Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Paul Ryan: ex-fitness trainer, turkey bacon salesman, and policy wonk?

Forbes blog by Eric Johnson examines Ryan's background and tries to anwer the question: What does it tell us about what he knows and what he might do?

I’ve often watched Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, talking away on these fiscal ideas on TV while standing in front of Congress and wondered: “who is this guy, really?”

It seems sometimes like these politicians are dropped by the stork at 40 years of ago into the Congress or Senate. But they’ve all had a life that’s shaped them.

There’s an interesting bio of Ryan from two years ago in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The 41 year old was 1 of 9 kids in his Irish Catholic conservative family. The Dad was a big fan of Reagan.

The bio says Paul wen to college at Miami of Ohio and studied economics. He cites Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek as his biggest intellectual influences.

In the bio, Ryan says he dreamed of going on to grad school at the University of Chicago (which would have fit his intellectual views) but “I just kept getting really interesting jobs.”

I’m not sure I buy that.

After college, his first job was working in the mailroom in Washington DC for Wisconsin Senator Bob Kasten, then later moving up to other admin roles. Ryan was only in the job for a few months when Kasten lost an election.

His later jobs included:

- Waiting tables at a restaurant called Tortilla Coast

- Fitness trainer at Washington Sport and Health Club

- Oscar Mayer salesman in Minnesota selling turkey bacon and “Lunchables” to supermarkets

- Speech writing

- Analyst at Empower America started by supply-sider Jack Kemp

I think I would have opted for going to Chicago over the Oscar Meyer or Fitness trainer jobs.

Ryan was first elected to congress in 1999.

Now, all of us have had unglamorous jobs. I flipped pizzas in high school. But what does this background of all these post-college jobs and education say about Ryan and — more importantly — about his plan?

- He’s studied a little bit of economics which is better than if he’d studied none but he’s got a pretty modest academic training in this area

- He’s a policy guy more than a real-world guy. Everyone’s got their intellectual biases and that’s fine (I like Ayn Rand, although I don’t like the people who say they like her but can’t pronounce her name). But I worry a little bit about politicians who’ve only ever done policy and never had to work a job in the real world, learning about getting things done which sometimes involve trade-offs

- He’s never really had a job post-college working outside of DC. I don’t have anything against DC but, if you’re a policy wonk, and you’ve only ever worked in DC, you’re going to be even more of an Ivory Tower guy. No one with that background should sell themselves as a Beltway outsider
Read the whole thing.

(Pinhead graphic by Rock Netroots)

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