Thanks to several years of fiscal restraint during the 1990s, the burden of federal spending dropped to 18.2% of gross domestic product by the time Bill Clinton left office. The federal budget today consumes more than 24% of economic output, a one-third increase since 2001 in the share of the U.S. economy allocated by politics rather than market forces. That makes the Republican House budget, which would reverse this trend, extremely important for the economic health of the country.Both political parties deserve blame for the spending spree that's put America in a fiscal ditch. President...
It just boggles the mind to imagine how Paul Ryan can stand up there and lash Barack Obama for abandoning Bowles-Simpson when he did exactly that himself. Or for taking $716 billion out of Medicare that Ryan's own budget also removes from Medicare. Or try to blame him for the closing of a GM plant that actually closed while George W. Bush was president. Those three lies are just the beginning of a cavalcade that followed. I can't in clear conscience call such a speech "good" or "effective." But I will acknowledge that Ryan can spin the goods like nobody's...
BY DAVID ESPO, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TAMPA, Fla. — Seizing the campaign spotlight, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan accepted "the calling of my generation" to help lead the country at age 42 and told roaring Republican National Convention delegates and a prime-time TV audience Wednesday night that Mitt Romney and he will make the difficult decisions needed to repair the nation's economy.
"After four years of getting the runaround, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney," the Wisconsin lawmaker declared in what amounted to his debut on the national stage. He spoke at a convention dogged by Tropical Storm Isaac, downgraded from a hurricane but still inflicting misery on millions along the nearby northern Gulf Coast.
"We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead," Ryan promised in a speech that was part attack on Democratic President Barack Obama and part spirited testimonial to presidential candidate Romney, warmed by a loving tribute to his own 78-year-old mother, Betty.
"To this day, my mom is a role model," Ryan said as she beamed in her seat across the hall and exchanged smiles with one of his children. Delegates cheered their approval.
A generation younger than the 65-year-old Romney, Ryan emphasized their differences as well as their joint commitment to tackle the economy, an evident appeal to younger voters who flocked to Obama's side in 2008.
"There are songs on his iPod which I've heard on the campaign bus – and on many hotel elevators," he said to laughter in the hall.
As for his own favorites, he said Romney "actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, `I hope it's not a deal breaker, Mitt. But my playlist starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin."
Romney, in a secondary role if only for a moment, accused Obama of backing "reckless defense cuts" amounting to $1 trillion. Addressing the American Legion in Indianapolis, he said, `There are plenty of places to cut in a federal budget that now totals over $3 trillion. But defense is not one of them."
Romney delivers his own nationally televised acceptance speech Thursday night in the final act of his own convention. The political attention then shifts to the Democrats, who open their own meeting on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., to nominate Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for second terms.
Deep into a two-week stretch of national gatherings, the race for the White House is in a sort of political black hole where the day-to-day polls matter little if at all as voters sort through their impressions.
Criticizing Obama, Ryan said of the president and Democrats: "They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division is all they've got left."
He pledged Republicans would save Medicare from looming bankruptcy, despite constant accusations from Democrats that the GOP approach would shred the program that provides health care to more than 30 million seniors.
"Our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate," Ryan declared. But he offered no details of the remedy Republicans would propose.
Earlier, delegates cheered a parade of party leaders past, present and – possibly – future.
The presidents Bush, George H.W., elected in 1988, and his son, George W., winner in 2000 and 2004, were featured in an evocative video. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party's 2008 nominee, spoke on his 76th birthday and said he wished he'd been there under different circumstances. And an array of ambitious younger elected officials preceded Ryan to the podium, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and John Thune of South Dakota among them.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the Republican ticket in a speech that made no overt mention of Obama. "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild us at home and inspire us to lead abroad. They will provide an answer to the question, `Where does America stand?'"
The congressman's speech skipped lightly over inconvenient facts.
He assailed the stimulus legislation that Congress passed at Obama's request in 2009 to help stabilize the economy but neglected to mention that he asked for some of the resulting funding, which eventually went to two Wisconsin energy conservation companies in his home state.
He also accused Obama of taking more than $700 billion from Medicare to help finance the president's signature health care law. But he didn't mention that a pair of tax and spending plans he authored as chairman of the House Budget Committee retained the cuts and put the money toward deficit reduction.
Ryan said he was accepting "the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us."
He added, "The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation's economic problems.
"And I'm going to level with you: We don't have much time."
As he spoke a pair of electronic boards tallied the nation's growing national debt, approaching $16 trillion overall and more than $5 billion since the convention opened.
Romney tapped Ryan this month as his running mate, a selection that cheered conservatives who have doubted the presidential candidate's own commitment to their cause.
For all of the attack ads and inflammatory rhetoric of their race, the two campaigns tiptoed carefully around the storm ravaging the Gulf Coast, vying to demonstrate concern for the victims without looking like they were seeking political gain.
Obama told an audience in Virginia he had spoken on the phone with governors and mayors of the affected states and cities while aboard Air Force One earlier in the day. Romney's aides let it be known he might visit the region once the storm had passed.
Romney's reference to $1 trillion in defense cuts was a 10-year figure that combined reductions already enacted by Congress and reductions scheduled to begin next January as a result of Congress' failure to reach agreement on a broad plan to cut deficits.
He did not say so in his speech, but most Republicans, including Ryan, voted for the first installment as well as the second.
And another convention speaker, Sen. Paul of Kentucky, pointedly disagreed with Romney on defense spending.
"Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well-spent, and Democrats must admit that domestic welfare and entitlements must be reformed," he said.
Democrats spent part of their time working to tarnish the Republican brand. They pointed to an ABC News report that said Romney's campaign had held a reception in Tampa Tuesday night aboard a yacht flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.
Romney has been criticized for having investments there by Democrats who say the effect is to reduce his taxes.
In an appearance before University of Virginia students, Obama said he understood Republicans didn't have much nice to say about his tenure in office. He told his listeners the GOP hoped to disparage him so much that they would either vote for Romney or sit out the election.
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in Indianapolis, Julie Pace in Charlottesville, Va., Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington and Philip Elliott, Beth Fouhy and Tamara Lush in Tampa contributed to this story
TAMPA, Fla. -- Paul Ryan's prime time convention speech Wednesday night was one of the few remaining opportunities to make a sweeping case for the type of political philosophy that he and Mitt Romney have pledged to sweep into the White House.
But instead of opting for the "serious" and "truth-telling" approach that has defined his politics during Barack Obama's presidency, the newly minted vice presidential nominee played it straight. His comments were well received among the packed crowd at the Tampa Bay Times Forum -- though short of ripping up a copy of the Constitution or mocking Ronald Reagan, the audience would have shrieked with delight at his every utterance. But the speech was filled with far more bromides and attack lines than proposals or details.
[A] Romney-Ryan administration will speak with confidence and clarity. Wherever men and women rise up for their own freedom, they will know that the American president is on their side. Instead of managing American decline, leaving allies to doubt us and adversaries to test us, we will act in the conviction that the United States is still the greatest force for peace and liberty that this world has ever known.
President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record. But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it.
This is standard practice for any convention speaker. After all, the audience can't be left bored. The television viewer can't be tempted to turn the dial. And tradition holds that the vice presidential candidate occupy the role of attack dog. Ryan, thrust into the biggest spotlight of his career, admirably played the part.
"Obamacare comes to more than 2,000 pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country," he said, to rousing cheers of "USA."
"College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life," Ryan offered to laughter and applause.
But at times, the lines strained basic notions of fairness or logic, like when he pinned the blame on Obama for failing to resuscitate a GM plant from Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis., that had actually closed under President George W. Bush. Or when he attacked Obama for losing America's AAA credit rating when it was the political shenanigans of House Republican leadership that played an equal if not more damaging role.
Ryan said Obama created a debt commission and then "sent them on their way," while "doing exactly nothing." He failed to mention that he sat on the commission and voted against its report. Ryan also attacked Obama for cutting "hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare," without noting that his own budget proposal incorporated those same cuts, ostensibly to pay for tax cuts or deficit reduction.
More broadly, it seemed odd to see a self-described budget wonk cast as Sarah Palin. That's because even Ryan's colleagues envisioned him giving a different type of address, one that combined textbook fluency and smooth oratory to win the argument on the merits.
"What will be great about his speech at the convention is that it will give him 30 to 40 minutes of unedited, opportunity to speak to the country," Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) predicted in a short hall interview with The Huffington Post shortly before his speech. "It is not going to be talking points. It's going to be a detailed speech."
Instead, the speech was a carnivore's delight, as well as another example of how campaigns, staged at every angle and degree, end up whitewashing the politicians who wage them. All of which may explain why the most memorable moments of the Wednesday convention docket (outside of Ryan's speech) came from eccentric characters or those relatively new to such forums.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demonstrated surprising acumen for delivering a national political address, winning over the crowd with a moving story about her life growing up under Jim Crow laws in the South. Explaining that her parents couldn't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, she added that they still made her believe that "even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter -- she can be president of the United States and she becomes the secretary of state."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose father's legion of followers have become a guerilla force inside the convention hall, scored one of the biggest applause lines for declaring that "we must never -- never -- trade our liberty for any fleeting promise of security."
And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee worked to assure religious voters who may still be squeamish about Romney's conservative credentials or Mormon religion. "I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country," he said.
But, even if he played it straight, Ryan took over the show. With his mother, wife and kids looking on, he silenced his inner wonk and brought the crowd to its feet.
"The work ahead will be hard," he boomed. "These times demand the best of us -- all of us -- but we can do this. Together, we can do this."
Be they Republicans or Democrats, politicians as a rule regularly talk up the need to reduce government expenditure. In 2008, big spender Barack Obama spoke of his plan to address waste “line by line” in the federal budget, and it’s a certainty that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will reveal similar rhetoric in an effort to remove Obama from the White House.Whether Romney and Ryan succeed or not is almost immaterial at this point, in that no matter who is in the Oval Office come 2013, government spending will go up. It always does, and this is true regardless of the...
The Republican Party Platform's call for the creation of a commission to evaluate restoring the link between the dollar and gold may prove to be the biggest upside surprise of the 2012 Presidential contest. If successful, a serious effort to chart a responsible path toward making the dollar as good as gold would provide the linchpin to restoring economic growth, low unemployment, entitlement reform and, as a consequence, balance to the federal budget.Yet, reaction to the gold plank in the proposed Republican Party Platform has been greeted by the predictable hostility of the...
Timothy Egan, the sage of the West, had a column in the Aug. 23 edition of The New York Times entitled "The Crackpot Caucus." It detailed how Todd Akin (KS) was by no means alone in his ignorance of basic facts of life and science. Indeed, his "legitimate rape" remark fit in well with several of his colleague' immoderate and uninformed views.
But what really caught my eye was a headline in the Aug. 25 edition of the paper: "Capitol Dome Is Imperiled by 1,300 Cracks and Partisan Rift." Apparently there are some 1300 cracks in the Capitol Dome. If not repaired, leaks could cause further damage and pieces could fall off. The Dome, visible from afar, lit brilliantly at night, is a symbol of our democracy. The cracks are a metaphor for our broken political system. The Senate has appropriated the $61 million needed for repairs on a bipartisan basis. The Republican House has so far refused and is likely to continue to do so.
Is this the party that keeps saying that if average families can balance their budgets, the federal government should do so too? Sure is. An average family that had a badly leaking roof that threatened to collapse would fix it. But not the GOP-controlled House. They are willing to risk further damage and even injuries from debris falling into the Rotunda based on crackpot ideology.
I pondered this and then imagined how the discussion might have gone in their caucus:
Speaker John Boehner (OH) called the caucus to order and turned over the gavel to Eric Cantor (VA) in order to duck responsibility for the outcome. Cantor asked if anyone supported the funding. Frank Wolf (VA), one of the least immoderate members of the caucus, said that the July 29th storm that hit his district caused a leak in his roof and he hurried to fix it before interior damage was done or it became worse. He was promptly expelled from the caucus.
Paul Ryan (WI) took time from the campaign trail to address this threat to his budget. He argued that if things like this were added, he would never make the 2040 date for balancing the budget. Ron Paul (TX) stood to support Ryan arguing that there was no Capitol dome in 1776 or 1789 and that reconstruction would violate the Constitution. Darrell Issa (CA) said there was an opportunity here. The dome was last repaired fifty years ago during the Kennedy-Johnson Administrations. He offered to open an oversight investigation and demand that the White House turn over all relevant documents to Congress and appoint a special prosecutor. Alan West (FL) agreed and asked that an investigation be launched as to whether any of the communist members of the Democratic caucus were involved. Michele Bachmann said she could only agree to that if the investigation also looked at the role of Islamic influence in the State Department.
The caucus unanimously agreed not to appropriate the funds and to launch the investigations.
As they departed, they received word that a piece of the dome had fallen off and injured a visitor. They were relieved when told his name had previously been purged from the Pennsylvania voter rolls.
The Times quotes Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, as saying: "The dome needs comprehensive rehabilitation... "
So too, it seems, does our political system.
The entire theme of the upcoming Republican National Convention in Tampa is "We Built This." It's a dig at a remark Obama made at a Virginia campaign event, where he pushed the narrative that government investments in national infrastructure like good schools, good roads and good police/fire protection is essential to the success of the business community. Naturally, the GOP took a few words out of Obama's speech and sold it to a media eager to paint the president as anti-business, even though the stockmarket is near an all-time high and corporate profits are already at all-time highs.
At a nauseating campaign rally last week dubbed a "town hall meeting" in Manchester, N.H., which turned away Democrats with tickets to the event, both candidates relentlessly harped on Obama's "you didn't build that" remark. The meticulously-scripted event only took questions from fawning supporters, one of whom was a small business owner who also reveled in the GOP's new favorite anti-Obama meme. Paul Ryan's Twitter is full of such tired platitudes like, "I'm proud to stand with @MittRomney - a leader who knows that if you have a small business, you did build that!"
Ironically, the Tampa Bay Times Forum arena, the location the Republican Party chose to host a convention with the "We Built This" theme, was built with taxpayer funds, which accounted for $86 million, or 62 percent of the total money needed to finance the construction of the stadium. It's a fitting paradox, as the GOP is expected to nominate a guy for president who made his millions tearing down American businesses and selling them to China, and a vice presidential pick whose past voting history contradicts nearly every one of his current positions.
Like his party's philosophy, Paul Ryan is a walking contradiction. He didn't become a deficit hawk until Barack Obama was elected. The biggest spending bills during the Bush administration -- tax cuts for the top 1%, two unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the costly Medicare Part D donut hole -- all account for most of the current debt for which Ryan, who voted to add $6.8 trillion to the debt, is using to bludgeon Obama. At the Aug. 20 campaign event in New Hampshire, Ryan managed to speak of one in six Americans living in poverty as "unacceptable" while keeping a straight face, while simultaneously championing a budget plan that would literally cut taxes for people like himself and Romney, while raising taxes on and cutting paid-for benefits for people like those in the audience cheering for him. The $4 trillion in cuts proposed in the Ryan budget is offset by the $4 trillion less in revenue that would be collected. Paul Ryan, like his budget, is a complete fraud.
Republicans like Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor blast big government spending in the press, while simultaneously lobbying for it in private. Ryan's district benefited from spending from Obama's Recovery Act, which used $20 million to make homes more energy-efficient. House Republican Leader Eric Cantor wrote this letter asking for government spending in his own district. Then once the TV cameras are on, Cantor, Ryan and the Republicans fall all over themselves to talk about how government doesn't create jobs. And in order to reinforce their false narrative that can't otherwise stand on its own under scrutiny, they fight to get more of themselves elected to office on the premise of, "government can't do anything right," in order to get elected to office, vote down every proposal that would create jobs and improve the economy while saying, "See? We told you government doesn't do anything!"
The Republican Party having their national convention with a "We Built This" theme in a stadium made possible by the government spending they claim to hate is the perfect illustration of how silly today's Republican Party has become. If you're voting Republican in this election and you aren't a millionaire or a corporate lobbyist, you're proving to everyone around that you're just as silly as your politicians.
The back-to-school season is here, and as parents take their children to shop for school supplies, I suspect that many of them will be visiting a Staples store. I'm very familiar with those stores because Staples is one of many businesses we helped create and expand at Bain Capital, a firm that my colleagues and I built. The firm succeeded by growing and fixing companies.The lessons I learned over my 15 years at Bain Capital were valuable in helping me turn around the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. They also helped me as governor of Massachusetts to turn a budget deficit into a...
So far, most of the discussion of Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, has focused on his budget proposals. But Mr. Ryan is a man of many ideas, which would ordinarily be a good thing.In his case, however, most of those ideas appear to come from works of fiction, specifically Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”
The more voters learn about Congressman Paul Ryan's leadership style and his thoughtful and creative approach to solving problems, the more they will decide that the Romney-Ryan ticket looks presidential and electable. That's why there has been a coordinated effort in recent days to ramp up not just the "Mediscare" rhetoric against Mr. Ryan, but to depict him as a partisan ideologue who was instrumental in derailing a grand bargain on the deficit. This line of attack is cynical and, most of all, false.First, Paul Ryan didn't force President Obama to abandon the budget...
America is heading in the wrong direction economically, and there are only two ways out. The polarization of the rich and poor is accelerating in a way that imperils economic growth. Mitt Romney's candidacy for president has only highlighted an already pressing issue; he earns more in a year than 99% of Americans will earn in a lifetime of work, especially if their wages continue to stagnate. Inequality is a threat to all our livelihoods -- what can we do about it?
It's well known that the income of the median American household, adjusted for changes in prices, is the same today as it was two decades ago. Most households get the majority of their income from wages -- not capital gains, like the Romney household. In other words, most Americans are primarily owners of labor, not capital. Not surprisingly, the share of our nation's income that has gone to owners of labor has been dropping since the 1980s.
Because owners of labor tend to earn less than owners of capital, income inequality has been on the rise. The Gini coefficient, a common index of inequality, has risen steadily in the United States from about 0.35 in the late 1960s to 0.44 in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. In four decades, we went from the same level of inequality as the United Kingdom to the same level of inequality as Uganda.
With rising inequality comes the risk that economic opportunity will be denied to talented, hardworking people who happen to lack the connections or resources of the wealthy. This is a threat to economic growth, because all the ideas and potential of those people will be wasted. As a result, inequality can eventually reduce incomes for the rich, who need economic growth to receive higher returns on their capital, as well as for the poor. It's one reason why feudalistic countries dominated by small elites tend to have lower incomes than countries with strong middle classes.
There are only two ways to avoid this long-term economic catastrophe. One is to improve the bargaining power of owners of labor. De-unionization and the growing availability of offshore labor have taken away much of workers' power to negotiate for a higher share of national income. Yet neither of these trends would be easy to stop or reverse. Organized labor has been trying for decades to restore unionization without much success, and the global economy will only become more integrated.
It would be much easier to change the tax system. Owners of capital may have the upper hand in bargaining, but we can compensate for that through redistribution. Our goal in making the tax system more progressive should be to ensure equal economic opportunity for all Americans. If the children of the wealthy don't have to worry about food, shelter, health care, and safety as they try to get ahead, then neither should the children of the poor. Only under these conditions will we realize our economy's full potential for growth.
Not surprisingly, Romney says he opposes this kind of redistribution. In fact, his support of Paul Ryan's budget proposal suggests that he wants to go in the opposite direction, making it even easier for owners of capital to avoid future taxes. Romney apparently does not appreciate the enormous risk that rising inequality poses to the economy -- the same economy that made him rich.
But it's not too late to see the light. Instead of being self-righteous about his tax returns, he should release them and say, "I'm the problem with our tax system, and I'm going to fix it, so my kids and their kids can succeed the way I did." The rest of the nation's kids would thank him, too.
* Mitt Romney earned $21.6 million in 2010. To accumulate that amount over the course of a 40-year working life (in today's dollars), you'd have to earn more than $500,000 every year. According to the Internal Revenue Service's Statistics of Income, 99.5 percent of Americans had an adjusted gross income of less than $500,000 in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available.
** There's more on how the Ryan budget would affect America's economic future in my new eBook, SABOTAGE: How the Republican Party Crippled America's Economic Recovery.
The way Democrats tell it, Paul Ryan is an apostle of greed -- a devotee of libertarian hero Ayn Rand who's as conservative on social issues as he is on the economy.
But there's another side to the Wisconsin legislator's political persona that seems to defy easy caricature. That's the Ryan who not only supported President Obama's bail-out of the U.S. auto industry in 2009 but who, over the years, has also strongly backed immigration reform -- not just tougher enforcement but also efforts to find legal channels for undocumented immigrants.
Both stances place Ryan at odds with his own Tea Party backers, and contradict the views of his GOP running mate Mitt Romney, who once denounced the auto bail-out as "creeping socialism," and who continues to deride President Obama's immigration reform plan as an unconscionable "amnesty" for law breakers.
The question is: could Ryan's seeming apostasy on such fundamental issues cause him and his party trouble in the months ahead -- or could it actually help soften the GOP ticket's image with some voters, especially working class whites and Latinos?
Right now, the debate over Ryan is focused on his proposed budget, including his reputation as the GOP's leading proponent of tax and spending cuts that critics have long charged subsidize the rich without actually stimulating the economy. In addition to depicting Ryan's budget plan as "radical extremist", some Obama surrogates have attacked his staunch pro-life views -- unlike Romney, he opposes abortion under all circumstances -- while noting that he once cast votes in favor of the Iraq War and other Bush-era initiatives that resulted in higher deficits.
But no one in the Obama campaign has drawn attention to those Ryan positions that may be at odds with his reputation as a pugnacious and uncompromising ideologue.
Why did Ryan support the auto-bail-out? Because so many of his constituents in Wisconsin's lst district -- where registered Democrats and Republicans enjoy rough parity -- did. Ryan's district is also home to thousands of auto-workers and workers in auto-related industries that stood to lose their jobs if the "Big Three" of GM, Chrysler and Ford went bankrupt.
Ryan tried his best to back the $80 billion bail-out without actually supporting the larger Obama bail-out package known as TARP from which the auto funds derived. In the end, though, he quietly cast his vote for TARP, one of the early Obama "Big Government" programs that inspired the birth of the Tea Party.
Ryan's support for immigration reform is more long-standing. In 2002, he cast his vote for a bill that would have legalized undocumented immigrants but as the mood of the country on immigration began shifting rightward, so did Ryan. Still, in 2009, he voted for "Ag Jobs," a bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein that would have legalized some two million farm workers, including workers employed in the dairy industry in Wisconsin. GOP conservatives strongly opposed the measure.
The Obama campaign seems unsure about how or even whether to exploit Ryan's legislative record. Its latest gambit is to highlight Ryan's support for a bill co-sponsored by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin that would have altered the legislative definition of "rape" in order to further restrict federal funding for abortions. The campaign has also noted that Ryan requested federal stimulus money -- which Ryan first denied, then confirmed -- in theory, damaging his reputation as a zealous apostle of the free market.
But the Obama gambit contains serious risks. Nibbling at the edges of of Ryan's conservatism is unlikely to undermine Ryan's standing with the GOP base, to whom he is already something of a hero. At the same time, signs of moderation or flexibility may well help Ryan establish his bona fides with independents or even some Democrats, who are attracted to Ryan's fiscal conservatism but worry about the potential for "extremism" in his candidacy.
In fact, it would well turn out that the GOP ticket tries to use aspects of Ryan's record, especially his moderation on immigration, as an asset. Ryan did oppose the Dream Act -- a litmus test of sorts with some Latinos -- but like Romney, he extols the virtues of legal immigration and supports reforming the current visa system to allow more high-skilled foreign workers to obtain green cards.
Ryan's support for at least some strong measure of immigration reform already threatens to divide the immigration reform coalition that unites pro-business force and Latino and immigrant rights groups around a common political agenda. The pro-business wing of the movement welcomes Ryan's support for high-skill visas, while the pro-legalization wing seems confused about how to respond.
Will Ryan's immigration views soon be in play? One place to look will be the GOP convention in two weeks. Two of the party's rising Latino stars -- Florida senator Marco Rubio and New Mexico governor Susana Martinez -- have prominent speaking roles and both have pushed the party publicly to support a Republican version of immigration reform -- continued tough enforcement, coupled with a guest worker program and some signs of moderation on legalizing at least some of the undocumented.
Romney, who still trails Obama 2-1 among Latinos in the latest national polling, will be under pressure to show further moderation on immigration -- if only to make clear that he strongly supports legal immigration and is open to some form of legalization once the border is "secure." He's already turned to Ryan to shore up his conservative credentials on the economy. Who would have thought the popular seven-term legislator might also help him demonstrate flexibility with moderates?
Paul Ryan has bold economic ideas. Or maybe he doesn't. It's really hard to know what Mitt Romney's VP pick thinks, since his budget plan includes Obamacare's $716 billion in Medicare savings over 10 years, but his election plan has him saying he would restore those spending cuts. Romney is accusing president Obama of "robbing" that money from today's beneficiaries.Let's set the confusion aside for a moment and look at where the projected cuts would be made.
By now, most Americans have certainly heard that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has selected U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate in this year's presidential race. Ryan is considered one of the GOP's gurus on fiscal and budgetary issues, and enjoys immense popularity among fiscal conservatives.
In Ryan, Romney has selected a tea party darling, the chief architect of the Republican Party's plan for tax and spending cuts and an advocate of reshaping the country's Medicare program. The austere budget proposal that bears Ryan's name would cut $770 billion from Medicaid and other health programs for the poor over 10 years as compared with President Obama's recent budget. He also takes an additional $205 billion from Medicare and an additional $1.6 trillion from food stamps, welfare, federal employee pensions and support for farmers. In addition, his plans include changing Medicare into a program that would rely largely on vouchers.
To add insult to injury, Ryan's budget would offset these $5.3 trillion in spending cuts by offering a $4.2 trillion dollar tax cut to the wealthiest in this country, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.
Whew. Looks like it will be a long winter for the 99 percent if the Wisconsin congressman gets his way. Indeed, if this plan were to be put in place, those who criticize Obama for not doing enough for the poor and middle class would have to start a new poverty tour.
But by choosing Ryan, Romney has also muddled his ticket's message. Indeed, shortly after Saturday's announcement, Romney appeared to distance himself from his running mate's controversial budget plan, which many Americans have expressed doubts over. In talking points sent out by the campaign, the candidate suggested that he didn't necessarily agree with everything in Ryan's controversial budget.
"Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget," the campaign said, according to CNN Political Tracker. "As president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance."
But this lukewarm statement differs wildly from the enthusiastic endorsement Romney has offered of Ryan's plan in the past.
"I think it'd be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan's budget and to adopt it and pass it along to the president," the New Yorker quoted him as saying in March.
In addition, in public statements, Romney has said: "I spent a good deal of time with Congressman Ryan. When his plan came out, I applauded it as an important step," he said. "We're going to have to make changes like the ones Paul Ryan proposed."
So, why would Romney choose a running mate, then immediately attempt to distance himself from him in this critical area?
How could the presumptive GOP presidential nominee at one moment express consistent support for the budget plan and then all of a sudden claim that it is merely "going in the right direction"?
Is he so nervous about the results from three polls released in the past several days that show Obama widening his lead to as much as nine points?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the plan has been received with skepticism by the American public. When the Ryan plan was first unveiled last year, several polls found that a majority of voters -- especially seniors -- weren't supportive of Ryan's ideas.
For instance, in June 2011, a Pew Research Center poll found that 40 percent of Americans opposed turning Medicare into a voucher system. That poll also found that a majority of older Americans, 51 percent, opposed the idea. At the same time, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey found that 58 percent of American adults opposed Ryan's Medicare proposal, while just 35 percent said they supported it.
It's obvious that the majority of the American public knows what it believed regarding Ryan's plan when it was unveiled. But the question is, what does Mitt Romney really stand for?
I suspect that Romney is treading very carefully -- hoping to woo conservatives on the one hand by selecting Ryan but distancing himself from support of Ryan's budget plans so as not to alienate mainstream Americans who appear to be skeptical of the budget document. It's very likely that putting some space between himself and the plan was an act of political necessity, even if it wasn't entirely an accurate representation of the candidate's feelings, opinions, plans or position.
This flip-flopping should give pause to both Democrats and Republicans who are attempting to sift through the political games and decipher what Romney's real positions are, since they seem to be ever evolving and ever changing.
Sooner or later, the real Mitt Romney must present himself to the American people. Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?
A version of this article first appeared on the Washinton Post's The Root blog.
He chose him for his conservative zeal and youthful energy. His reputation as a fiscal whiz. He has intensely opposed Government intervention in the economy -- whether by regulation or subsidy. He will be no mere budget trimmer, but rather a pivotal figure in the effort to restrain the Federal budget, upon which all else depends.
It was in these words that the New York Times described not the political ascendency of Paul Ryan, but rather of his political doppelganger, David Stockman, 30 years ago.
David Stockman was the Paul Ryan of the Reagan era, and the similarities are uncanny. A rising conservative star whose southwestern Michigan district was just across the lake from Ryan's, David Stockman was a 34-year-old Congressman who was famous for his mastery of the arcane details of the Federal budget. When Ronald Reagan selected him to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, it was a pivotal appointment, as the central question facing the Reagan Revolution -- from old line Republicans as well as Democrats -- was whether Reagan could cut taxes, increase defense spending and balance the budget, all at once.
Stockman believed that it could be done, or as he said at the time, "The whole thing is premised on faith. On a belief in how the world works."
And the rest is history. The Reagan administration transformed Washington.
Stockman did not succeed in balancing the budget. But unlike revisionist defenders of the Reagan era, he did not blame it on the duplicity of Tip O'Neill and the Democrats, but rather on the perfidy of fellow Republicans. What was birthed in that era was -- in the words of fellow Republican apostate Pete Peterson -- the unholy alliance of tax cutting Republicans and big spending Republicans. Together, they untethered the Grand Old Party from its roots as the party of frugality and prudence, and embraced the singular legacy of the Reagan era -- the realization that balanced budgets were no longer either a political or economic imperative.
And this perfidy lies at the core of Paul Ryan's much vaunted Roadmap for America's Future. For all the claims to being a document of budget wizardry, the Roadmap offers little policy insight beyond its fundamental, and unarguable, stipulation: We cannot continue to borrow forever. Beyond that, the Roadmap offers little more than an assertion of the author's own political imperative -- in this case capping spending at 19 percent of GDP -- and assuming that Congress in future years will agree to curb spending in excess of that cap.
I published the graph below several months ago in a post about the Obama-Boehner negotiations. The graph incidentally makes the same simple point as the Roadmap: "If Federal spending were to be capped at its pre-financial crisis average since the mid-1970s of 20.8 percent of GDP, five categories of spending -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense and Net Interest -- will steadily squeeze out all other areas of entitlement and discretionary spending. By 2022, Everything Else is reduced 57 percent from its historical average of 6.4 percent of GDP to 2.7 percent of GDP."
This is not a great insight. It is simply a product of understanding budget numbers at the most rudimentary level and having some facility with Excel. And yet this is the basic insight of Paul Ryan's plan. Ryan does not say what he proposes to cut -- beyond proposed cost shifting of health care costs to beneficiaries -- indeed he barely discusses non-entitlement, non-defense spending. Instead, he simply asserts that if there were a hard spending cap, that would force drastic -- but undefined -- reductions to stay within aggregate spending limits.
But to say what is squeezed out is not a question of budgetary wisdom, but pure politics. Why does Ryan's plan preserve Medicare untouched for those 55 years and older? The answer is not because they paid for it and therefore are entitled to it -- because they didn't pay for it. Medicare is in large measure paid for by general tax revenues just like everything else. It is simply because they vote, and they vote with a greater sense of determination and focus than those who are 35 years old and younger.
Imagine what a roadmap might look like if those aged 18 to 35 had the political clout that their numbers might demand? One could imagine that Pell Grants would be the third rail of politics. Military action as a tool of foreign policy might be viewed with greater skepticism if political power hinged on the votes of those whose lives were to be put in harms way. And Social Security and Medicare would more likely be means tested and subject to spending limits. Perhaps if the young electorate whose wallets were to be raided to pay for it all down the road voted their self-interest with the same ferocity of older voters, we might have less willingness to borrow today to pay for a broad-based welfare state for the elderly. It is all about who shows up on election day.
While conservatives heap adulation upon Ryan as a thinker, David Stockman is not fooled. He understands that Ryan's document demonstrates neither budgetary insight nor political courage. Writing on the op-ed page of the New York Times last week, Stockman assaulted Ryan's plan:
Thirty years of Republican apostasy -- a once grand party's embrace of the welfare state, the warfare state and the Wall Street-coddling bailout state -- have crippled the engines of capitalism and buried us in debt. Mr. Ryan's sonorous campaign rhetoric about shrinking Big Government and giving tax cuts to 'job creators' (read: the top 2 percent) will do nothing to reverse the nation's economic decline and arrest its fiscal collapse...
But the greater hypocrisy is his phony "plan" to solve the entitlements mess by deferring changes to social insurance by at least a decade.
A true agenda to reform the welfare state would require a sweeping, income-based eligibility test, which would reduce or eliminate social insurance benefits for millions of affluent retirees. Without it, there is no math that can avoid giant tax increases or vast new borrowing. Yet the supposedly courageous Ryan plan would not cut one dime over the next decade from the $1.3 trillion-per-year cost of Social Security and Medicare.
The sophistry of the plan rests in the simplistic assumptions it makes about the ability of Congress to designate cuts now for future years, as well as the assumption Republicans are not in fact big supporters of large swaths of the discretionary budget the Ryan presumes to simply assume that Congress will eliminate in future years. Indeed, Ryan's plan does not address how the fundamental question of how the budget would be balanced until the last few pages of his opus, this despite the presumptions that the existential threat to the nation is presumed to be the Roadmap's raison d'etre.
But that is the crux of the budgetary challenge, not a sideshow. What Ryan ultimately offers is nothing more than a repeat of the now decades-old idea of legislating hard spending caps. This is the same approach that failed with the brief experiment with the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law. It failed in a different incarnation as Paygo rules. And it has failed again in the form of the 10-year scoring rules that are the reason the Bush tax cuts were supposed to have expired several years ago.
The problem, in its essence, is that Congress does not actually have power to impose cuts on the future, as any rule one Congress makes to control spending, the next Congress can undo. This is the essential dilemma that has underscored our budgetary politics since the political and economic imperative of balanced budgets was overturned in the wake of the Reagan revolution -- only Congress can restrain itself, and if it doesn't want to, it won't.
What Stockman and Peterson understand is that for all of the hubris of conservatives in Congress, they are no different than their political brethren across the political spectrum. In fact, they have proved to be worse. They hold forth on the immorality of deficits and the path to ruin that lies ahead, but it is all just words -- words that mask a deep hypocrisy and cynicism. And when David Stockman looks at the Ryan plan, and the fawning support of the conservative establishment in Washington, he cannot conceal his contempt.
It's rank demagoguery. We should call it for what it is. If these people were all put into a room on penalty of death to come up with how much they could cut, they couldn't come up with $50 billion, when the problem is $1.3 trillion. So, to stand before the public and rub raw this anti-tax sentiment, the Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, should be ashamed of themselves.
That about sums it up.
We had a rule in Wisconsin. It's kind of an unwritten rule: you turn 65; you have to go south for the winter. We call them 'snow birds.' My mom is a snow bird.
So said newly minted GOP VP pick Paul Ryan, as he marched his beaming 78-year-old mother onto the campaign stage Saturday morning at the Villages retirement community in Florida. After impassioning the crowd with a heart-tugging tale about his Medicare-dependent grandmother, Ryan chided Obama for his $716 billion "raid" of the social insurance program.
I find it astounding that Ryan would choose such an occasion and location to go after the president for his supposed economic excess and budgetary abuse. While Ryan's mother may be among the "snow birds" that can flock to Florida for a sunny retirement, almost half of non-retired Florida baby boomers believe they will have to work until they die.
About 54 percent of Florida voters age 50 and older "are concerned they will not be able to afford health-care expenses as they age." They are right to be worried: As Obama's Florida press secretary rightly and unashamedly forecasts, Ryan's plan to end Medicare as we know it will cost an estimated $6,350 a year in out-of-pocket expenses for future Florida seniors.
The site of Ryan's speech, modestly titled The Villages, is a retirement community near Ocala, FL, home to over 60,000 elderly folks. It boasts 26 executive golf courses, nine championship golf courses, 11 parks, dog parks and fitness trails, a polo stadium, as well as sports and social clubs, including tennis, archery, pickle ball (go figure), Tai Chi and various music and theater groups.
Maybe it's a place like this that colors Ryan's perspective on the typical retiree, and explains why he is so perilously out-of-touch with the real plight of the vast majority of seniors in this country. The setting also undermines his rhetorical pathos.
Amid an electoral circus like this, Americans of every age should be on guard against such weak and easy appeals. It's clear the Romney/Ryan camp is resorting to such tactics to counter the (justified) mass anxiety that Ryan is going to launch granny off a cliff. And when Romney speechifies that his and Ryan's proposal to trample Medicare are the same but not the same, we're right to be confused because... well, it just doesn't make sense.
If the current Republican presidential candidate is seriously concerned with the future of one of the most important social programs in American history, he should put away the whiteboards, stop cheerily grandstanding about how he pays the same tax rate as a bathroom attendant, and begin articulating how a budget plan to cut taxes for the rich and raise taxes on the middle-class will prevent imminent economic disaster.
Ezra Klein: You’re the ranking member on the House Budget Committee. Paul Ryan is the Chairman of the Committee. How do you get along?Chris Van Hollen: I get along very well with Paul Ryan personally. We have very deep differences on policy issues. But we express them civilly. We got together early on and went out to dinner, talked through some issues, and resolved to debate the policy issues fiercely but civilly. I think anyone who has observed the debates we’ve had in the Budget Committee would say we have.
Before we begin -- We Have A Winner!
Way back in April, in FTP  we ran a "Call the Veepstakes" contest. In reviewing the entries, we at first thought that nobody correctly guessed who Mitt's Veep would turn out to be. If this had been the case (because that would have qualified it as a "tie"), the winner would have been Michale, who commented at my site and picked Condoleezza Rice... but got closest to the actual date with his guess of "three weeks before Tampa."
But we then looked closer and found one entrant had indeed correctly (if unenthusiastically) picked Paul Ryan. So, the winner of our Veepstakes contest is none other than Rescisco, who posted his comment at the Huffington Post. He or she failed to guess a date, but it didn't matter because nobody else selected Ryan as their choice. So -- congratulations to Rescisco, who is hereby awarded bragging rights in the comments today. Well done!
Moving right along, normally our Friday columns open with a bit of lighthearted news roundup, which is where I'd point out things like what Donald Trump is up to (always good for a laugh), and then move on to mutant butterflies in Japan due to radioactivity from their power plant disaster, which would end with a joke about Mothra.
But this week has been anything but lighthearted, and nuclear accident jokes are pretty borderline to begin with, so instead I'd like to highlight two excellent articles worth reading, both on the subject of Mitt Romney's campaign and plans for the future.
The first of these is from the Plum Line blog at the Washington Post. It points out how little "there" there is in Romney's actual plans. Romney's team has become more and more blatant on this point -- they're running a gauzy campaign of slogans, and they are simply not going to provide any details because that would be politically risky. Someone might not like the details, and therefore might decide to vote against Romney, so both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney will be withholding all details until they get inaugurated. Then, perhaps, they'll let America know what they're going to do -- but then again, perhaps not. The best paragraph in the article:
Romney has broken with recent precedent -- his father included -- in refusing to release his tax returns, but he says has paid 13 percent for 10 years. (Just trust me.) Romney has not released the names of his major bundlers, but he won't be beholden to his donors, as Obama has been. (Just trust me.) Romney vows to eliminate the deficit, and promises that his tax plan will be revenue neutral, even though he won't say which loopholes and deductions he'd eliminate to pay for deep tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich. (Just trust me.) Romney says he intends to eliminate whole agencies of government, but won't say which ones, except in closed-door meetings with donors, and even then, details are scarce. (All together now: Just trust me.)
While a great read, the second article (from the American Prospect) is even better, because it focuses on the same subject we're going to focus on today: Medicare, and (specifically) what Paul Ryan plans to do to it. It points out the fallacious thinking emanating from the Romney-Ryan camp at present in brutal detail. The conclusions it draws are just as pointed:
In sum, Romney is arguing three things simultaneously: First, we absolutely have to restrain Medicare spending. Second, only he has a "plan" to do it, while Obama doesn't. Third, how dare Obama have restrained Medicare spending through all the reforms he made to Medicare under the Affordable Care Act! You can call this ironic or hypocritical or appalling, but that's what he's saying.
Democrats need to realize that while they see these points as obvious, much of the voting public hasn't gotten into the conversation as yet. There are minds to be convinced, out there. They will be convinced with solid argument with facts to back it up. This article provides the best overview of these facts I've yet seen. Any Democrat who is preparing to be interviewed this weekend really needs to read this article, and perhaps prepare a few talking points of their own.
Before we begin with the awards, we'd like to wish Social Security a happy 77th birthday! Best government program ever, bar none. Many happy returns....
Our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is none other than Vice President Joe Biden. While other remarks got more attention (we'll get to that in a moment), one thing Biden said this week deserves praise. Biden is getting some attention and some due praise as well, and we'd like to add a MIDOTW for what Biden said about Social Security this week: "I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security." He then repeated the phrase "I flat guarantee you."
We will be taking Biden at his word. This is a big promise, and it is one we would dearly like the Obama administration to keep. For stating this core Democratic principle so bluntly -- with absolutely no room for misinterpretation -- Joe Biden deserves to be lauded. The mainstream media hasn't really noticed yet, so it would behoove the Obama campaign to make this a much bigger deal by having the president make a similar unequivocal statement.
For now, though, Joe Biden is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Way to go, Joe!
[Congratulate Vice President Joe Biden on his official White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
As happened with Harry Reid a few weeks ago, we regret to announce that Vice President Joe Biden is also our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, for the remark that got all the media's attention.
Yes, we know that Joe was attempting to turn a Republican talking point around (about how Democrats were "shackling" Wall Street with regulations and Republicans would "unshackle" the banks). We also know (unlike many pundits) that speaking of slavery has a long history in American politics completely unrelated to actual chattel slavery. It is almost impossible to read any essay from the American Revolution that doesn't use the "slavery" metaphor when speaking of Britain and taxes. American politicians have casually tossed around slavery language ever since -- including quite a few times during presidential contests -- which had nothing to do with actual slavery. Mitt Romney can tell the credulous mainstream media that such a thing is unprecedented and unthinkable in American politics all he wants, but he is just factually wrong.
Having said all of that, Joe Biden's remark was disappointing. It left him open to attack, it was obviously an off-the-cuff moment gone wrong, and the context mattered a great deal. Biden told people ("y'all") that Republicans would put them back in "chains" while giving a speech in Virginia. This is the same state Thomas Jefferson lived in (who, during the Revolution, railed against the British for "a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to slavery" through taxation, while owning actual slaves himself.) Slavery metaphors really don't play well in former slave states, to put it another way.
Slavery metaphors don't really play well in modern American politics at all. The difference between "shackles" and "chains" isn't that great, but Democrats should refrain from using either. Sure, point it out when Republicans use this sort of language, but don't fall into the trap Biden just fell into while doing so.
Joe Biden not only wins the MIDOTW award this week, but also the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week as well. It's been an up and down week for Joe.
[Contact Vice President Joe Biden on his official White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 223 (8/17/12)
While there are other tempting opportunities for soundbiting this week, we're going to focus solely on Medicare instead.
Mitt Romney opened up several new lines of attack on his taxes this week -- such as labeling him "Mister Thirteen Percent" for his admitted tax rate. Even juicier is attacking what Mitt Romney would pay under Paul Ryan's budget plan, because it hammers home the naked greed of Republicans at the top of the income scale. Romney would pay less than one percent in income taxes, should the Ryan budget ever become reality. I'm still waiting for some intrepid reporter to ask Mitt "Do you think it is fair for you to pay only one percent of twenty million dollars as income tax? Why or why not?" but I'm not exactly holding my breath.
Instead, we're going to focus on Medicare. This is Paul Ryan's biggest vulnerability. The Ryan budget is fair game as a target, because Mitt Romney's campaign team is now openly admitting that if they actually talked about the details of Romney's own plan, he would not get elected. That's scary enough, right there, but it means the Ryan budget -- even with the gaping holes it contains when it comes to details -- is the most concrete thing to talk about.
Mitt Romney, of course, wants to have it both ways. He'll say good things about Ryan's budget... while trying to distance himself. He'll talk about how it'll be a Romney budget, not a Ryan budget... but he won't tell anyone what will be different. The Romney team knows how vulnerable they are on this issue, which is why they are running ads to pre-empt what Democrats are about to say to the public.
So far, the Obama team has been a little slow off the mark, so they need other Democrats to help make the case. Obama did a great job of "defining" Romney for the past month or so, to their advantage. But Ryan has mostly been allowed to "define" himself this week. This needs to change, but luckily Democrats have the facts on their side in this fight.
This first one is a stylistic point, but one worth making. Since Mitt Romney won't tell anyone what his real plans are, the Paul Ryan budget is the only available target to Democrats. Point this out by turning the "Romney-Ryan" phrase around -- and highlight the fact that the number two guy on the ticket is being presented as the brains of the outfit. This is subtle snub to Romney that is worth using every time the subject turns to the budget or Medicare.
"The Ryan-Romney budget plan will indeed end Medicare as we know it. Paul Ryan came up with this plan, he got virtually all of the Republicans in the House to vote for it, and if Republicans had held the Senate they would have put this plan on the president's desk to sign or veto. The Ryan-Romney plan changes Medicare from health insurance with guaranteed benefits to seniors into a voucher that is not going to pay for the same level of care from a private insurance company. Ryan-Romney takes away guaranteed health insurance for seniors, and it leaves them with no guarantee of coverage whatsoever. That is, indeed, ending Medicare as we know it. The Ryan-Romney plan hopes you won't notice this fact, but that is precisely what the Ryan-Romney plan does."
Not one thin dime
The Romney camp is hoping to muddy the waters with their claim that President Obama is raiding Medicare by a whopping amount of money. Too bad Paul Ryan was such a fan of these cuts he included them in his own budget.
"Republicans have been complaining about so-called 'Mediscare' ads being run against them by Democrats for about two years now. 'Oh, the ads are so unfair' they whine. Well, let's take a look at the first ad out of the box in the presidential campaign. It is indeed a 'Mediscare' ad, because the entire purpose of the ad is to scare seniors that their benefits are being cut by $716 billion dollars, and given to someone else who is, quote, not you, unquote. Pretty scary, huh? Of course, it's not even remotely true, because what Obama passed does not touch one thin dime of benefits to anybody. Not a penny. Seniors -- both today's seniors and future seniors -- are still guaranteed their full benefits under Obama's plan. Romney simply cannot make the same claim. Ask him sometime: Will seniors both today and in the future be guaranteed what they have been promised their whole lives under your plan? Under the Ryan-Romney plan for Medicare, the answer to that question is 'No, they will not have such a guarantee.' That is a fact, and it is scary. But it is by no means 'Mediscare' to point it out. Quite the opposite -- it is the truth, unlike the Romney ad."
The hypocrisy surrounding this one is monumental, but it needs to be pointed out as often as possible for the public to see through it.
"Mitt Romney is trying to scare seniors into thinking Obama is cutting their Medicare benefits. They have dark ads up to frighten voters. But the astounding thing is that the scary, scary cuts to Medicare Mitt Romney talks about were included in Paul Ryan's budget. If these cuts are such bad policy and such a horrendous idea, then why did almost every Republican in the House vote for exactly the same cuts, one has to wonder. Paul Ryan was fine and dandy with these cuts when he put together his budget. Ryan put together his budget with no help or input from Democrats -- it was a pure Republican budget. So why didn't he stop these horrendous cuts? The answer to that is that Mitt Romney is now lying about these cuts. They are not horrendous, they are not evil, instead they bring the federal budget deficit down by getting rid of waste in the system. Republicans used to be a big fan of cutting out waste in government, but now Mitt Romney is actually arguing to keep waste in the current system. You heard that right -- by forcing Paul Ryan to disavow his own Medicare budget plan, Mitt is championing the cause of governmental waste. If Obama's plans to rein in the Medicare budget are so bad and so evil, why did Ryan agree to them in his own budget? Nobody twisted his arm to do so."
Medicare Advantage failed
This should be getting a lot more attention than it currently is, because it is the poster child for undermining the grand Republican argument in a very real way.
"You know what a large part of that $716 billion in savings turns out to be? Ending overpayments to the Medicare Advantage program. Let's just think about that for a moment. Medicare Advantage was a Republican dream proposal, because it was supposed to work that old free-market black magic. The way the thinking went was: if we turn part of Medicare over to private insurance companies, because they are the private sector and not the big, bad inefficient government, the price was supposed to come down. Private industry was supposed to save money for Medicare. Guess what? It didn't. Turns out the private insurance market costs significantly more than the government providing the same service. This is why Medicare Advantage is being cut -- to stop this senseless subsidizing of private companies. When you hear Republicans say the government should get out of the health insurance market, because the free market is guaranteed to bring the costs down, point to Medicare Advantage. We tried it the Republican way. It failed. It costs more -- hundreds of billions of tax dollars more. Think about that the next time Republicans tell you the free market can contain costs better than Medicare."
This is also a favorite of Republicans, so the hypocrisy of Mitt Romney's position needs pointing out.
"Mitt Romney now says that Paul Ryan's Medicare budget was wrong, and that he'll restore the money for Medicare. But what he doesn't tell you is that by reforming the system and removing wasteful practices like subsidizing private health insurers, Medicare will go broke a full eight years sooner. It will go into debt by 2016, in fact, which is not that far away. So when Mitt Romney says he will end the Obama reforms, the press needs to ask him what he's going to do between now and 2016 to change the program so it doesn't run out of money. Under Obama's plan -- the one Paul Ryan agreed with, remember -- we have eight more years to figure this problem out. Under Romney's plan, it's staring us in the face. Mitt Romney is afraid to give any details as to what he'd do to fix this problem, but I think the American people deserve to know. So far, what Mitt Romney has said he'd do would lead to red ink in Medicare starting in 2016. Paul Ryan saw the sense in Barack Obama's approach, meaning that three out of the four presidential and vice presidential candidates agree, and Mitt Romney won't say what he'd do differently, other than to move the date of bankruptcy up by a whopping eight years."
Why limit it to under age 55 if it's so great?
This is another fundamental flaw in the Republican way of thinking. Which needs pointing out.
"The Ryan-Romney plan for Medicare is supposed to be wonderful for all the people age 55 and under, who will be freed from that nasty old socialized medicine and be able to revel in the free market sunshine. The Ryan-Romney plan is supposed to be the perfect answer to the Medicare problem. Well, if it's such a great deal, then why are they limiting it? Why not just move all the seniors who are crushed under the bootheel of socialized Medicare today over to the Ryan-Romney plan right now? Why should they suffer, when they could get a voucher each year and live in that same free market sunshine? I'll tell you why Ryan and Romney don't want to do this -- because it is a much worse deal than what seniors are currently getting. Seniors are not stupid. And they vote. Which is why Ryan and Romney are downright terrified to even suggest that they might move current seniors over to their new Medicare plan. What they haven't counted on is the fact that many seniors are parents and grandparents, who want their children to enjoy the same Medicare system that they currently use."
Mmmm... donut holes...
This one can't be escaped by any fancy doubletalk about "Mitt Romney's plan" versus "Paul Ryan's budget."
"If Ryan and Romney are elected, they have sworn they'll get rid of what they call 'Obamacare' as their first order of business. What they won't be bragging about on the campaign trail is that this is going to kill a benefit that seniors are currently receiving -- a benefit that is scheduled to get better and better over time until it fixes the problem once and for all. When the Republicans passed the Medicare prescription drug benefit, they left an enormous 'donut hole' that forces seniors to pay thousands of dollars for their medication. Obamacare fixes this donut hole, and these seniors now get payments to cover the hole. These payments are rising each year, until they will completely fill the donut hole altogether. Ryan and Romney will end this program if they overturn Obamacare. They refuse to promise seniors that they will pass any legislation to fix this problem, meaning that the donut hole would be here to stay under the Ryan-Romney plan. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney will be immediately taking money out of seniors' pockets -- they've said so, many times. They refuse to say that they'll continue the program, and have indeed sworn to kill it. They are running ads which falsely claim that Medicare benefits to seniors will be reduced, and then they turn around and vow to take money straight out of seniors' pockets. If I were a senior who would lose hundreds of dollars -- if not thousands -- each year from the donut hole fix, I know who I'd be voting for."
With the election slipping away like a handful of mercury on a turbocharged merry-go-round, Mitt Romney managed to change the conversation from unreleased tax returns and foreign misadventures by plucking Paul Ryan out of the Wisconsin wilds to be his running mate. "Romney-Ryan." Short, alliterative and one syllable more conservative than "Obama-Biden."
The situation appeared so desperate, the choice couldn't wait until after closing ceremonies of the Olympics, forcing the House Budget Committee Chairman to share the weekend spotlight with enough English pop stars to clear out the hairspray aisle at 7 Boots' drug stores. The Republican Congressman may be famous for his P90x work -- out regimen, but the Spice Girls have much better legs. And they're way older.
Ryan was universally hailed as a bold choice. Yeah, well, maybe, but bold is not always synonymous with good. Whiskey for breakfast is a bold choice. Spun glass underwear is bold. Forehead dragon tattoos. Passing an 18 wheeler on a blind curve doing 80 in the rain. Incredibly bold. Not necessarily smart.
Another white male Christian conservative. That is bold. But only when compared to absolutely anything else. It's been speculated a major reason for awarding the Wisconsin congressman prize spot at the bottom of the bumper sticker was to energize the base. And total slam dunk there. The question is: which base?
Republicans are shaking like a Brazilian supermodel on a Lake Superior beach shoot in January. Only, happier. Haven't seen them this excited since John McCain hooked up with some governor of Alaska. Meanwhile, Democrats are salivating so uncontrollably, they'd be advised to invest in bibs to keep from soiling their five thousand dollar Man-of-the-People suits.
A coordinated attack was immediately launched to trash Ryan's Path to Prosperity budget bill, which replaces Medicare with vouchers. Health care coupons. Why? Because old people love coupons. "I got a coupon. Only four more, we can book an anesthesiologist."
The Romney campaign instantly countered, accused the President of gutting Medicare to the tune of $700 billion for ObamaCare. So we got that to look forward to: 11 more weeks of the echoing refrain of "You're killing Medicare," "No, you're killing Medicare." Rinse and repeat. And repeat again. Continue rinsing.
Ryan, a self-professed Ayn Rand acolyte, was forced to denounce his objectivism hero when somebody on his staff who reads discovered Ms. Rand rejected all forms of religion, which some might infer meant she did not believe in Jesus. You can love one or the other, but not both. Like with Wham!
Allegations also arose that while Ryan ladled scorn onto the stimulus bill, he wrote four letters to the Secretary of Energy praising programs and requesting funds for his district. Could this be a fount of flip for Mitt's famed flop?
Ryan doesn't do much to help with Romney's Richie rich problem either. Wealthy son of a Janesville, Wisconsin highway contractor, he amended his financial disclosure statement in March, having forgotten to include a $5 million trust account. Then again, who among us hasn't forgotten a multi-million dollar trust account? "Now where did I put that pesky Five Mil? Must be in my other pants pockets."
Difficult to discern whether the GOP Boy Wonder is helping or hindering Willard's ticket. But if the campaign arc doesn't start levitating real soon, he might be forced to release some tax returns just to change the conversation. Again.
The New York Times says five-time Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political comic working in the country today." Check out the website: redroom.com to buy his book: "Will Durst's Totally Indispensable Guide to the 2012 Election." And willdurst.com to find out about stand-up performances. Such as: Saturday August 18th at Angelica's Bistro in Redwood City.
Also: every Tuesday, Elect to Laugh! @ The Marsh, San Francisco. Only TWELVE, 12, shows left. themarsh.org.
The conventional wisdom on the state of the 2012 presidential race is that, thanks to his endorsement of the House GOP Budget and his selection of Paul Ryan to be his running mate, Mitt Romney has opened himself up to one of the Democrats' favorite attacks -- fear-mongering over Medicare, or "Mediscare."This consensus is wrong; instead, the Democrats are much more vulnerable on this issue in 2012.Why is that?
Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum seized the opportunity at an Ohio campaign event for Mitt Romney on Wednesday to warn Catholics that supporting Obamacare is a sin in the eyes of the Catholic church.
"We have a president who, for the first time in American history, is directly assaulting the First Amendment and freedom of religion," Santorum said, referring to the provision in Obamacare that requires most employers to offer insurance plans that cover contraception. "He is going to tell you what to do in the practice of your faith. He is forcing business people right now to do things that are against their conscience, that they will have to -- if you're a Catholic -- you’ll have to go to confession … to confess that you are complying with a government program that is a sin in the Catholic church."
The argument that President Barack Obama is forcing Catholics to violate their faith by paying for birth control, a common Republican talking point, is problematic. Data shows that 98 percent of Catholic women who have had sex and are of child-bearing age have used an artificial method of contraception that is against the teachings of the church. Many Catholic universities, including Wheaton College, which is suing the Obama Administration over the law, already covered contraception before the law was announced.
Mitt Romney enforced a nearly identical contraception mandate in Massachusetts. He supported requiring Catholic hospitals to dispense emergency contraception -- which the church believes counts as abortion -- to rape victims.
Churches are exempt from Obama's contraception rule entirely and faith-based organizations that morally oppose it are offered an accommodation in which the third-party insurance company, not the organization itself, absorbs the cost of the contraceptive coverage.
By Santorum's logic, it seems that supporting vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget would also be a sin in the Catholic church. His budget slashes assistance programs for the poor in order to financially offset tax cuts for the wealthy. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lambasted Ryan's budget earlier this year. This summer, a network of nuns organized a bus tour to protest the budget, saying that it "doesn't pass the moral test."
"Catholic teaching is based on solidarity," Sister Simone Campbell, leader of the bus tour, told the Daily Beast. "Ryan doesn’t understand that all decisions need to be made with the common good in mind."
The selection of Congressman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin for the GOP vice president slot by Governor "Mitt" Romney has served to excite the Republican base and turn on the fund raising spigot. In this way it has had a similar short-term effect as Senator John McCain's selection of then Governor Sarah Palin. The question now is whether the longer-term impact will be as damaging.
There are reasons for concern.
The first is: "Who is Edgar Bergen and who is Charlie McCarthy." Many conservatives, especially those of Tea Party persuasion, seem to hope that Ryan will be providing the words and Romney's lips will do the moving. This is not unreasonable since Romney's campaign has been almost totally devoid of specifics and Ryan's budget is packed with many. Yes their tax plans are similar in lowering rates to help the struggling wealthy. And yes, neither plan specifies what "Tax expenditures" would be constrained to keep it revenue neutral. And, of course neither wants new revenue raised.
But the Ryan budget, which Romney said he supported before the selection has a whole host of specifics beyond the widely commented on Medicare voucher shift and sending the Medicaid program to the states without sufficient funding. So the question has been asked: "Is the Ryan budget the Romney budget?" Romney and his campaign's response is, as usual, to try to avoid a straight answer. The current formulation seems to be that the budget that is submitted to Congress in January, should he be elected, will be Romney's budget, not Ryan's and that budget will not be released before the election. Say what? They will campaign on the greatness of the Ryan budget that was passed by the House and is therefore the GOP budget, but that is not necessarily what Romney might really do if elected? Or will Romney slice items from the Ryan budget, such as Ryan's $700+ billion cut in Medicare to fend off criticism and annoy the very conservatives the Ryan choice was meant to assuage.
Who is the ventriloquist and who is simply moving his mouth? How can you promise to talk straight when you do not know whose words you are hearing?
Let us examine one issue of particular interest: veterans. How do we know what a Romney-Ryan administration would do to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)? Well we know that Romney mused about switching to a voucher system and was slapped down by veterans' organizations. As a result, the position on the web site strongly backs keeping the VA. But that is the only specific. Indeed, you cannot find veterans as an issue on the Romney site. You can only find it by clicking on the National Defense issue and discovering the "related link" to veterans. The Romney "plan" for veterans consists of a lot of arm waving and promises to do what the Obama administration is already doing.
So, faced with that virtual void, it would seem logical to look at the Ryan budget for guidance. And what do we find in that 100 page blueprint for the nation? The word veteran appears exactly zero times. No mention, none. But the budget does call for across the board budget cuts and freezes that would result in an $11 billion cut in VA funding or 13% lower than the budget submitted by President Obama.
This should not be surprising. Congressman Ryan was no friend of veterans. He voted against the New GI Bill of Rights, the most important veteran legislation since its post-WWII progenitor. He voted against the two largest VA funding increases that were needed to make up for the chronic under funding of the VA under President George W. Bush. The planning for the impact on veterans of the war in Iraq was even worse than the planning for the Iraq occupation. In the summer of 2005 the VA had to ask for a billion dollar emergency funding for the VA because, as they sheepishly admitted, their planning assumptions were based on the pre-war period. They did not calculate that there might be casualties from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq!
So, in addition to the Bergen - McCarthy problem-- Romney faces the issue problem. In the absence of any specific issue positions by Romney or his disavowing of the Ryan budget, such as on Medicare cuts, the voters will naturally turn to the Ryan budget and the Ryan voting record for insight. At least on veterans' issues, that insight shows a callous disregard for our veterans and their needs.