For hundreds of BizTimes readers, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's debut as an ardent and vocal opponent of the Obama administration came back on Jan. 20, 2010, when Ryan unveiled a video to the attendees of the Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast presented by BizTimes.
I clearly recall the video, its message and the unmistakable edge in the room at the Italian Community Center in downtown Milwaukee as it concluded. I was on stage at the time and had introduced the video, which Ryan recorded because he could not be at the event in person.
As the video ended, I remember joking to the audience, "Well, now that we've started out the morning by offending any Democrats in the room..."
Indeed, we received a handful of personal complaints and phone calls from those in President Obama's corner later that morning. They were taken aback by the shrill and blunt tone of Ryan's video. But to be sure, Ryan's message connected with most of the business people in the room.
In the video, Ryan predicted 2.7 percent annual economic growth "with double-digit unemployment."
Ryan had spoken at this annual event in person in previous years, when he shied away from making inflammatory political remarks and instead focused on providing a framework for the likely political conversations of the year ahead.
However, on this blustery January morning, Ryan departed from that nonpartisan script and took off the political gloves, lacing into the Obama administration and setting the stage for the Tea Party rising that followed later in 2010.
"Having taken part in this event in years past, I know that we often shy away from discussing the political scene in such sharp terms," Ryan said. "But we are in a different place today. And the stakes of this debate require nothing less than complete candor. It is critical to our economic recovery and the America we pass on to our children and grandchildren. So far, I regret to say there's little reason to think that our leaders are even listening. But if the American people are offered a clear choice and allowed to have their say, I am confident that we can restore the promise and prosperity of this great country."
Looking back, the soundbites from Ryan's video from that morning read like bullet points and rehearsals for his campaign to be vice president today:
- "Congress is set to create yet another open-ended entitlement, a health care entitlement we cannot afford. The consequences of this bill will be felt for generations and forever alter our nation's health care system and our relationship with our government."
- "All of these efforts, which began last year and could be concluded with signatures from the president in the year ahead, are rooted in a common ideology. The current leadership in Washington is intent on moving us rapidly toward more of a European-type social welfare state, where the goal of government would be no longer to equalize access to opportunity, but rather to equalize the results of people's lives. That's not the American idea."
- "The economic consequences of this path are grave: high unemployment, economic stagnation, a mountain of debt that will guarantee a declining standard of living for future Americans. More and more Americans will become reliant on government than upon themselves for their own well-being."
- "The opposition party is obligated to articulate a principled alternative to this path."
- "We need serious budget reform to get a grip on runaway spending, a failure of both political parties in years past, but a failure we simply cannot afford. We need to have a serious conversation about sound money."
The die was cast on that frigid morning.
Watch the video below:
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.