ARMEY DEMANDS ‘COURAGE’ ON RADICAL RYAN ROADMAP…. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the far-right lawmaker who’ll head the House Budget Committee if Republicans take the House, has a fairly radical budget plan — he calls it a “Roadmap for America’s Future” — which his party’s leadership has been reluctant to embrace.

Dick Armey, apparently, is sick of it.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) on Sunday said lawmakers who have not signed onto Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget lacked “courage” and could be targeted by the conservative tea party movement as a result.

Armey’s comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press” came just moments after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sidestepped a question about Ryan’s plan, which looks to balance the budget by reinventing slimmer versions of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the tax code…. […]

“All Paul Ryan is saying is let Social Security be voluntary, let Medicare be voluntary,” Armey said. “The fact that he only has 13 co-sponsors is a big reason why our folks are agitated against the Republicans as well as the Democrats — the difference between being a co-sponsor of Ryan or not is a thing called courage.”

As a substantive matter, Armey’s description of Ryan’s proposal is absurd. The “roadmap” is a right-wing fantasy, slashing taxes on the rich while raising taxes for everyone else. The plan calls for privatizing Social Security and gutting Medicare, and fails miserably in its intended goal — cutting the deficit. As Paul Krugman recently explained, the Ryan plan “is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.”

Having said all of that, let’s not be too quick to dismiss the larger political point of Dick Armey’s complaints. After all, Ryan’s plan may be ridiculous, and it may seek to radically transform governmental institutions and Americans’ way of life, but it’s also a fairly explicit summary of how Republicans would like to govern.

Ryan himself has conceded that his GOP colleagues are too afraid to endorse a plan they agree with: “They’re talking to their pollsters and their pollsters are saying, ‘Stay away from this.’”

To this extent, Armey raises a reasonable argument: if Paul is putting on paper what Republicans really believe, why don’t they have the courage of their convictions? Why not have the guts to endorse a budget plan that reflects their actual thinking?

Armey and Ryan think the radical roadmap should be part of the debate — and oddly enough, I couldn’t agree more. 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?

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

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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.