payed attention to what actually happened in that election. I pointed out the other day, most people don’t seem to know this, but Romney actually won independents despite losing.

        Romney actually lost the minority vote. Duh, right?

        But he won the white 18-29 youth vote by about 7 points.

        He lost the youth vote by 23 points because he lost the minority youth vote by over 50 points. It was young blacks and hispanics that clobbered him. That doesn’t sound like an age demo thing as much as a race demo thing.

        I don’t think it is so accurate to say this generation voted overwhelmingly for free birth control. They didn’t. But the minorities within the group are, like minorities as a whole, voting lockstep for democrats every election, seemingly regardless of anything.

        1. All true. Obama won because he won minorities like no other Democrat ever has or probably ever will again.

        2. But he won the white 18-29 youth vote by about 7 points.

          Can you post the citation for this? I would like to have a copy of that saved.

          I’d also like to point out one of the bullshit things about the exit poll data: there were states where exit polling wasn’t done at all like here in Texas. Don’t you think that excluding the 2nd biggest state that is also racially diverse is going to effect the numbers? The youth here are more conservative than in the swing states. The Hispanics here vote republican in greater numbers here. How might these facts effect the post election memes?

          1. I have no idea about the lack of exits in some states. I am not a Jedi master psephologist.

            As for cite, I just google it.


            Obama/Romney amongst 18-29 years old:

            White – 44/51
            Hispanic – 74/23
            Black – 91/8

            By race alone and not age:

            White – 39/59
            Hispanic – 71/27
            Black – 93/6

            Romney actually did better among black yutes than he did with black people writ large, although he was slaughtered with both. He did 5 points or so worse with white and hispanic yutes than white and hispanics on the whole, but he won white yutes.

            But mind you that’s Mitt Romney, not Rand Paul. I bet a Paul would do a lot better with the youths.

            1. I was just ranting not blaming you or anything. According to this article they didn’t do exit polling in 19 states. Somehow they saw fit to include Cali and not Texas.

  2. The expectations for government are changing in all sorts of unanticipated ways.

    Yeah, they’re changing to “the government should pay for tons of shit for me, and we will never have to pay for it”. Except that isn’t unanticipated, it’s the obvious result of the policies the politicians have been pursuing, because it engenders exactly this attitude in the population, thereby entrenching government and increasing politicians’ power.

    1. Yeah. The youths are more pro civil liberties than previous generations only if you just count gay marriage and free shit. In pretty much every other respect, they are much worse.

      1. Yutes? What are “yutes”?

  3. I keep hearing about this libertarian youth nonsense. My 22 year old son watches Colbert and Stewart every day. My 20 year old daughter pays no attention to politics at all.

    1. Clearly your daughter is a more rational person than your son.

      1. That is what I was thinking also.

        1. More rational? Not sure about that! I love them both. My daughter has actually worked more than my son, and she’s seen how much gets taken from her pay for taxes, but I don’t know that she’s made a deep connection with that yet.

          My son thinks Colbert and Stewart are funny. He’s not paying too much attention to the political content, but the more he watches it, the more the mindset will probably be formed. Or maybe not. Sitting in church has turned a lot of people off of sitting in church.

          1. I think he means rational in that your daughter ‘knows’ better than to bother with politics, when she can apply her limited time and mental effort to more useful subjects. You saying that she’s been working somewhat bears that out.

    2. Well few people of any generation are libertarian. It’s all relative.

    3. They’re out there. I’m one of them at 24. We’re still outnumbered though by the Stewart-worshipping types.

      1. Unless the Daily Show’s audience is much less white than I expect it is, again, that’s actually not true.

        Romney actually won the hipster demo (white youths).

        FWIW, I use to watch Stewart on the Daily Show and in fact I even remember when Craig Kilbourne hosted it.

        The idea that the yutes are all brainwashed commies is wrong. They watch the daily show, and then they go out and vote against Obama (I doubt they voted for Romney).

    4. My 19 year old and 15 year old sons are Colbert and Stewart fans. They are also libertarians. Both boys have a better understanding of government and liberty than 95% of the adults I know.

  4. O.T. Heidi Klum eats meat.…..rcial.html
    Eat it baby! Eat it! Oh yeah!

    1. Never. Off. Topic.

    2. That’s a sexy woman. And I won’t even have to fend off John – she would have to double in weight before he’d look at her.

  5. A majority of Americans continues to say that government is doing too much but a majority also wants the government to provide basic safety net functions.

    A majority of Americans don’t understand why these are functionally incompatible desires.

    1. They aren’t really all that incompatible.

      People want the government do nothing so much as save the safety net and place that spending above all other spending.

      In other words, they’d rather abolish the EPA entirely before means testing Social Security.

      The safety net/welfare state may be the greatest share of what the government now does, but it is not the only thing it does.

      Agree or disagree with the preference, it’s not contradictory to want the government to do less on other issues but not those.

  6. Looking back at the Bush administration I’m ashamed and thankful I didn’t follow politics back then like I do now because I would have had more gray hair because of all the spending (compassionate conservatism).

    I’m very much in the minority about how I think compared to those around me. Folks like me think the role of government should be small (defense, execution of justice, infrastructure, sensible regulation, etc.). As much money as possible should be kept in the hands of the people and businesses, who can much more efficiently spend it, or use it to create more wealth. This ideology shifts power to the people and businesses.

    Both sides can trot out “studies” that show this or that to shore up their arguments, but the central question is this: Who should have the power, the government, or the people?

  7. “My Back Pages” was always my favorite Byrds cover of Dylan. Love the Leslie alternative version especially. It’s also one of my favorite Dylan songs as well.

  8. I like the sound of that dude. Wow.

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