Slouching Towards Tampa (Ryan's Hope edition)
08-20-2012, 06:05 PM
Slouching Towards Tampa (Ryan's Hope edition)
Read the full article on the blog.
Mitt Romney's "bold" decision to add Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket took his campaign's previously one-dimensional tapioca flavor and added a distinct note of artificial vanilla extract.
The Romney campaign certainly needed some kind of boost. Following his calamitous Bland Tour of the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland, the increasingly ridiculous candidate came home to polling numbers that probably made him wish he'd stayed overseas. A Washington Post-ABC News poll put his favorable rating at 40%, unchanged since May, but found that his unfavorable, not great to begin with, had climbed from 45 to 49%. Worse still, only 41% of Republican respondents described their opinion of Romney as "strongly favorable" as against 61% of Democratic respondents who felt that way about the President.
Clearly, then, it was time to shore up support among the base, and maybe even create a little excitement. But how, and who? Christie? Portman? Jindal? Palin? Haley? Huckabee? Hutchison? Jointly and severally, no. Enter Paul Ryan, a Dick Grayson to Romney's Bruce Wayne. Ryan was a surprising pick in a number of ways. For starters, he's Catholic, making this the first Republican ticket in history not to include a Protestant (or two). Second, he's part of the Congressional Republican power elite, and while Wisconsin election law allows him to run concurrently for his House seat, his loss in the national race this fall and what's apt to be perpetual association of his name with Mitt Romney's will only diminish his clout and tarnish his prestige among GOP true believers. Third, as he set about proving almost immediately after being named to the ticket, he might just end up being a bigger liability than Mitt Romney. Ryan's tea baggage seems to get heavier by the day.
Ryan's signature "accomplishment" to date is of course his proposed budget, rolled out to many an "ooh" and an "ah" back in March. Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" (PDF here) is equal parts boilerplate, bromides and bullshit; in essence, the same concoction with which Republicans have been gulling their faithful and hoodwinking susceptible independents since well before the Reagan Revolution. As was the case with earlier heralds of a new and mercifully fictitious Republican Golden Age (Gingrich, Delay, etc.), Paul Ryan has no use for modestly:
This budget serves as a blueprint for American renewal. Its principled reforms empower individuals with greater control over their futures. It places great faith in the wisdom of the Founders and promises to renew confidence in the superiority of human freedom…The Ryan plan's unworkable and frequently downright absurd policy prescriptions are supported with the same old easily debunked clichés Republicans always resort to because they don't dare just come out and admit that, while they might love it, they just don't like their country:
… the unchecked growth of government has degraded its effectiveness and rendered its institutions incapable of meeting the challenges of the 21st Century.And how does the intrepid Ryan plan address these phony crises?
Cuts spending… relative to President's budgetAfter analyzing the Ryan budget, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called it as it saw it, and it did not see it kindly:
It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history)…The New York Times offered up a handy précis of the Ryan plan in real-world terms:
The House Budget Committee blueprint for spending and taxation over the next decade would reshape Medicare into a system of private insurance plans, shrink programs for the poor and turn them over to state governments, and try to simplify the tax code for individuals and businesses. The six existing tax rates, topping off at 35 percent, would be reduced to two, 10 percent and 25 percent, while states would be allowed to place time limits, work requirements and other restrictions on programs from food stamps to welfare.Times columnist Paul Krugman felt personally vindicated by the Ryan plan, and was delighted to say so:
Way back in 2010 I declared that Paul Ryan — who was rapidly becoming the darling of the “fiscal responsibility” crowd — was a fraud, a flim-flam man…Krugman's rhetorical point was exquisitely if unknowingly bolstered by Peggy Noonan, who has a weakness for charlatans. Noonan, who has been dead wrong about absolutely every damned thing for going on 62 years now, thinks Paul Ryan is serious. Even funnier, she no doubt considers herself serious too:
Republicans know how meaningful this campaign became when Mr. Ryan was picked: He changed its subject matter just by showing up…Yes, that seriously does sound serious, but at least Ryan gets a Secret Service detail now, handy in case Noonan's enthusiasm gets out of control. Of course, not all the media shared that enthusiasm. The very day Ryan was announced as Romney's running mate, an editorial in the Times returned to his plan:
More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan, and eagerly accepted by the Tea Party-driven House, come from programs for low-income Americans… billions of dollars lost for job training for the displaced, Pell grants for students and food stamps for the hungry… cuts are so severe that the nation’s Catholic bishops raised their voices in protest at the shredding of the nation’s moral obligations…The campaign immediately put some daylight between Romney and the Ryan plan, but not because they're ashamed of its disgraceful, moth-eaten ideas. Republicans have all trafficked in those same ideas for, oh, the last 30 fucking years, so I figure Romney just wants to recycle them in his own words, not Paul Ryan's. Mitt was still magnanimous, at least in the sort of shrunken, puckered way Romney has of seeming magnanimous:
Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.If you feel like you just can't wait to hear more, well, unfortunately you're going to have to. Romney and his young crony won't be sharing details. Ever, in fact:
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan says he and Mitt Romney will wait until after they're elected to disclose what tax loopholes they plan to get rid of…After which they would presumably unveil their plan to get bin Laden.
Ryan – whose speech at his official unveiling included the ringing applause line: "We won't duck the tough issues...we will lead!" – ducked another tough issue the following day when he sat down with Fox's Brit Hume:
Asked by Hume when the Romney plan would balance the budget, Ryan said he didn't know because "we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan."Ah! Maybe that's for the best, really. For all his bluster and blather about fiscal responsibility, Ryan doesn't seem to be very good with numbers, or even much bothered with them. For example, it turns out that, contrary to his carefully manicured image, he seems to adore deficits, at least when the President is a Republican:
Since 2001 he has voted for at least 65 separate pieces of deficit- and debt-increasing legislation…It's strange that Peggy Noonan didn't mention any of that. Could it be that Ryan's simply not serious after all? Well, never mind; Noonan still has some plaudits in reserve:
Normally, Republican candidates for national office get to be either stupid or evil. That's how the media and Democrats tag them. But they won't be able to tag Paul Ryan as either, because he's too well known as smart and decent.Is he, now? Well, maybe it's all a campaign strategy beyond the ken of the snarkoscenti, but from my worm's-eye perspective, Ryan's been keeping his smarts securely under wraps, on subjects ranging from the auto bailout:
Paul Ryan slammed President Obama on Thursday for failing to rescue an auto factory in his Wisconsin district — one that closed in 2008, under President George W. Bush.To the stimulus:
Paul Ryan voted against President Obama's federal stimulus bill, and has repeatedly attacked the legislation, calling it a "wasteful spending spree" and "a monstrosity." Thus, the revelation that he and several other Republicans asked for stimulus funds for companies in their district caused a minor stir when it was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2010. The issue was revived this week when the Boston Globe reported that Ryan wrote four letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu requesting stimulus money for two companies in his district to develop green jobs, which were both eventually awarded. In a 2010 interview and again on Thursday, Ryan indignantly declared that he'd never do such a thing. Then he admitted several hours later that upon further investigation, he definitely did ask for stimulus funds.To foreign policy cred:
Speaking to Fox News’ Carl Cameron… Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan made the case for why he believes his foreign policy credentials are stronger than President Obama’s, emphasizing that he has been a voting member of Congress longer than the president. Ryan cited his votes in favor of the Iraq War as evidence that he has had more foreign policy experience than Obama.All right, fine, then. He's not smart. Surely he's decent, no? That depends squarely on how one defines decency:
Ryan is firmly against abortion rights. He has an 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee, the nation's largest anti-abortion rights organization. He co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a bill that would define human life as beginning at conception…But of course there's more to decency than just regressive positions on social issues. How about, say, transparency regarding personal finances?
Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's new running mate, amended two years' worth of congressional financial disclosure reports in June to include an income-producing trust worth between $1 million and $5 million, USA Today reports.Hmm. Well, how about consistency?
When his lawyer father died young, sadly, the high-school aged Ryan received Social Security survivor benefits. But they didn’t go directly to supporting his family; by his own account, he banked them for college… After his government-subsidized out-of-state education, the pride of Janesville [Wisconsin] left college and went to work for government, where he’s spent his entire career, first serving Republican legislators and then in his own Congressional seat, with occasional stints at his family-owned construction business when he needed a job (reportedly he also drove an Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile for a while).Wow. It's starting to seem like Paul Ryan sort of, you know, sucks. And – darn the luck – lots of people agree:
Rep. Paul Ryan starts his vice presidential campaign in not-so-great territory, with Americans rating his selection more unfavorably than any pick since at least 2000, according to a new poll.And Mitt Romney must believe Paul Ryan is qualified to be president, right? Or maybe not:
Three years ago, Mitt Romney proposed a constitutional amendment that would say “the president has to spend three years working in business before he becomes president of the United States. Then he or she would understand that the policies they are putting into place have to encourage small business to grow.”Even combined, Ryan's "occasional stints at his family-owned construction business" and his sojourns in the Wiener Mobile wouldn't meet that threshold, but Ryan needn't worry about Romney's amendment. His chances of getting into the White House hinge entirely on whether President Obama can stomach any more of his company and invites him over some time.
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