Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paul Ryan

So, the big non-Olympic news of the last week is that Mitt Romney has chosen his running mate: Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan is young, bright, articulate and handsome, and is widely known as the architect of the House Republicans budget plan. He was chosen over a number of other candidates, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida seemed to be the most likely alternative.

For some background, Romney seems to have been sliding in the polls a bit lately. A month ago, the race looked to be tied, and now he seems to be behind by 4-8 points. Given the consistently atrocious economic news from here and from abroad, he should have been able to at least hold steady during that time, and probably should have been making some gains. His slipping is a pretty clear sign that whatever message they were delivering all summer was not working.

As a side note, the campaigns and the pundits are reading WAY too much into those polls. There is no way on earth that the race was ever really tied, and it defies all logic that Obama magically pulled ahead by a huge margin during a time period when all of the news was bad for him and no one really pays much attention anyway. Just plain common sense should tell you that Obama has probably been ahead by 2-4 points the whole time. But, I suppose they have to do something for the summer, and overreacting is their only choice...

But I think this guided Romney's VP pick. Generally, a candidate can go a number of different directions with their VP selection. They can try to pick someone who is similar to them in order to re-enforce an image (like Clinton did with Gore in 1992). Or, they can try and pick someone who is viewed as strong in an area that the candidate is weak (like Obama did with Biden in 2008). Often there are those who think a VP can help turn a swing state, although there isn't much evidence that this actually works. Sometimes, a campaign is just lost, so they pick the craziest VP they can in hopes of shaking up the race (which is how we all met Sarah Palin).

I think Romney has gone a different way...he has picked someone who is heavily associated with an issue in hopes of driving the debate towards that issue. He is appeasing his base, and Wisconsin is maybe (in a very broad definition) a contested state, but I really feel like the primary purpose was drawing Obama into a discussion about the budget.

In that sense, I love the selection. Not that I necessarily love Ryan or think his budget proposal is much better than Obama's, but to me this should be the issue, and it constantly baffles me that young people so blatantly ignore it. I certainly understand why none of the other candidates appeal to people under 35 or so, but it consistently puzzles me how Obama can remain so incredibly popular after basically telling us to go and fuck ourselves for four years.

I can promise you that the budget discussion will be ill-informed, misleading and full of half-truths and blatant lies...but I am all for anything that ensures that we at least have the discussion. Just as a heads up, Obama is going to tell you that we can solve all of our problem by "asking the very richest Americans to pay their fair share." Which is only mostly a lie because he doesn't define what is "their fair share" is...otherwise it would be totally a lie. Ryan (and by extension Romney) is going to tell you that we can solve our problems by cutting taxes further and making some minor tweaks to Medicare and Social Security that won't really require anyone to sacrifice. I probably don't really need to explain the idiocy of that.

One thing is for sure, none of them are going to actually tell us the truth: the fiscal management of the Federal budget has been so bad that we can not even stop the accumulation of new debt without substantial new tax revenues and substantial spending cuts. And not just taxes on "the top 1%", and not just cuts in "wasteful government programs". No, everyone is paying more, and everything is getting cut.

But I will take a bad debate over no debate for now, and for that reason, I am glad that Ryan will be in the race. His proposals have all kinds of flaws, and all kinds of absurd assumptions...but he is at least willing to put his ideas on paper and talk about that. Just being willing to move the discussion forward makes him better than most.

So, short version...I like Ryan, but I don't really love him and I have a LOT of issues with his grand plan. I suppose it shows well on Romney that he is willing to pick someone how may upstage him at times. But mostly, I think he will be a welcome addition to the race, and that we will all be better off for having talked about the things that he is going to make them all talk about.


Thisisme said...

I always love your brilliant political posts!!!

Ally said...

I always like these posts too! And somehow I totally missed the VP candidate announcement!

Anonymous said...

Amen. The budget is the backbone upon which all other issues rest.

You want to talk foreign policy? That's great. How are you going to pay for that policy?

Frankly, I'm not impressed with the budget policy being advocated by any of the candidates. But the only way we as a nation will arrive at a policy that works is by talking about it. We need debates that show the issue from all sides until we as a nation understand it well enough to make informed decisions. And we need to accept that partisan politics won't fix things. The only way out of this mess we have made is by doing what we Americans have done so well in the past - working together towards a common dream.