Monday, August 13, 2012

Paul Ryan = Darling of Conservative Think Tanks

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Mitt Romney's pick for his vice presidential running mate, has had strong ties to conservative Washington think tanks for nearly two decades.

From 1993-1995, Ryan was a speechwriter for Empower America, a conservative think tank founded by the late US Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) and Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett, who used to be a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.  Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) merged with Empower America in 2004 and was renamed FreedomWorks.

William Bennett describes the now defunct Empower America as a "conservative, free-market Washington think tank."

Donald Abelson's book "Do Think Tanks Matter?" labels Empower America as a "vanity" or legacy-based think tank that essentially helps advance the legacies of their founders.  Here is more:
Vanity think tanks are particularly interested in generating, or at the very least repackaging, ideas that will help lend intellectual credibility to the political platforms of politicians, a function no longer performed adequately by mainstream political parties.
Vanity think tanks are also established, some have claimed, to circumvent spending limits imposed on presidential candidates by federal campaign finance laws.  Examples of these types of think tanks include...Empower America, founded in 1993 by an impressive band of neoconservatives, including the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, William Benett, and former Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.
Recently, Rep. Ryan has used the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) as a platform to launch some of his policy ideas, including his budget plan.  For instance, he spoke March 20, 2012 at AEI in an event titled "A Blue print for American Renewal: An Address by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan."  Ryan also gave a budget speech at AEI on April 5, 2011 in an event titled "The Case for Real Security and a Path to Prosperity."

The day of the Romney-Ryan announcement, AEI released a statement saying that AEI experts were available to address the issue of what Romney's VP pick means.

The Heritage Foundation is another Ryan favorite.  On April 18, 2012 he spoke at the Heritage Foundation. He also spoke there on March 22, 2012 and on October 26, 2011.  Other Heritage events he has spoken at or attended include this one on July 31, 2008, this one on June 6, 2006, and this one on November 17, 2004.

Ryan has spoken at other think tanks as well.  Here is one example that New Yorker details:
In 2005, Ryan paid fealty to [Ayn] Rand in a speech he gave to the Atlas Society, the Washington-based think tank devoted to keeping Rand’s “objectivist” philosophy alive. He credited her with inspiring his interest in public service, saying, “[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”
Here is another New Yorker article mentioning the fondness conservative think tanks have for Ryan's policies:
Nearly every important conservative opinion-maker and think tank has rallied around his [Paul Ryan's] policies.
Here is what New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait has to say about Ryan's participation in the Washington think tank scene:
But the thing to keep in mind about Ryan is that he was trained in the world of Washington Republican think tanks. These were created out of a belief that mainstream economists were hopelessly biased to the left, and crafted an alternative intellectual ecosystem in which conservative beliefs—the planet is not getting warmer, the economy is not growing more unequal—can flourish, undisturbed by skepticism. Ryan is intimately versed in the blend of fact, pseudo-fact, and pure imagination inhabiting this realm.
Here is audio of Rep. Ryan speaking on Ayn Rand at The Atlas Society.