This election just got a lot more interesting! Actually, I think Romney may have just sunk his own candidacy, but let's not get ahead of ourselves....
If you're interested in getting a handle on what Paul Ryan's all about the article I highly recommend Jonathan Chait's profile in New York Magazine from a few months back. At this point, it's required reading.
Here's an excerpt that describes the famed 'Ryan Plan,' which of course has now just become the defining issue of this campaign:
The basic elements of Ryan’s plan are this: The tax code would be collapsed into two rates, with the top rate dropping to 25 percent, but eliminating unspecified tax deductions would keep tax revenues at the current level, as set by the Bush tax cuts. Medicare would remain untouched for those 55 years old and older, but those under would be given vouchers at a capped rate. Given that the Medicare savings would not begin to take effect for more than a decade, that taxes would stay level (at best), and that military spending would increase, Ryan would achieve his short-term deficit reduction by focusing overwhelmingly on programs targeted to the poor (which account for about a fifth of the federal budget, but absorb 62 percent of Ryan’s cuts over the next decade). The budget repeals Obamacare, thereby uninsuring some 30 million Americans about to become insured. It would then take insurance away from another 14 to 27 million people, by cutting Medicaid and children’s health-insurance funding.Sure he comes off as an affable fellow, but Chait shows what an intellectual fraud Ryan really is. Unfortunately far too many in the media, including people like Ryan Lizza (who should know better), buy into this notion of Ryan as a crusading "deficit hawk." He's not. Ryan's goal, first and foremost, is lowering taxes on the rich. Chait documents this serial hypocrisy, and goes onto describe how Ryan nevertheless became a beltway media darling. The article ends with... oh just click the link and go read the whole thing!This is not a moderate plan. As Robert Greenstein, a liberal budget analyst, summed up the proposal, “It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history.” And yet, Ryan has managed to sell it as something admirable, and something else entirely: a deficit-reduction plan. This is very clever. The centrist political Establishment, heavily represented among business leaders and the political media, considers it almost self-evident that the budget deficit (and not, say, mass unemployment or climate change) represents the singular policy threat of our time, and that bipartisan cooperation offers the sole avenue to address it. By casting his program as a solution to the debt crisis, by frequently conceding that Republicans as well as Democrats had failed in the past, and by inveighing against “demagoguery,” Ryan has presented himself as the acceptable Republican suitor the moderates had been longing for.Whether Ryan’s plan even is a “deficit-reduction plan” is highly debatable. Ryan promises to eliminate trillions of dollars’ worth of tax deductions, but won’t identify which ones. He proposes to sharply reduce government spending that isn’t defense, Medicare (for the next decade, anyway), or Social Security, but much of that reduction is unspecified, and when Obama named some possible casualties, Ryan complained that those hypotheticals weren’t necessarily in his plan. Ryan is specific about two policies: massive cuts to income-tax rates, and very large cuts to government programs that aid the poor and medically vulnerable. You could call all this a “deficit-reduction plan,” but it would be more accurate to call it “a plan to cut tax rates and spending on the poor and sick.” Aside from a handful of exasperated commentators, like Paul Krugman, nobody does.
I also recommend this Ezra Klein post, which offers 10 bulletpoints on the significance of Romney choosing Ryan as his running-mate.
I'll just add that Ryan's shell-games are going to be a lot harder to maintain in the full glare of the media spotlight.
More to the point, with Ryan on the ticket Obama's key mission for this election, conveying to the public the true radicalism of what the Republicans are offering, just became a lot easier. Obama's been trying to tie Romney to Ryan's ideas, which Romney has openly endorsed, for months but, perhaps because Romney comes off as a boring businessman, this has proved surprisingly difficult. People simply can't believe Romney would actually support such a radical plan. Robert Draper, writing in the New York Times Magazine, described the problem the liberal super-PAC Priorities USA ran into when they tried this approach:
Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.
This, as Greg Sargent over at the Washington Post has been pointing out, is the real reason Obama's been so focused on defining Romney's character in a negative light:
Many commentators view the attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain years as little more than an effort to paint him as a heartless plutocrat. But the strategy is a good deal more complex than that. The goal is twofold: First, to undermine Romney’s principal case for the presidency, i.e., that his business background makes him a “job creator” who is equipped to turn around the country’s economy. And second, to define Romney in a way that makes it easier for voters to understand his true policy goals and priorities on entitlements, taxes, and other issues.
In other words the Obama campaign has been trying for months to lay the groundwork to convince people that Romney actually really does support the agenda of... the guy he just chose to be his running mate. So, yeah, their job just became A LOT easier, hahaha.
The fun irony is that, as Lizza describes in his piece for the New Yorker, one of the reasons Republicans came to love Paul Ryan so much in the first place is because Obama singled him out for criticism in a deliberate attempt to raise his profile. Even before this campaign began in earnest Obama needed to convince people what the Republicans were really trying to do, and to do that he needed to attach the ideas to a face, because the media needs a "story," and stories need "characters." Obama even provided a bit of drama by inviting Ryan to come see him speak, to then eviscerate his plan to his face... Afterall, the media eats that stuff up! And included in those stories of personal drama, Obama hopes, will be a bit about the policies he found so objectionable in Ryan's plan to begin with. Fortunately Republicans, who reflexively take the opposite position of Obama on everything, played right into his hands by adopting the object of Obama's criticism as their new standard-bearer... and now the party faithful have even managed to strong-arm Romney into putting him on the ticket...
It's a decision I strongly suspect Romney will come to regret.