Wisconsin State Journal, April 15

The wrong guy is leaving Washington

Paul Ryan was about the best thing the Republican Party had going for it.

And Donald Trump is the worst.

So it's disturbing to see the knowledgeable and civil House speaker from Janesville stepping down from high office while the brash and unprepared president stays put in Washington, D.C. Ryan's lame-duck status leaves Trump with more power and less resistance to his worst instincts.

Not that Ryan was a regular and outspoken critic of the 45th president, who has failed miserably in his promise to act presidential. Ryan has rarely taken on Trump in a forceful and direct way since the reality TV star and real estate developer won the White House. Polite and principled, Ryan's strategy has been to mostly ignore the president's many distractions while quietly trying to pull a fractious GOP Congress together to accomplish conservative goals.

That approach has largely failed.

Ryan's marquee accomplishment was a simpler tax code, including lower rates and fewer loopholes. But Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, were so desperate to get a deal done with their Republican majorities that they abandoned their long-standing pledge not to add cost to the deficit. The final tax package, according to the Congressional Budget Office last week, will add $1.8 trillion to deficits over the next decade.

Ryan and Co. also approved higher spending last month, cutting a deal with Democrats to pour more money into both military and domestic priorities.

The result, according to the CBO, will be $1 trillion annual deficits by 2020 and total debt rising from today's $21 trillion to more than $33 trillion in a decade — a level approaching the size of the economy.

For most of his 20-year career in Congress, Ryan had excoriated deep debt as a grave threat to the nation. Now he has caved on this core concern at the peak of his power.

It's an unfortunate end to such a promising career that included running for vice president on the GOP ticket in 2012. Ryan favored free markets and trade that have increased prosperity around the globe. He helped end budget earmarks that wasted money on pet projects. He worked across the partisan divide to pass budgets and propose sweeping bipartisan reforms that, unfortunately, never became reality.

Yet he made his colleagues think big about our nation's many challenges and possible solutions. It's also worth noting, in the age of Trump, that Ryan was a strong role model for our children.

Ryan was socially conservative but concentrated most of his efforts on fiscal policy. And he wasn't afraid to deviate from his party's platform. He lamented, for example, unreasonably long prison sentences. He wanted the GOP to provide hope and opportunities to the poor.

Ryan easily won every election for his southeastern Wisconsin congressional seat, and he was well positioned to survive a "blue wave" of Democratic opposition to Trump this fall.

Nonetheless, Ryan announced he's leaving last week, after months of speculation. Wisconsin will lose an honorable and serious leader. Despite his flaws, Ryan deserves our thanks. We hope we haven't seen the last of him in public life.


Kenosha News, April 13

Why can't Ryan's motivation be believed?

Democrats were practically dancing in the streets of towns in the 1st Congressional District Wednesday after the district's representative and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, announced his current term would be his last.

Pundits speculated Ryan recognized the so-called "blue wave" sweeping the nation jeopardizing his chances for an 11th term.

We doubt that. Polls showed Ryan could have essentially coasted to victory in November in a district with a Republican-majority population.

Few want to accept Ryan's stated reason for not running again — to spend more time with his growing family — as genuine.

Granted, there is a cynical skepticism among the population when a politician says they're giving it up to become just a family guy. It's not uncommon to think there's got to be some skeleton lurking in the closet somewhere. But Ryan achieved his signature goal of tax reform and there had been speculation that he'd resign once that was accomplished, but promised Wednesday that he'd finish his term.

Ryan reiterated his motivation to not seek another term was because of his kids in an interview Thursday on "CBS This Morning." ''You know why? 'Cause our kids aren't getting younger," Ryan told CBS's Gail King. "I gotta tell you, Gail, I've had so many people in their 50s, 60s and 70s tell me, 'I wish I spent more time with my kids.' Well, my kids have only known me their entire lives as a weekend dad. And now they're teenagers in or about to be in high school."

Ryan's retirement is the most high-profile of two dozen Republicans who have announced they won't seek another term in Washington. And Democrats hope to seize the opportunity the way Republicans did in the 2010 midterm elections. His pending departure makes for an intriguing race in this district for his replacement.

Ryan's desire to be home with his family isn't unique. Former Vice President Joe Biden, when he was a senator, commuted via Amtrak from his home in Delaware to Washington almost daily. Parents whose job forces them to be away from a growing family for long stretches of time can appreciate Ryan's desire to not be remembered by his kids as he phrased it, a "weekend dad."

We'll take him at his word.


The Journal Times of Racine, April 16

Facebook CEO doesn't leave us feeling our data is safe

Privacy protection — as much as we can expect from our engagement with social media — is the predominant issue for people angry at Facebook these days.

So for those of us who have that anger, it was less than reassuring to have Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reveal in testimony before Congress that he didn't know key details of a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission that requires Facebook to protect user privacy.

With congressional hearings over and no immediate momentum behind calls for regulation, the biggest hammer still hanging over Facebook in the U.S. is a fresh FTC investigation, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

The 2011 agreement bound Facebook to a 20-year privacy commitment, and any violations of that pact could cost Facebook billions; yes, that's billions with a "b." If Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress is any indication, the company might have something to worry about.

Zuckerberg repeatedly assured lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday that he believed Facebook is in compliance with that 2011 agreement. But he also came up short in simple factual questions about the consent decree.

"Congresswoman, I don't remember if we had a financial penalty," Zuckerberg said under questioning by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, on Wednesday.

"You're the CEO of the company, you entered into a consent decree and you don't remember if you had a financial penalty?" she asked.

In response to questioning by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, Zuckerberg acknowledged: "I'm not familiar with all of the things the FTC said."

Zuckerberg also faced several questions from lawmakers about how long it takes for Facebook to delete user data from its systems. He didn't know.

The 2011 consent decree capped years of Facebook privacy mishaps, many of which revolved around its early attempts to follow users and their friends around the internet. Any violations of the 2011 agreement could subject Facebook to fines of $41,484 per violation per user per day. To put that in context, Facebook could theoretically owe $8 billion for one single day of a violation affecting all of its American users.

The current FTC investigation will look at whether Facebook engaged in "unfair acts" that cause "substantial injury" to consumers.

David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor who headed the FTC's bureau of consumer protection when Facebook signed the deal, said in a blog post this month that Facebook's argument that it didn't violate the deal are "far-fetched." Two days of testimony didn't change his mind.

"Most of the reforms Facebook has talked about in the past couple of weeks proposed safeguards that should have been in place years ago," Vladeck said Wednesday following 10 hours of Zuckerberg's testimony.

It may turn out that Zuckerberg has an executive vice president in charge of privacy compliance, and that the Facebook CEO relies on that person to manage that area and bring only the most important events to his attention. The best managers hire and promote people capable of taking on greater responsibility, then delegate responsibility to those people.

But last week, when he was testifying before both houses of Congress because of the seriousness of the situation, the human face of Facebook didn't anticipate that senators and congressmen would have questions about his company complying with an FTC order from 2011 regarding Facebook user privacy.

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