Someday the national political conversation will shift away from Mitt Romney's "retroactive retirement" from Bain Capital and back to the federal budget. When it does, a subset of that conversation will be about the political, philosophical and theological influences on the central figure in contemporary budget debates: House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.Stephen F. Hayes' lengthy profile, "Man With A Plan" in the current issue of the Weekly Standard is a valuable contribution to our collective understanding of Chairman Ryan. Among other things (h/t: Jonathan Chait), Hayes talked with then-Republican staff director for the Senate Small Business Committee and current-Chief of Staff for Sen. Marco Rubio, Cesar Conda:"Ryan (as a college intern in 1990) reported to Cesar Conda, the Republican staff director. Paul at age 19 was the exact same person he is today, Conda recalls. Earnest, personable, and hard-working, with an insatiable appetite for discussing policy ideas. Ryan often popped his head into Condas office with questions about supply-side economics, interruptions that became so frequent Conda had to give Ryan books to keep him occupied. Among them: The Way the World Works, by one-time supply-side guru Jude Wanniski, and George Gilders seminal Wealth and Poverty. (Conda finally recovered his copy of Gilder in 2007, when he noticed it in Ryans office, heavily marked-up.)"Chait has something of a self-confessed obsession with the intellectual influence of Wanniski, Gilder and Ayn Rand (another of Ryan's formative influences) on today's Republican Party; and he takes Hayes' reporting as further evidence for his own conclusion that "though he has passed himself off as a deficit hawk, Ryan actually is a dyed-in-the-wool supply-sider. At his core he believes, for both moral and economic reasons, in holding taxes on the rich low. He has successfully learned to pitch himself to the political center as a debt hawk but the pitch is at odds with his voting record, his current positions, and his own intellectual history."There may be evidence that the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Leo XIII, and John Paul II had an even more profound impact on the young Paul Ryan's intellectual development, but it doesn't appear in Hayes' story.

Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons. 

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