Realism and Ryan
I find it remarkable that many of my Tea Party Friends are in agreement with the Obama campaign about Paul Ryan. Of course, they have different ideas about what that means. To these Tea Party types, Ryan is a "true conservative." To the Obama campaign, Ryan is an extremist with "an extreme budget plan." I would find these claims of extremism, which the Democrats seem to use as a reflex response, comical, except that too many people seem to give them credibility.
Mitt Romney would not pick "an extremist." Mitt Romney appears to be executing a game plan of being 1% less socialist than Barack Obama. That's why his spokesperson, when asked about the false super-pac ad blaming Romney for the death of someone who died without health insurance, answered by saying that if the person was in Massachusetts they would have had government health insurance. The concept that government cannot and should not provide health insurance to the entire population from cradle to grave does not appear to be on the table.
This realization gives clearer meaning to Romney's words when he said we should "repeal and replace" Obamacare. As has been their way the last 30 years (and this is one of those truths that so many on the right are unwilling to face, lest their awareness morally obligate them to do something about it) the Republicans don't want to stop big government so much as make big government more efficient. And by that of course, they mean that their friends are to get the money rather than the other team's friends.
Look, Paul Ryan is a policy wonk, and I am a policy wonk, and for that reason I am naturally inclined to be positive on the choice of Ryan. It's about time people got fired up about candidates for their policy expertise instead of their style or likability. Well, it's hard to say that in Ryan's case, because he does have a large degree of those traits as well. But people are at least acting like that's the reason they are so fired up about him, and I am all for that stated reason being the actual reason.
The problem comes for those of us who believe that people who hold public office should be judged by their votes, not how tough they talk or how good they sound. Ryan's fiscal record is the exact opposite of his talk. Here are some of his big-spending votes...
- Voted YES on TARP (2008)
- Voted YES on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler (Dec 2008)
- Voted YES on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending (Jul 2009)
- Voted Yes on Medicare Part D prescription drug expansion (2003)
- Voted YES on $70 million for Section 8 Housing vouchers. (Jun 2006)
- Voted YES on No Child Left Behind further nationalizing education (2001)
- Voted YES on Head Start Act (2007)
- Voted YES on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)
I find his record to be that of another of those Republicans who are against more spending in theory, but in favor of it when it's crunch time. "The Ryan Plan" is much hyped, but I since I am a policy wonk too I look at the details and I see an unrealistic plan. Now I say that, but I must add that the Democrats have produced no budget at all, so Ryan is to be credited for at least trying something. With that caveat, there are no cuts in military spending in the Ryan plan, just increases. In other words, he expects all the money to come out of social spending while we continue to nation-build and pour money into foreign mud holes.
But it gets worse. The plan postulates a balanced budget in 30 years, but the cuts don't start for about ten years. His plan is completely unrealistic because it makes no tough choices now but expects future congresses to make even tougher choices later. When year ten gets here and its time for the tough cuts, the next generation of Paul Ryans will balk just as he consistently balked.
Plus of course, numbers that far out can be influenced by unrealistic assumptions about the health of our economy. I could produce a plan that would "balance the budget" just by assuming higher grown numbers and continuing to spend. I could produce another "plan" that would keep spending going for 29 years and then "balance the budget" by cutting 90% of federal spending in year 30. But these plans would be a farce, and unfortunately the Ryan plan, while not farce, is hard for a policy wonk like me to consider a serious effort at balancing the budget. What really matters in these budget cutting plans is what is cut in year one and year two. Anything beyond that is conjecture.