ARE REPUBLICANS ON BOARD WITH RYAN’S RADICAL ROADMAP?…. While most congressional Republicans seem to be allergic to offering an alternative agenda in advance of the midterm elections, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, released a blueprint he calls a “roadmap.” His GOP colleagues seem to generally approve of the plan, but they’re terrified to say so.

Derek Thompson reports that Ryan explained to a Brookings audience yesterday that congressional Republicans are simply too worried about how the public would respond if the party truly embraced the plan.

When asked why Republicans aren’t flocking to his bold government reform, Ryan responded, without hesitation: “They’re talking to their pollsters and their pollsters are saying, ‘Stay away from this.’”

Ryan’s plan would dramatically change the country’s tax and entitlement system. It would introduce a value-added tax, eliminate the corporate income tax, phase in deep Medicare cuts, and partially privatize Social Security, among other things.

I’m inclined to give Paul Ryan, a devoted fan of Ayn Rand’s novels, at least some credit for putting his beliefs on paper, and subjecting them to public scrutiny. He has a plan to radically transform governmental institutions and Americans’ way of life, and he’s not afraid to say so.

Indeed, many on the right are on board with the radical Ryan plan. Jonah Goldberg loves it, and when it comes to deficit reduction, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) described Ryan’s proposed $1.3 trillion in potential cuts as “a pretty good list of options.”

So, why are Republicans being told to “stay away from this”? Why, by Ryan’s own estimation, is his party deliberately putting politics above principle? Because if the public came to think of the radical Ryan roadmap as the party’s official approach to budget issues, the GOP would lose practically every federal election for at least a generation.

But in a way, the party’s cowardice is a real shame. Ryan’s gone to the trouble of presenting a plan, and encouraging his party to support it. The plan raises taxes on everyone except the wealthy; it privatizes Social Security; it eliminates Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and most of Medicaid; and it wouldn’t actually get rid of the deficit anyway. The whole plan offers a breathtaking vision of how the government would operate in the 21st century if conservative Republicans had their way.

Ryan thinks it should be part of the debate — and he’s right! In fact, Republicans expect to make Ryan the chairman of the House Budget Committee six months from now, where he’ll have a chance to do some real damage to Americans institutions.

Forget what the GOP “pollsters are saying.” Are Republicans on board with Ryan’s roadmap or not? Is his plan a reflection of what GOP candidates would do with their majority? Shouldn’t voters have a chance to hear from Republicans about this before there’s an election?

These need not be rhetorical questions. The leading GOP official on budget issues has a plan. It’s not unreasonable to think every Republican candidate should say, before November, whether they think it’s a plan worth pursuing.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.