When Mitt Romney announced that Congressman Paul Ryan was his pick for vice-president, a number of prominent Democrats responded with Christmas-come-early joy. On the surface it seemed that Romney had passed up his chance to balance his ticket with someone who could appeal to groups he has alienated—including educated women and minorities. Nor does Ryan have foreign policy cred to compensate for the same lack in Romney.
Nobody doubts that Romney hit the right note in regard to appealing to the conservative base. For those who know him, Ryan is the darling of the deficit hawks, year after year producing budgets that carved out billions from programs for the poor, the young, and the elderly—cutting food stamps, education, job programs, scientific research—and, horror of horrors, threatening to dismantle Medicare as we know it. The budgets always arrived still-born. There was never any chance that they would survive the fiscal reality checks in the Senate. But they sent a message to the choir that Ryan was their boy. His ideology was pure.
How this is all going to play in Romney’s favor is the fact that Ryan is largely unknown outside of his Wisconsin constituency, where he has served seven terms. What the nation as a whole is seeing is a good-looking, energetic, charming young man who tells us there are simple solutions to the bad economy: the deficit is the cause of joblessness, entitlements (Medicare, Social Security, for starters) have to be trimmed or dismantled, and since President Obama hasn’t been able to bring the nation out of the effects of the recession in all this time, he must go.
Some have referred to Paul Ryan as “Sarah Palin with brains.” He is nothing of the sort, except, yes, he has brains.
One would hope that Mitt Romney would have learned from John McCain’s disastrous choice for his running mate in 2008. Sarah Palin was a physically attractive candidate with strong appeal to the conservatives, but it quickly became apparent that she did not have the foreign policy expertise—or any other expertise, for that matter—to fit her for the presidency.
Romney’s pick, also a genial, attractive person with conservative credentials, not only lacks foreign policy experience, but his record during seven terms in the House would seem to disqualify him from understanding the serious social and economic issues facing the nation.
Paul Ryan majored in economics and political science in college and became impressed with the writings of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, among others. He supported the principles of Reaganomics, sometimes described as the “trickle-down theory.” After his election to the House, he focused on economic issues, serving on the Ways and Means Committee and eventually becoming chairman of the Committee of the Budget. Since the Obama presidency, Ryan has been a spokesman, particularly through his budget proposals, for an extreme approach to the federal budget that has brought opposition not only from his party, but also from his church.
Are these facts about Paul Ryan and his economic philosophy going to hurt Mitt Romney’s chance to gain the presidency? Probably not. As any experienced political operative will tell you, an election campaign is not an effective forum to educate the electorate. With Romney’s announcement of his VP pick, the flood of misinformation only accelerated. A prime example is the Romney campaign’s contention that the Obama administration has taken more than $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. In response, “The Obama campaign has pointed out that the $700 billion came from eliminating subsidies to insurance companies and cutting waste and fraud — neither of which would affect health services or benefits for seniors. Independent fact-checking groups like Politifact have labeled the Romney charges as “false,” and in a statement Tuesday, Obama’s campaign called the ad ‘dishonest and hypocritical.’”
Inarguable is that Paul Ryan, in his nearly 14 years in the House, has voted for decisions that have contributed to the economic mess we find ourselves in. In the words of Ryan’s Democratic colleague from Wisconsin, Representative Ron Kind, “Paul was one of the architects during the Bush administration that put our nation deep into debt. It jeopardized our economic future. So I was surprised at that pick. You take a look at the Romney/Ryan budget right now. That really is the blueprint—the vision for our country, and it’s really a case of back to the future.
“Let’s be honest. Paul Ryan was there and cast votes for two large tax cuts that benefited the most wealthy—without paying for any of it; two wars that went unpaid for; (he) supported the largest expansion of entitlement spending since Medicare was first created in 1965, with a new prescription drug component and large taxpayer subsidies going to private insurance Medicare Advantage plans without paying a nickel for any of it. And then they wonder why we are facing huge budget deficits today!”
When you compare the Paul Ryan of the George W. Bush presidency with the Paul Ryan of the Obama presidency, you see the same sort of–shall we call it “moral flexibility”—that Mitt Romney has been accused of. It has called into question the character of Mitt Romney, and it should cause us to question the character of Ryan. Do Ryan’s fiscal policies serve the nation, or do they serve the exigencies of politics in an election year?
Paul Ryan’s budgetary numbers may not be clear to someone who has not studied economics, but it doesn’t take a college degree to recognize political opportunism in play. We need to look underneath the attractive wrappings to determine which candidates best serve the country’s needs.
What can you do—you are only one person? True, but you are only “six degrees of separation,” on average, from any other person on Earth. You become powerful when you share information with your friends and ask them to share it with their friends—it becomes a global revolution. As Stephen King suggests in The Long Walk, when these “society-supported sociopaths” come, step aside, and find the strength to run…