Robert Novak
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But his boldest thrust comes in radical changes to entitlements, including an option for persons under 55 years old to buy private retirement insurance, plus reduced benefits and delayed retirement for Social Security. His Internal Revenue reform would amount to an optional modified flat tax (advocated in principle by McCain) and substituting a small business consumption tax for the corporate income tax rate -- while holding federal taxes to 18.5 percent of gross domestic product.

It is hardly likely the Republican leadership would embrace Ryan's daring agenda if it cannot even bring itself temporarily to forego pork-barrel spending by passing a moratorium on earmarks. But Ryan represents a younger breed of reform Republicans who now have junior leadership positions.

Ryan, 38, top Republican on the House Budget Committee, has been working closely with freshman Rep. Kevin McCarthy, 43, who has been named chairman of the national platform by Minority Leader John Boehner, and Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, 45, the party's chief deputy whip. After another expected bad GOP defeat in the 2008 congressional elections, Ryan, McCarthy and Cantor could constitute the party's new House leadership.

But who will be in the White House? McCain so far has generated little excitement in his own Republican base, much less among Reagan Democrats. His cautious political and economic advisers flinch at complicated tax changes, massive budget cuts and tampering with Social Security. But a campaign based on Barack Obama's shortcomings may not be enough on Election Day. While Ryan says the people are more than ready for his strong medicine, McCain has not yet agreed.

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Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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