Fourteen years ago, now-Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan entered the political arena when he was just 28 years old, running for House of Representatives in Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district.
Via the Internet Archive, ThinkProgress took a look at Ryan’s 1998 campaign website to see what issues Ryan emphasized in his first congressional campaign. A few consistent themes, from allegations of “class envy” to his initial tack as a defender of Social Security (he later pushed bills privatizing the program), emerged:
1. Vowed to “protect” Social Security: Years before Ryan advocated a form of Social Security privatization so extreme that even former President George W. Bush called it “irresponsible,” Ryan pledged to his constituents that, if elected, he would “preserve Social Security,” calling it a “moral duty.” He also called for re-separating Social Security funds from general funds, an idea made famous with Al Gore’s “lockbox.” [Source]
2. Supported term limits: Ryan, now in his 7th term in Congress and still running for his 8th, once supported a constitutional amendment limiting the number of terms an individual could serve. [Source]
3. Called for congressmen not to use professional tax preparers: “To ensure that reforms are fair and simple, Ryan proposed that members of Congress prepare their own tax returns without the assistance of a professional tax preparer,” a release read. ThinkProgress called his office to see whether Ryan has eschewed tax help since coming to Congress, but his press secretary refused to comment. [Source]
4. Called the tax code “social engineering”: 13 years before Newt Gingrich famously referred to Ryan’s budget as “right-wing social engineering,” Ryan used the same language about our progressive tax system. “Our current tax code is the product of more than 80 years of social engineering which has made it so complicated that even tax lawyers and accountants have a hard time figuring it out.” [Source]
5. Culture warrior: Though Ryan prefers to talk about budget issues nowadays, he was initially more open to discussing cultural issues. His campaign website decried “Out of wedlock births and the social pathologies that follow in their wakes have multiplied.” He also argued that “Cold social programs from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services have displaced good citizenship.” [Source]
6. Accused critics of “class envy”: Repeatedly dismissed those who disagreed with his economic philosophy as practicing “class envy.” “Class envy economics have placed the American dream out of reach for millions of lower class families,” wrote Ryan. “I believe we must pursue a bold agenda of growth by casting aside the shackles of class envy and promoting economic growth and opportunity through lower taxes and by ultimately replacing the tax code.” [Source]