FRIDAY HOT READ: MR. RYAN COMES HOME
As he walks into the packed community room at the North Prairie village hall, Ryan is greeted with a standing ovation from the 172 citizens in attendance. Many are made to stand in a hallway, where they can’t even see Ryan. He breezes through his PowerPoint presentation, which is replete with graphical demonstrations of the fiscal apocalypse. Many of the slides bring audible gasps from the audience, which comprises, overwhelmingly, senior citizens.
Most of the questions he answers are critical of his budget; later, he says that’s typical of town-hall meetings. Even if 95 percent of the room is on your side (as was the case in North Prairie), most of the questions you will get are from the skeptics. Ryan answers his challengers by referring back to slides in his presentation to demonstrate the crushing burden on the economy that the status quo represents.
At one point, a woman stands up and begins reading from a piece of paper. Voice quivering, hands shaking, and eyes fixed on her printed remarks, she implores Ryan to run for president in 2012, eliciting a loud ovation from the crowd. She says she understands his concern for his own kids, but notes that the lives of everyone else’s kids are at stake. Ryan doesn’t respond directly, except to point at her and jokingly say “that’s not my mother.” Then she calls Obama “the enemy of America,” drawing howls of protest from another woman sitting near the front.
In the car afterward, Ryan huddles with staffer Joyce Meyer to discuss ways to make the slideshow better. One questioner had challenged Ryan’s assertion that higher taxes slow down the economy. He’s certain he’s seen a chart that shows GDP slowing down as taxes increased, and wants to have that slide ready for future town halls.
On the drive to the next town hall in the Village of Mukwonago, Ryan collects his thoughts while listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do.” In these town halls, he has been test-driving a new, more populist line of argument with regard to business taxes. Ryan has pointed out how unfair the tax-deduction system is — decrying the fact that the top 1 percent of income earners use over 90 percent of deductions. When he cites the unfairness of General Electric’s making billions of dollars in profit and paying no taxes, his constituents, Republican and Democrat alike, all nod their head in agreement.