The Rasmussen poll indicated that only 37 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Paul Ryan, so one might think that this was a suicidal choice. The Democrats are licking their chops. But all of this could well be premature. Ryan will energize the campaign and if he makes a terrific speech at the convention, which I am certain he will, Romnney’s poll numbers will go up the way John McCain’s did after Sarah Palin’s speech. But whereas Palin proved to be a liability, Ryan should be able to handle himself quite well. This could sustain the momentum.
Ryan’s job is to keep attacking spending, something designed to appeal to independent voters who could start to like him more. And no question, spending will be a big issue as the Republicans will assert that it’s the spending and the deficit that are causing the sluggish economy and the eight percent unemployment. Ryan will also keep up the mantra that there should be no tax increases because tax increases hurt the economy. By cutting taxes, he will argue, the economy will grow and there will be more revenue to balance the budget and pay down the debt.
Americans have short memories so the Democrats are going to have to remind the voters that this is
what George H.W. Bush called “voodoo economics.” Reagan’s budget director David Stockman now blames the Republicans from the time of Reagan until today for the economic mess the country is in.
There is no question that many will buy into Ryan’s argument since very few even remember the Laffer Curve, which predicted that a cut in taxes would bring in more revenue. It was false then and it is false now. As for an austerity budget, you have only to look at Britain to see that this doesn’t work. British growth has actually decreased and they are heading towards another recession. If you’re going to cut spending, you have to do it, as Terry Sanford used to say, “under the supervision of a physician.” What he meant by that was that drastic cuts were like a crash diet–you will end up putting all the weight back on. Drastic cuts will hurt growth and lead to a bigger deficit.
But more than this, Ryan is not sincere in saying that Romney and the Republicans will be able to tackle the deficit. He actually favors a dramatic increase in defense spending, which shows him to be nothing but a typical congressman who plays the same old Washington game–give Lockhheed Martin whatever it wants and cozy up to its hordes of lobbyists and the generals who are capable of undermining their own Secretary of Defense. They and the hacks in the Defense Department will go through the revolving door and end up working for Lockheed even as Lockheed executives will end up with important positions in the Defense Department. The lobbyists will assure the flow of campaign contributions to congressmen who, like Ryan, do their bidding. Ryan is not a breath of fresh air. He gives off the same old stench of the Iron Triangle that runs Washington.
Ryan is often praised for his courage in taking on entitlements. But that is also untrue. His plan to privatize Medicare (a terrible idea in any event) will, he admits, not kick in for another ten years. Where is the savings in that? And cutting back on benefits from Social Security and extending the retirement age will for certain be met with considerable hostility. Ryan has given every indication that he is backing away from that position.
Paul Ryan is a phony and if the voters buy his snake oil, they will get what they deserve. The only question is who is the bigger phony, Ryan or Romney? There is a wonderful line from Preston Sturgess’s “Hail the Conquering Hero.” ”The phony aways wins until a bigger phony comes along and then he wins.” But I don’t believe Obama is a phony. He has made mistakes and has his faults. He is a politician, with all that entails but he has done his best to represent all of the people, not special interests. The American people better wise up or they will end up in a worse condition than they are in now.