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Some perspective on the Ryan pick

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Former Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan waving to supporters during a campaign event in Waukesha, Wis., on Sunday.

I was traveling with my family last week so forgive me for abandoning my post when Mitt Romney chose his running mate.

Joel Goldstein of St. Louis University — a “leading authority on the vice presidency,” according to a recent (and very funny) profile in the New York Times — shared his take, which puts the pick into mostly historical context. From Goldstein’s email to me:

The pick is both conventional and distinctive.

It’s conventional in that it follows the pattern of so-called moderate Republicans reaching right for their running mates (Bush-Quayle, Dole-Kemp, McCain-Palin) and of Governors of picking insiders as they have since 1952.  It’s distinctive in that Gov. Romney now owns the Ryan plan and will be associated with it.  It’s also distinctive in that there’s no national security credential on the ticket and in the selection of a House member. Candidates in a strong position don’t choose members of the House in modern times.

The choice suggests that Romney perceives that he has an uphill race and that he needs to energize the base and inject some energy into his campaign by making a generational move.  Bush tried that in 1988 without success. He won, but not because he chose Dan Quayle.  Ryan, like Quayle, is the first member of his generation to be on a national ticket.

The next few weeks should present an effort to define Rep. Ryan, and the Democrats will try to define Gov. Romney by Rep. Ryan.  How will his plan play in Florida with seniors?

Here’s  my personal reaction: I like the Ryan pick because it will inevitably (already has) increase the substance of the campaign. Before last week, I was growing increasingly horrified by Romney’s effort to run for president without taking substantive positions.

Republicans want to present themselves as avatars of “freedom,” “less government,” “lower taxes” and “traditional values.” But these focus-group-tested slogans don’t really tell us what we need to know. Thinking voters need to know how the government will shrink, whose taxes will go down, and what impact the tradeoff of those changes will have on the debt/deficit picture.

Even the Paul Ryan budget plan doesn’t tell us everything we need to know. But it goes very far down the path of substance. Take Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program. I wish Democrats would drop the vague, scary “end Medicare as we know it” mantra. This is a proposal that can be grasped. I do not favor it, but it would accomplish one big thing, which is to cap the federal government’s expenditures on a program that, if allowed to continue growing at at its recent rate, would devour the budget. (Unfortunately, after a certain amount of blowback against his proposal, Ryan himself chickened out and suggested that any seniors who wanted to stick with “Medicare as we know it” should have that option. This is a big step toward taking back the whole proposal.)

And Romney, who previously endorsed the Ryan budget, now says no one should assume that the Romney budget will be the Ryan budget, but that he will have his own plan. Until he puts that plan, with much more specificity than  heretofore, on the table, he should continue to be pounded for details.

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 08/13/2012 - 10:06 am.

    Definitive choice

    In a world where the “average voter” claims that both parties are the same, this ought to put an end to that.

    Ryan’s budget – the most radical budget in my lifetime – should tell people exactly what the Tea Party people want: reduce Medicare to a Groupon, build the military by 33 percent, tax the little people in favor of those with car elevators and generally turn back 60 years of social programs that elevated the truly poor to at least a human living condition.

    As a Democrat, I couldn’t be happier. If you are middle class and you vote for this team you must know you will be treated like the bottom of a feed lot and you will have no one to blame but yourself for a country that will closer resemble the world of serfs and European royalty than anything anywhere else in the world.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/13/2012 - 10:08 am.

    It amazes me how out of touch with the current economic situation the Republican party has become.

    The answer to medical care costs? Run more money through insurer’s hands.

    The answer to people struggling to fund retirement? Turn more money over to the tender mercies of Wall Street.

    The answer to deficits? Cut revenue.

    The answer to more people living on the edge? Cut services.

    The answer to flat or falling incomes? Tax cuts for the top incomes.

    Can you really imagine a nation of 70, 80 and 90 year-olds struggling to figure out what insurance plan they can afford? Especially with their retirement dependent upon the latest stripping by Wall Street. Can you picture millions winding up with exactly the wrong plan for them, because the cheapest plan is going to be exactly the one that doesn’t covers their needs? Can you picture the scams and games that are played with the elderly because regulations and rules are “bad”? What happens with those drifting into senility?

    Death panels indeed.

    No wonder why they are backing away from the readily apparent defects in their plan. But backing away is a tactic, not a revision to a dearly held plan.

    Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand. The party of plutocrats.

    “The Virtue of Selfishness”.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/13/2012 - 11:42 am.

      Of course, to be fair, Mr. Ryan has begun to back away from Ayn Rand associations, saying he’s more of a St. Thomas Aquinas type of man now (please ignore his speeches at the Ayn Rand “Atlas Society”).

      I have a question about that.

      This Thomas Aquinas?

      … whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance. So Ambrosius says, and it is also to be found in the Decretum Gratiani: “The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry: the clothing you shut away, to the naked: and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.”
      Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Q 66 A 7.

      Really, now?


    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 08/13/2012 - 05:20 pm.

      No Changes to those 55 or older

      For crying out loud, it’s right in the post. Look, I know that you need to demonize the guy, but try for a little accuracy at least.

      • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 08/13/2012 - 08:48 pm.

        Really? How long?

        You are allowed to believe that but I would never believe it. Like “mission accomplished”.

      • Submitted by Roy Everson on 08/14/2012 - 03:02 am.

        Divide and conquer

        Economic conservatism cannot win without dividing the nation’s workers into groups that are at odds with each other. Gov. Walker was caught on tape admitting as such– pit public v. non-public employes against each other and let the economic elites pick up the pieces. It worked for him. This is what Ryan does by promising the welfare state to seniors in hopes that enough of them are willing to pull up the ladder before middle-aged folks can get on.”I’ve got mine, now you get yours.” What a way to unite the country!

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/14/2012 - 08:18 am.

        Well, Mr. Defor, as a “conservative”, you should be as worried for the next generation as you are worried about your own skin.

        I had to laugh, a news report yesterday talked to a person in favor of Ryan who said, “We have to make sacrifices”, but the laugher is that the Ryan plan is based on screwing people for whom the issue of Medicare and Social Security isn’t even on the radar yet.

        His plan of continued deficits until 2040 ensures that Social Security and Medicare become entirely unworkable and have to be abandoned.

        I’ve got mine, either way, but Ryan makes sure that those who come later will be living entirely at the mercy of the free market. Do you really think that the upcoming generation will be in a better economic shape than the current one?

        Wages are flat. Prices are rising. Medical costs are rising.

        Where will the additional savings required for privatized Medicare come from? Their privatized Social Security funds?

        Just ask anyone who has tried to fund a 401k in the past 20 years.

  3. Submitted by James Hamilton on 08/13/2012 - 10:18 am.

    Does Romney think he’s already lost?

    “The choice suggests that Romney perceives that he has an uphill race and that he needs to
    energize the base and inject some energy into his campaign by making a generational move.”

    I found it odd that Romney would feel the need to fire up the right. If he’s concerned that many on the right will sit out the election rather than vote for him, he’s already lost. The fight here seems to me to be for a very slim middle ground.

    As for making a generational move, Ryan and Obama are less than 9 years apart in age. I would not consider this a generational divide, since the severe right/left divide appears to exist in most age groups, from where I sit.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/13/2012 - 12:54 pm.

    It changes the subject

    from superficial, irrelevant issues like old tax returns to the ones that Obama really didn’t want to talk about … the economy, the deficit, the debt and what they’re going to do about it. Only Paul Ryan could have changed that dynamic.

    This campaign is now about the republican plan versus the non-existent Obama plan.

    The democrats are already on their heels, resorting to lies about current seniors being hurt by the Medicare fix, so you know they don’t want to have this fight with an honest press as a referee. But fortunately for them, they won’t have to. What the democrats are really scared of is that the press seems to like this Ryan guy and so they may have to be reminded occasionally not to stray from the Obama campaign talking points.

    Ryan helps the Romney campaign because when all the discussion is about the economy, the federal budget and what’s being proposed to fix it, Obama loses that argument with independents. Obama and the democrats haven’t proposed a budget in three years. They don’t have a plan.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/13/2012 - 01:45 pm.

      ….non-existent Obama plan…

      I guess you’ve forgotten about Simpson-Bowles and the Affordable Care Act.

      Actual plan and real, actual legislation.

      Try to find the same level of detail in any Romney or Rand “plan”. And by the way, the Ryan “plan” doesn’t even balance the budget until 2040.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/13/2012 - 02:21 pm.

        A plan doesn’t exist

        unless Dennis agrees with it.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/13/2012 - 03:11 pm.

        He rejected Simpson-Bowles

        Totally ignored their recommendations. The “Affordable Care Act” took $500 billion out of Medicare to pay for it. Stay tuned for the tap dancing while he explains to seniors why he de-funded Medicare.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/13/2012 - 06:59 pm.

          Pretty well debunked

 by 4More 235007299645751297

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/16/2012 - 12:03 pm.

          No cut in services provided (benefits)

          The main source of estimated savings was eliminating the ‘Medicare Advantage’ plans run by insurance companies, which had turned out to be far more expensive in terms of services provided than anticipated.
          The rest of the savings would be from increased efficiency in providing medical services (particularly hospital services), and providing more leverage for negotiating pharmaceutical prices.
          To repeat, these are projected savings, not funding cuts.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/13/2012 - 02:14 pm.


      As Eric points out, Romney has already denied ownership of any of the versions of Ryan’s plan.
      This make it easy for the Dems, who can hang Ryan’s most extreme Randisms around Romney’s neck.

  5. Submitted by Walt Cygan on 08/13/2012 - 01:40 pm.


    Practically the first thing that Romney did after naming Ryan was to distance himself from Ryan’s budget plan. If you are picking the guy to change the dynamic, why would you throw the major “accomplishment” of the guy you picked on the scrap heap? Seems very strange.

    Of course, what Mitt was really doing is throwing a bone to the Tea Partiers, who are not motivated to support him very enthusiastically. But what will TP-ers make of taking their young turk out of the House for at least 2 years and then immediately blowing off his budget plan? I’m not sure they will be an more motivated.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/13/2012 - 02:20 pm.


    Romney just bought himself some.
    Another typical move by the would be financier-in-chief.

  7. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 08/13/2012 - 03:51 pm.

    Ryan Takes No Risk

    Rep. Ryan isn’t going to bet that he’s joining a winning ticket – he’s still running for his House seat. I think Rep. Ryan knows full well that as long as he strapped to the back of the wagon with Mr. Romeny in the driver’s seat, he is almost certainly has no chance of winning in November. If Mr. Romney does indeed lose this election, he’s likely finished as a political figure. Rep. Ryan however, isn’t going to take any chances since he’s really focused on 2016 and the 2012 race is just an exhibition game for him.

    Given his “it’s all about me” persona, Rep. Ryan is unwilling to commit 100% to the Romney team and risk losing his seat in the House. A vice-presidential candidate who was willing to put himself on the line wouldn’t be also running for another office at the same time.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/13/2012 - 11:21 pm.


      He’s the son, grandson and great grandson of millionaires.
      His personal wealth is in the millions.
      He isn’t risking a whole lot personally.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/13/2012 - 04:37 pm.

    Mr. Ryan

    Sigh. The candidate of the one percent has chosen as his assistant the apologist for the one percent. Yes, Romney’s choice of Ryan will add some heft to the campaign, and would the choice between ideologies much clearer if the Republican candidates actually spoke truthfully about what they have in mind. Not for even one second do I believe that they will do that. Funded by billionaire neofascists, their campaign ads will be masterpieces of obfuscation and innuendo, tarring their opponents without saying much of anything – as has been Romney’s pattern so far anyway – about what, specifically, they’ll do when they’re elected.

    Their plan, such as it is, mostly consists of screwing people like Dennis Tester (and the rest of us who are not members of that one percent group) into the ground. To choose but one area, yes, Medicare needs to be fixed, and in its present form is unsupportable over the long term – but the need is dire largely because American medicine is a corporatized, privatized, catastrophe, presided over by people like Stephen Hemsley at UnitedHealth, who’s being paid dozens of millions of dollars every year to limit the health care available to subscribers so that shareholders will continue to receive the profits to which they’ve become accustomed. Health care is strictly a secondary concern – if that – to Mr. Hemsley. Mr. Ryan has also gone on record as not caring much about the dozens of millions of Americans without health care.

    Presidents don’t create jobs, and since Mr. Romney didn’t create any in the private sector, either, nor did his running mate, whose career is basically that of a professional politician, any criticism from the right about Obama’s alleged failure to “do something” about unemployment ought to be pointed out as the bald-faced lie that it is. Whatever Obama has proposed, Republicans have opposed – and without offering any alternative except to reduce the taxes of those who are already wealthy. French aristocrats in the 1780s would have enjoyed the Republican plan, such as it is, but it does nothing for the bulk of the population.

    Combining the lunatic ravings of Ayn Rand with the equally lunatic ravings of Herbert Spencer’s social Darwinism makes for a presidential ticket that should horrify anyone with a functioning brain – especially females. The party of elephants wants us to retreat to the 1880s, when women had few, if any, rights, no control over their bodies at all, income taxes were nonexistent, as was government regulation, and the poor and sick were basically tossed on the society’s landfill. Charles Dickens wrote fairly accurately about British society at that point in the industrial revolution, and those descriptions fit the American scene almost as well.

    Neal Rovick’s call-and-response early in the comments segment seems spot-on to me. I’m not enthused about Obama’s performance, but I’m already disgusted by the Republican alternative.

  9. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 08/13/2012 - 06:04 pm.

    Does anybody really know

    what Obama, Romney or now Ryan really stand for or what their plans call for? Obama has been very coy about his catfood commission recommendations. By his buddies Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson and “Pete” Peterson, a bunch of rich dudes who have no more sympathy toward the the less fortunate in this country than Ryan or Romney. For all their concern about “future generations”, this concern has not gone so far as to any concern over the fact that there isn’t going to be any “future generations” unless something is done, like NOW, about climate change.

    But never mind: they are all cut out of the same cloth, all having grown wealthy from skimming the surplus from the sweat of others, presenting concerned looks and furrowed brows t generate a phoney debate about the “fiscal crisis” when the economy is in a Depression. All of their nostrums have failed and not a single one of them has any clue or any courage to propose a plan for what to do. proposal. The reason is also obvious: they are all themselves extremely rich or are in the payroll of such rich 1%. It will make no difference on the truly larger issues affecting people’s lives who is elected (or re-elected) in November. I only hope I can somehow make to my grave or urn without having to be bypassed into a nursing home or other “facility for the aging” after these already dismal places are gutted further under whichever Republicrat is elected.

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/14/2012 - 07:18 am.

    By selecting Mr. Ryan the GOP army is positioning him as the next man in line for 2016.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/14/2012 - 09:13 am.

      Well, maybe

      Nate Silver just did an analysis of this in the NYT.
      IF Romney wins, then Ryan has a decent chance to succeed him (more likely in 2020).
      If Romney loses, the odds are better for someone not tarred with the brush of failure, such as Christie or Rubio, or the new guy from Texas.

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