Why the Ryan Pick Won’t Bring Clarity to the Budget Debate

The candidates won't dare talk about the difficult choices that will have to be made to reduce the deficit

  • Share
  • Read Later
Jason E. Miczek / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and his vice-presidential running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, appear at a campaign rally in Mooresville, N.C., at the NASCAR Technical Institute on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012

Twenty years ago, a Senate campaign I was covering in the South reached its final week. It was close — this was in that brief period of competitive races between the passing era of Democratic dominance in the states of the Old Confederacy and the new one of Republican ownership — and the candidates were hard at work. One afternoon, in a private moment, the Democratic nominee was asked about entitlement reform. His answer was honest and revealing. I’m a week out from an election, he said; you and I could fix the problem on paper in 15 minutes, but I couldn’t actually get behind what it would take. I live in the real world.

(MORE: The Phony Battle of the Self-Made Man)

There, in a now faraway moment, is the problem of our time (or any time, really). Politicians all live in the real world, and voters tend to get what they ask for. On paper, there are solutions to our fiscal issues, but few public figures — and this includes President Obama — are willing to stake out a forward-looking position in support of tax and benefit reforms such as eliminating deductions and raising eligibility ages for Medicare and Social Security that would put the nation on a path toward growth and manageable debt.

One theme emerging since Mitt Romney made his choice of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate is that the announcement clarifies the choice that voters must make in November. Like the final product or not, Ryan had the wherewithal and the integrity to do the work of producing his own budget rather than taking the easy way out of attacking the President without putting forward a concrete alternative.

(MORE: Do Attack Ads Work?)

Ryan, however, is not the presidential nominee, and right out of the gate, Romney made it clear that his choosing Ryan did not mean he was also adopting Ryan’s budget as his own. The Democrats, meanwhile, are quite pleased to be able to depict Romney and Ryan as wild-eyed right-wingers who will punish seniors and the poor in favor of the well-off.

In other words, it’s just possible that the naming of a serious-minded fiscal hawk to a national ticket will impoverish rather than enrich the debate over the fiscal future, for Romney is already distancing himself from his running mate’s work, and the White House is already sounding traditional Democratic themes that seem to foreclose the possibilities of compromise by casting budget and taxation reforms in apocalyptic terms. It all makes basic political sense, but it does not suggest that significant reform will come in the new year if whoever wins does so by running away from the hard choices that must be made.

On the merits, Ryan’s budget represents the conservative edge of the fiscal debate. His detailed proposal and Romney’s much more general one are far more generous to the well-off than the bipartisan product of the Simpson-Bowles commission — a panel on which Ryan served but from whose report he dissented. This is a report, it must be remembered, that the man who appointed the commission — President Obama — declined to get behind.

As Peter Baker noted in the New York Times on Sunday, Obama once praised Ryan. “Asked in the fall of 2010 which Republicans he could envision working with in the next Congress, Mr. Obama mentioned only one who would still be around, Mr. Ryan,” wrote Baker. “He said Mr. Ryan was ‘absolutely sincere about wanting to reduce the deficit,’ though he quarreled with his approach. ‘I give him credit for at least being willing to put out there some tough choices,’ Mr. Obama said, ‘although, as I said, even there, the numbers don’t quite match up the way they should.’ What Mr. Obama found appealing, the notion of a man of ideas willing to make tough choices, is what he now will need to devalue him.”

(MORE: Rich-People Problems? The Summer of Elite Discontent)

Which means there is a dispiriting likelihood that the next 100 days or so will see a debate marked by hypocrisy rather than honesty. And that is not good for anybody, even the ultimate winner, for that winner will find himself facing problems that require a public mandate to make difficult decisions. If the man I covered back in the 1990s is any indication, then campaign reticence means solutions stay on paper — as proposals, not as policy.

32 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

Why hasn't Romney disclosed specifics of his economic plan so that we can have intelligent conversations about it?

He doesn't believe the people are entitled to the details?  Can understand the details?

The Wall
The Wall

Ryan is an ignorant hypocrite coward. His breach onto the political scene was as a throwaway - his job was to support such unpopular and  irrational ideals so that the "middle ground" would shift  to the right. Unfortunately for the public perception manipulators this Kermit the Frog impressionist's zany ideals created a magnet for the extremists misshaping the American political landscape. Not one to bite the hand that feeds him (except Ryan does bite the hand that FED him as he lurches to dismantle Social Security) Ryan has chosen to endorse the man whose checks Ryan himself endorses before depositing to his off shore account.This discredits the republican plan, undermines fair government and marks the end of the republican party having not only caught, but endorsed the "cancer" of tea-party infection.Goodbye to the Republican Party - forever. Gone the way of the Federalists and the Whigs, punishment for unveiling a monstrous agenda decades in the implementation to undermine democracy, government and true economic competition.

tdinct
tdinct

Please stop referring to Ryan as a serious minded fiscal hawk.  He voted repeatedly to increase the debt, when it came to Iraq and the bush medicare bill, without offering a means to pay for either one.  His budget does not balance for twenty to thirty years. His budget is not designed to reduce the deficits and pay down our debt.  Its purpose is to reduce, indeed to virtually end the roll of government in our lives.  Reduce oversight, reduce regulation, reduce assistance to the poor and the elderly, reduce spending on education. He is not a serious deficit hawk.  He is a seriously radical  Ayn Rand conservative.

pantherfamily
pantherfamily

This piece credits Ryan with "integrity" for putting forth a plan that slashes care for our seniors in order to give yet MORE tax breaks to the wealthiest instead of returning them to the historically fair share that proven the successful recipe for this nation. That's not integrity... that is derangement. The piece falsely implies, that it is somehow inappropriate and dishonest and pure politics, for the dems to point out the fact that (at least in Ryan's case), he IS every bit a "

wild-eyed right-wingers who will punish seniors and the poor in favor of the well-off" as if this was somehow a work of political fiction instead of an identification of the reality of the extremism of Ryan's plans for all of us.  

That is not an unfair or scurrilous claim... Ryan's a very personable and handsome guy with a great-looking family (lotsa folks thought Palin looked pretty too), but his aggressively-pushed policies are absolute POISON to anyone not making at least 6 figures a year, and a recipe for this nation and the vast majority of it's citizens to suffer and decline!  LOOK AT HIS POLICIES which is what matters in office, not at his appearance!  

As long as Ryan insists that the incredibly-historically undertaxed wealthiest must not return to paying their fair share that proved a winning formula for decades, and seeing the only answer being cut cut cut cut cut everything that benefits either this nation's citizens or future to increase wealth disparity instead of allowing the workers to fairly share in it, Ryan will remain, only a danger to this nation's success.

JL 125
JL 125

So you vote Republican because they're fiscally conservative and will fight to the end out of control government spending. Please tell me more about all those Republican President that reduced our deficits and lowered the national debt.  

nookly23
nookly23

Show me an Obama policy that did not cost taxpayers billion and go directly into the pockets of Obama donors.

tdinct
tdinct

 it's called the affordable care act. 

JL 125
JL 125

Show me a Republican policy that did not cost taxpayers billion and go directly into the pockets of Republican donors.

Mary
Mary

 Romney/Ryan plan is to gut Medicare and Social Security. Lower payments

to Social Security payments and give the elderly/disabled a coupon to

save on their insurance. Which a lot of them won't be able to get or

afford because the elderly have pre-existing conditions. Plus the coupon does not grow with inflation so it will cost more and more to the seniors/disabled.

Raise taxes on the middle class, get rid of some lower and middle class programs, earned income credit amp; mortgage interest deduction.

Remove poor people from food stamps, welfare. Stop school lunches/medicaid etc.

While giving the rich more money.  Then on top of all this it does not help bring down the deficit for at least 30 years.

nookly23
nookly23

Obama took 700 BILLION from medicare and you do not think that is gutting it?

What a small, simple mind, but dems love that in their followers.

Reform of entitlements is a must since they are a drain on the economy and unsustainable, but ignore the truth if you think that will solve anything.

Hope and change is now lie and blame.

MaryWaterton
MaryWaterton

The DEMOCRATS are gutting Social Security and Medicare right now with their $1.5 TRILLION deficits. Social Security is currently running a deficit and Medicare will soon follow, or didn't you know that? In fact, Obamacare takes from Medicare, thus accelerating its demise.

Andrew Witkowski
Andrew Witkowski

not true.. but whatever, you will soon know this as will the American people.. But more importantly for you, what is the presidents plan?????????????? because obviously no one would be stupid enough not to vote for someone with no plan right??

Andrew Witkowski
Andrew Witkowski

The reason why there will be no clarity is because the discussions will be ONE SIDED.. there is only ONE party which has a plan, the other side complains, blames and lies.. time to vote this dope out in November

Douglas4517
Douglas4517

Picking Ryan for Veep won't bring clarity because the Obama campaign will just sling mud and lies and constantly cloud the issue.

jason024
jason024

Clearly you did not read the Ryan plan. He did not articluate anywhere in his plan what loopholes or tax deductions he would eliminate. 

He was clear on balancing the budget w/ tax cuts (articulated for more wealthy tax cuts) and eliminating unspecified deductions.

Until either GOP candidate specifies what deductions they would cut to make up for the tax cuts and balance the budget....Obama is telling the truth that they very well could be eliminating the mortgage interest credit (benefits most middle class americans) and other similar middle class deductions.

Douglas4517
Douglas4517

 Thank you for proving my point.

Douglas4517
Douglas4517

Jason, you seem to fail to understand. Lies are lies if they are untrue, you do not need any clarification from your masters in the DNC or White House. If I say you are an ignorant fool, is that not a lie until you prove you are neither ignorant nor a fool? Or until I qualify it by saying a "Democratic ignorant fool"?

If you decide it is not a lie until the person (or persons) lied about responds then I would say my "ignorant fool" comment is perfectly descriptive.

Or, put another way, what color is the sky on your planet?

jason024
jason024

You have no point....the point is Obama is telling the truth right now. And until they do clarify....there are NO LIES.

Was that so hard? 

Gigabiting
Gigabiting

The addition of Ryan to the Romney ticket moves the debate

even beyond the budget and the economy into morality.

The Ryan Plan is so damaging to social programs benefiting our poorest and most

vulnerable citizens that it prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to

publicly blast the devout Catholic for not just tearing holes in the nation's

safety but for his "shredding of the nation’s moral obligations."

http://gigabiting.com/paul-rya...

 

superlogi
superlogi

Now I understand why Tina Brown got the job.

McintoshTodd
McintoshTodd

my friend's half-sister makes $87/hr on the computer. She has been fired from work for five months but last mo­nth ­ C­ashLazy.­com

McintoshTodd
McintoshTodd

my neighbor's step-mother makes $75 an hour on the computer. She has been out of work for 7 months but last mo­nth her income w­as ­ C­ashLazy.­com

Hamby
Hamby

Age gap dating is gaining popularity and

acceptance at an alarming rate. Many young women are seeking older men, and

many young guys appreciate the maturity of older women. If you are 40 plus

amp; single, I would encourage you to join --- )АgelessМatch. C.0.М (--- to date someone much younger, to feel young again, and to make

your life more adventurous.

 

 

may have kept his friends distracted by hunting the kanima, but in doing

so, he turned a blind eye to the other forces in town quietly building.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

The Democrats, meanwhile, are quite pleased to be able to depict Romney and Ryan as wild-eyed right-wingers who will punish seniors and the poor in favor of the well-off.

It's called truth.

Ageless_Match_C0M
Ageless_Match_C0M

 

Age gap dating is gaining popularity and

acceptance at an alarming rate. Many young women are seeking older men, and

many young guys appreciate the maturity of older women. If you are 40 plus

amp; single, I would encourage you to join --- )АgelessМatch. C.0.М (--- to date someone much younger, to feel young again, and to make

your life more adventurous.

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

No, what your post is, is called BS.

There's nothing there that "will punish seniors."

This "usual" democratic talking point has been and will again be debunked.

Who just took 700-billion out of medical care for seniors?  Obama!

Mary
Mary

Romney/Ryan plan is to gut Medicare and Social Security. Lower payments to Social Security payments and give the elderly/disabled a coupon to save on their insurance. Which a lot of them won't be able to get or afford because the elderly have pre-existing conditions. Plus the coupon does not grow with inflation so it will cost more and more to the seniors/disabled.

Raise taxes on the middle class, get rid of some lower and middle class programs, earned income credit amp; mortgage interest deduction.Remove poor people from food stamps, welfare. Stop school lunches/medicaid etc.While giving the rich more $money$.  Then on top of all this it does not help bring down the deficit for at least 30 years.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Sure, dismantle Social Security, change Medicare into a worthless voucher system and then ask for the senior vote.

Sounds like Willard just committed political suicide.

Andrew Witkowski
Andrew Witkowski

How will Obama PRESERVE medicare and SS?? Last I checked he is planning on raiding medicare to pay for his bloated heathcare reform.. the reasons why there will never be clarity on budget issues is because dems have no interest to discuss solutions

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

They'e false "talking points." 

Nobody is proposing to "dismantle Social Security"; the Ryan-Wyden (D- Oregon) budget plan, approved in the House, gives all the option of staying on the current Social Security system or selecting a voucher program.

"[P]olitical suicide" is doing nothing about these problems.

Well, check that, Obama has done "something"; he's just taken $700-billion from seniors out of Medicare and put into ObamaCare.  (Latest survey, 54% of Americans want ObamaCare repealed -- Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll.)

Get some facts and leave those talking points to the left-leaning pundits or the "Time" writers (sorry, I'm being redundant).