Note: This appeared (with slight changes) in yesterday’s RightWisconsin Daily Update, our daily email to readers.

Dear Readers,

So I’m kind of glad I didn’t write that story on Monday about how House Speaker Paul Ryan will easily win re-election.

My morning started with WISN’s Jay Weber telling me that Ryan is not running for re-election, and I had fifteen minutes to put on my pundit hat. I’ll let you judge the results for yourself.

One aspect of Ryan’s decision that cannot be overstated is what his retirement means for entitlement reform. With Ryan gone, there is no prominent leader in the Republican Party talking about the need to control entitlement spending. President Donald Trump made it clear when he running he had no interest in the kind of long-term deficit-reduction budgeting advocated by Ryan. Certainly, there is no appetite for controlling entitlement spending in the U.S. Senate, and there is little chance that Ryan’s successor as the House Republican Leader, likely to be in the minority after November’s elections, will be as interested in entitlement reform.

I remember when Americans for Prosperity loaded up a bus to Ryan’s district to hear his first long-term entitlement reform plan. It was both revolutionary and dangerous for a young congressman to suggest we needed to reform entitlements. It seemed unlikely that he would ever be able to convince his own colleagues of the need, let alone the country.

Eventually, the Ryan plan became the GOP plan, in part because the Democrats started linking every vulnerable House Republican to the plan, whether or not they were actually for it. As Republicans actually strengthened their majorities despite being tied to Ryan’s budget plan, the strength of Ryan’s argument grew.

Unfortunately, the 2012 election (with Ryan running for Vice President) did not result in a Republican win, and by 2016 the one GOP candidate who wanted nothing to do with Ryan’s entitlement reform, Trump, won the party’s nomination. Now we’re left to hoping that we can grow out of the projected budget deficits.

While Ryan can point to many accomplishments in his career, his party’s failure to reform entitlements will probably have the biggest impact on future generations.

James Wigderson


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