“They got the ticket in the right order.”
Those words were uttered by Vice President Joe Biden on numerous occasions, but for the purposes of this blog post I will cite them to Jonathan Alter’s excellent book “The Promise: Year One”, his account of the first year and change of the administration of President Barack Obama.
The reason I bring it up is because the Republican party has officially doomed themselves to fail at the task of assembling their ticket in the correct order for the 2012 presidential race. Yes, the Republican voters of this country chose Mitt Romney to be their nominee, and barring a spectacular coup d’etat at the convention in Tampa by Ron Paul and his group of supporters, he will take that nomination later this month. But what the Republicans did on Saturday morning was to emphasize that they aren’t fully behind their candidate, and that despite his best efforts, they still don’t trust him.
If you didn’t read a newspaper or tune in to a news network on your TV this morning, then you’ll have missed the story that Paul Ryan, US Representative from Wisconsin, has been named Romney’s running mate. You’re surely going to hear all about his middle class upbringing, his devout Catholicism, his love of all things Ayn Rand, and, most importantly, the fact that he has an economic plan that Mitt Romney has adopted as his own.
Before we delve further into what Ryan’s selection as running mate means for Romney’s status in the Republican establishment, it would seem right to describe just how ludicrous the Ryan budget is for the benefit of the uninitiated. According to his proposal, the federal deficit would be cut by $5.3 TRILLION in the next ten years. That seems like a fantastic idea, right? Instead of continuing to run up deficits, we will give the economy some sort of lapband surgery, and starve it to the point that it sheds excess weight and lives a healthier life.
Except that starvation is exactly what poor Americans will have to contend with if that plan were to pass through Congress. Of that $5.3 trillion, $134 billion of cuts would also be enacted on the SNAP program (food stamps), which ensures that our citizens have food to eat. Another $2.4 trillion of the cuts would come from eliminating Obamacare, removing the subsidies in that bill for low and middle-income Americans to buy health insurance, as well as paring down the size of Medicaid, which provides health care coverage to poor citizens.
When you factor in other cuts to discretionary and entitlement programs, fully 62% of Ryan’s budget cuts in his proposal would come from gutting services that low and middle income Americans rely on to make ends meet. Factor that in, along with the $250,000 tax cut that Ryan has proposed for the richest 1% of Americans, and you can get a pretty good picture of whose side of the ideological fence he is on: the side where the money is.
That is not to say, of course, that all budget cuts for discretionary spending are bad. There are definitely reforms to be made, and it makes sense to find ways to save money in that way. The notion that these programs need to be completely destroyed in order to save the economy is not only bad policy, but it’s also a dangerous form of class warfare, which Republicans seem to gleefully accuse Democrats of undertaking on a regular basis. Taking from the poor and giving to the rich may have various names, but in this case, it is par for the course for Mr. Ryan.
There will be plenty of time to assail Paul Ryan for his unmitigated support for President George W. Bush’s ballooning of the federal deficit to pay for wars that we couldn’t afford, as well as tax cuts for the rich that our economy couldn’t sustain. What matters right now is that Ryan’s selection as the vice presidential nominee means that the Republican party has bought into the notion that Romney is unelectable based on his own merits, and that they need someone of Ryan’s pedigree (read: a policy wonk) to pick up the slack.
He is a bonafide deficit hawk. Romney isn’t. He has been against Obamacare all along. Romney has not been (he implemented an individual mandate as governor of Massachusetts, and now routinely blasts the President for following his OWN MODEL). He is strong on moral values. Romney seems flimsy as a pro-life candidate. All of these weaknesses that Romney has in flip-flopping on just about every major position that he has taken in this campaign (etch-a-sketch, anyone?) are addressed by adding a strong personality to the ticket, and that’s exactly what the Republicans have done.
They have demonstrated, conclusively, that they are more comfortable with Paul Ryan’s policy stances than they are with Mitt Romney’s. Romney will say whatever is necessary to get elected, but Ryan is able to actually add an air of conviction to those stances. When your candidacy is so flimsy that you need to draft the guy whose economic policy you’ve cribbed for your own purposes to be your running mate, are you really the right guy for the big chair, or is the draftee the better choice?
Every Freudian slip is apropos in its own way, but Romney’s introduction of Ryan to the world on Saturday morning was particularly telling. He introduced Paul Ryan as the “next President of the United States.” He calls it a mistake, and it was, but it simply emphasizes the point that, unlike Barack Obama and Joe Biden, no one can argue that they got this ticket in the right order.