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A Lesson in Messaging: Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity

I wrote this post today for something related to my job, but after review, it was determined it was too close to partisan/patronizing about someone we want to build a relationship with to be a good idea to post there. It seemed like a perfectly good waste of writing to not share though, and luckily, I have a space here that is (fingers crossed) completely unattached to work.
Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-1) has particularly appropriate initials for today's discussion, PR.

Public relations is a critical component for businesses, celebrities, and especially elected officials trying to make sure they can pass major legislation and keep their jobs. As House Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Ryan has a difficult task ahead - lowering our national debt in bad economic times. Here's how he makes his case for the "Path to Prosperity" budget plan released this morning.

As someone with a background in communications, I can objectively say this is a good messaging strategy. He was calm, talking about the future in a personal way. There were charts and graphs in an official looking background, but he sets it up as a video shoot in the opening sequence, which says, "Look, I'm not hiding anything." He was professional (tie) but relaxed (no jacket, sleeves rolled up). Slow, strong speech. Referring to the "Washington" establishment, only naming the president by title. A well-thought out and executed, persuasive message.

But it's just messaging. Most of the video discusses forecasts of the future budget situation. Spending cuts are talked about, but not specified. Reforms are hinted at, but not elaborated on.

Rep. Ryan doesn't say what the priorities will be or how soon any of the components will be enacted. To be fair, those details will surely be debated, but they aren't irrelevant.

Cutting government spending includes cutting government supported jobs - during a high-point in U.S. unemployment. Those cuts won't just be coming from the Washington-area. They'll happen in Georgia, home of the CDC. In Manhattan, Kansas, where the new Homeland Security facility is underway. In universities, colleges, hospitals, and medical institutes where NIH funded researchers may be forced to close their labs.

Cutting government spending also means minimizing or getting rid of other programs: including public health programs that build public parks and sidewalks, research state and local health concerns, and track epidemics (like swine flu or SARS). It means less basic research - a huge driver of our economy and the cornerstone of curing disease. Less regulation can be good, but do you want that to include less regulation of food and drug safety?

Decisions about the budget today will effect us for years to come. It's important to look beyond the messaging that is coming from both sides of aisle and look for the substance.

These are big issues and incredibly challenging times. Tough decisions will need to be made by Rep. Ryan and all members of Congress. Urge them to protect the programs that matter to you and ask them to get on the record about where they stand and what they are prioritizing.