"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

 This famous line from William Butler Yeats may explain why Paul Ryan's ideas are given serious consideration. Ideas have power in politics, even bad ones ... and bad ideas can thrive when the "good guys" don't counter passionately with their own notions.

Paul Ryan wants to reduce drastically — even eliminate — taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Since many of the wealthy derive the vast majority of their income from investments, and Ryan wants to eliminate taxes on investments, a gentleman like Mitt Romney might have his already low tax bill eliminated. Ryan’s budget shreds the social safety so thoroughly that the Catholic bishops, who presumably like his absolutist pro-life position, have condemned it. He also would cut spending on roads and research, as detailed here.

Many Americans are confused, even frightened, about the future. We are entering the fifth year of economic stagnation, and we are witnessing the end of the foundation of American optimism: faith in a rising standard of living for our children. This is an atmosphere that fosters "passionate intensity." Ryan's budget stems from a philosophy that government has destroyed the social and economic spirit of the nation. Only by radically reducing spending and liberating capital from taxes and regulation can we hope to restore our nation.

So here is Barack Obama's opportunity. Having faltered often in four years when advocating his philosophy and program, he now has the perfect foil. It's time to rise to the occasion.