August 20, 2012

Paul Ryan, or Ayn Rand?

What to make of the inclusion of Paul Ryan on the Republican Presidential ticket?  We already discussed that this was a Hail Mary play for the Romney camp that should please the Democrats to no end.  Other smart people have pointed that out, as well.  (Obama has increased his lead in most polls since Ryan was added to the Romney ticket.)  Let's go into a little more depth:

First, and most inexplicable, he somehow likes Rage Against the Machine, which clearly means he is one of those people that doesn't listen to lyrics.  What's next, a secret confession by Joe Biden that he is really into Kid Rock and The Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent?  Actually, Biden is just nutty enough for that to be true, so let's change that to Dennis Kucinich.

And, since the recently concluded Summer Olympics are still on our minds...Best Intellectual Gymnastics Routine goes to the Romney camp who are simultaneously running away from and taking credit for liking/adopting Ryan's budget proposal.  Translation: "Don't freak moderates, we're not using Ryan's budget.  Don't freak out teabaggers, we're totally using Ryan's budget."  Maybe that award should be for coherently speaking out of both sides of the mouth.

Why all the tortuous posturing?  This the very same budget that has been called so radical, silly, and even cartoonishly evil that pollsters working for Priorities Action USA couldn't get regular folks to believe that it was a serious piece of legislation.  (Here is the original NYT story.)  In fact, even everyone's favorite Newt (Gingrich) found the Ryan budget to be too much to stomach (get it?) when he called the Ryan budget "right-wing social engineering" during his campaign to be in Republican driver's seat that Mitt Romney now occupies.

Some have called Ryan "courageous" for being willing to grab the third rail of politics, entitlement reform.  It might be more accurate to say Ryan pushes way past courage into foolhardiness with the structure of his budget proposal.  As Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out on PBS Newshour on Monday, proposing huge tax cuts for the wealthy doesn't exactly take a ton of bravery for Republicans.  The scale of the cutbacks, eliminations, burden shifting, and broken promises in the Ryan budget puts it in the category of fantastical rather than courageous.  The full clip from Newshour is below, so you can watch the arguments for yourself.

Then, there is Paul Ryan's nettlesome voting record.  Apparently, Mr. Budget Hawk himself voted for TARP and bank bailouts, and even jumped on the stimulus bandwagon that is so antithetical to conservatives these days.  Jon Stewart does this joke better than we could hope to:

It also turns out Ryan is rather well off.  Now the whole tax-cuts-for-wealthy-people angle in his budget is starting to make sense.  It never ceases to amaze us how people that have enjoyed every advantage of means to achieve any level of success want to then pull the ladder up behind them.  Either Ryan assumes future generations will be far more talented and resourceful that they can handle more obstacles to success, or he has such a disdain for middle and lower-class people that he prefer that they just go away.  Or, is this some kind of "let them eat cake" idea of social mobility?

By the way, we have long wondered why doesn't Grover Norquist get his undies in bunch about raising taxes on middle and low income Americans?  No matter how they try to spin it, the Ryan plan will raise taxes.  (That is the very definition of "lower rates and broaden the base".)  Just not on the people writing checks to conservative Super-PACs.

We do not pretend that the fiscal problems that we face aren't serious business and will take a significant overhaul of how programs are funded to get it under control.  A massive tear-down of the social saftety net in the name of austerity (but is little more than some Ayn Rand-inspired dream of how Ryan thinks the world ought to work), however, would be a major drag on an economy that needs all the help it can get right now.  (Just ask a European how well austerity works in a fiscal crunch.)  The wise approach would be to find ways to bring productivity gains to the public sector in order to reap greater spending efficiency, and find the proper balance of spending and investments to create a level playing field and a future-proof economy.

On top of that, we are seeing Ryan being more energetic and present on the campaign trail, which makes us and many others wonder who is the real head of the Republican ticket.  All-in-all this looks like a move that will ultimately backfire for Romney.

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