While the President descends into vulgarity, the Romney campaign is talking about serious issues. Paul Ryan yesterday gave a speech on poverty that, if the GOP wins, might well come to be seen as a blueprint for the future.

This is what everybody is quoting:

"Upward mobility is the central promise of life in America. But right now, the engines of upward mobility are not running as they should,” the Wisconsin congressman said, speaking at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio. “In this war on poverty, poverty’s winning.”

The war on poverty, launched by Lyndon Johnson in 1964, was undoubtedly well-intended. But instead of alleviating poverty, it has created a growing dependent class and spawned a vast federal bureaucracy to administer poverty programs. In a way, it is the failure of the war on poverty that makes us regard poverty as such an intractable problem.

The core of a Romney-Ryan plan to attack poverty: upward mobility. Don't declare war on poverty, help people leave poverty behind.

A Romney-Ryan administration would not eliminate the safety net, but it would uphold work requirements for welfare, send welfare back to the states, promote choices in education, and put more emphasis on private and voluntary poverty-fighting efforts. In other words, we’d come once again to rely on the private associations that de Tocqueville so admired in the fledgling United States and which the Great Society began to replace with government.

On the balance between private initiative and government, Ryan said this:

[Romney is] the type we’ve all run into in our own communities – here in Cleveland, too, and all around America. Americans are a compassionate people, and there’s a consensus in this country about our fundamental obligations to society’s most vulnerable. Those obligations are not what we’re debating in politics. Most times, the real debate is about whether they are best met by private groups, or by the government; by voluntary action, or by more taxes and coercive mandates from Washington.

The short of it is that there has to be a balance – allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do.  There’s a vast middle ground between the government and the individual.  Our families and our neighborhoods, the groups we join and our places of worship – this is where we live our lives.  They shape our character, give our lives direction, and help make us a self-governing people.

Too much indiscriminate government support can turn people into an Obamaphone woman. Private charity demands more of people. Somebody writing checks for a private charity would likely have demanded that the Obamaphone woman to do more to improve her lot.

Here are two good analyses of the Ryan speech: one from Commentary, and one from National Review.