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Five things you need to know about Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney introduces Rep. Paul Ryan as his runningmate.
Mitt Romney introduces Rep. Paul Ryan as his runningmate.

In picking Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has taken a risk. The Wisconsin lawmaker has emerged in recent years as the ideological standard-bearer for his party, and in particular for its radical push to shrink the size of government. "To envisage what Republicans would do if they win in November, the person to understand is not necessarily Romney, who has been a policy cipher all his public life," Ryan Lizza wrote in The New Yorker  last week. "The person to understand is Paul Ryan."

Here are 5 things you should know about Romney's new running mate:

• The Ryan budget, "The Path to Prosperity," would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, slash food stamps for struggling Americans, and turn Medicaid over to the states. Virtually the entire GOP, including Romney, have signed onto the plan as a centerpiece of the party's legislative agenda.

• Ryan's plan also would further tilt the tax system toward the rich. He'd extend the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent, but not President Obama’s cuts for those who earn the least. Here's a chart, compiled by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which shows the skewed distribution:


• Ryan also supports privatizing Social Security and turning it over to Wall Street. Had the plan been in effect during the 2008 financial crisis, millions of seniors' benefits would likely have been decimated.

• The economy suffers from a lack of demand, and by slashing spending, Ryan's plan would worsen the problem. It would result in over 4 million lost jobs over the next 2 years, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.

• Though he has tried to deny her influence recently, Ryan has claimed to be a devotee of the radical libertarian writer Ayn Rand. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” he once said at a Washington event in Rand's honor. “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.” Rand's philosophy centers on the notion that selfishness in the pursuit of profit is a virtue and that altruism is "evil," as she put it.

Looking for one piece of writing that captures what Ryan's all about? Read this masterful profile by New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, "The Legendary Paul Ryan."