Romney/Ryan not their brother’s keeper
Posted: Monday, April 9, 2012 7:00 pm
and ELEANOR CLIFT
WASHINGTON — When Mitt Romney campaigned in Wisconsin before this week’s primary, there was hardly a minute when Republican budget committee chairman Paul Ryan wasn’t by his side. Ryan is popular in his Wisconsin district and an icon among Tea Party Republicans who share his enthusiasm for slashing government spending.
The Ryan budget brings the top rate down to 25 percent, a windfall for taxpayers in the top bracket, while cutting discretionary programs for the poor along with spending on education, clean energy and infrastructure. “It’s a Trojan Horse,” President Obama told a conference of newspaper editors in Washington. “Disguised as a deficit-reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism”
Addressing the same group the following day, Romney said the choice in November “will not be one of party or personality,” as though he were washing his hands of both his own shortcomings and those of his party. But that won’t be easy. After glowing reviews of Romney and Ryan together on the stump in Wisconsin, some Republicans are touting the two of them on the ticket together.
It’s clear they have chemistry, and the Tea Party wing of the GOP would be ecstatic to get someone they greatly admire whispering in Romney’s ear. First elected in 1998 with 57 percent of the vote, Ryan wins reelection handily; he got 67 percent of the vote in 2010. He is regarded as an intellectual, a devotee of free-market capitalism. He cites Ayn Rand, the Russian-born author of “Atlas Shrugged,” as someone whose laissez-faire capitalism and promotion of individual rights shaped his thinking.
Those who imagine him as Romney’s running mate think he would provide an intellectual counterweight to President Obama. Where Romney is more of a technocratic manager, Ryan embodies the philosophical basis for the small-government, low tax, low regulation approach that Romney champions. He would be the anti-Palin, a vice president selected for his seriousness, not his crowd appeal, though he is popular in Republican circles, and his wonky style might appeal to Independents.
The downside for Republicans of a Romney-Ryan ticket is that it would eliminate any running room for Romney to avoid being held accountable for the budget developed by Ryan and embraced by House Republicans. The Obama campaign has already christened it the Romney-Ryan budget and aspects of it will be difficult for Romney to defend. He will have to think long and hard whether he wants a running mate so clearly identified with a particular budget which he might not agree with in every respect.
Romney’s 59-point plan leaves a lot to the imagination while Ryan’s budget plan is specific about how he would transform Medicare, for example. While Ryan would give seniors and people close to retirement the option of continuing traditional Medicare, younger people would be put into a premium support system and given vouchers with a fixed amount of money that they could then use to purchase insurance. After critics pointed out that the voucher would not cover the cost of insurance over time, Ryan adjusted his budget to build in some increases, though more of the burgeoning cost of health care would be shouldered by seniors themselves, as opposed to government.
Ryan boosters relish the thought of their 42-year-old prodigy debating Vice President Biden in what they envision as an historical clash between old-style thinking and the wave of the future. They overlook what Biden brings to the table, a sense born of long experience that government is about more than balancing the books; it’s about being our brother’s keeper, and unless Ryan can grasp that, he could do Romney more harm than good, whether he’s on the ticket or not. Published in The Messenger 4.9.12