Last weekend, when Paul Ryan spoke in Virginia after being introduced as Mitt Romney's running mate and said, "It's about opportunities, not outcomes," it really stood out to me. In my opinion, nothing he said before or after that line matters. For me, that very line essentially framed the debate that is who is best served to run this country for the next four years; and, I'm sure the Obama camp would not have it any other way.
In truth, Ryan's vision for America as evidenced by his budget proposal makes it quite clear: neither Ryan, Romney, or the Republican Party is truly concerned with America's already struggling middle class as they purport. In fact, they have obviously missed the fact as pointed out on this blog last year, that a majority of Independent and Republican voters were opposed to Ryan's budget, and supportive of increasing taxes on the wealthy.
This year, an incumbent even more embattled than George H.W. Bush has his own preferred election theme. He doesn't want to debate his own record, which is pretty dismal. He wants to debate the record of the congressional Republicans elected in 2010, a bunch radically less popular even than the president himself.
You'd imagine that Romney's job was to refuse the Democratic invitation, to choose his own ground for the election, and to keep his distance from the congressional GOP. You'd imagine, but you'd be wrong.
Romney has instead chosen to bolt himself to the House Republicans. He has chosen as his running mate Paul Ryan, the House Republican leader -- not their formal leader, but their intellectual leader, the person who set their agenda. He has effectively adopted Paul Ryan's agenda as his own: big immediate cuts in spending, a dramatic cut in the top rate of income tax to 28% and a bold reform of Medicare for those 55 and under.
Obama's message in 2012: "Forget the economy. It's Medicare, stupid!"
The Romney-Ryan response? "We agree. Medicare it is."
The Romney-Ryan team will tell you that fixing Medicare is crucial to their plans for economic growth. By assuring markets that Medicare costs will grow more slowly after 2023, a Medicare fix -- it's argued -- will ignite job creation in 2013. In the meantime, federal spending cuts and upper-income tax cuts will restore business confidence.
Will voters accept this argument? Possibly, although relatively few economists will do so.
Most economists would draw a distinction between the government's fiscal problems over the medium term and the economy's problems in the near term. The economy's near-term problems can be traced to the housing crisis.
[...] Paul Ryan's various plans and road maps contain many interesting elements for the reduction of government in the decades ahead. They do not respond to the most immediate and urgent problem: prolonged mass unemployment caused by heavy household debt.
Why not? There's why the ideology makes itself felt. Conservatives ardently believe that big future deficits are the cause of today's unemployment. They feel it. They know it. And they don't want to hear different. (read more)
For Mitt Romney, the presidential election was touted as a "referendum on Obama." By picking Ryan, it no longer is; it's now about choice; and, it is because Romney is afraid and has been slipping in the polls. In the face of Romney's plummeting favor-ability, the decision to add Ryan to the ticket is the strategic game-change needed by the Romney campaign. That plus a shift in conversation from the contents of Romney's unseen tax returns is also a welcomed by the campaign -- God forbid if a presidential candidate has to show his taxes or birth certificate, right?
Oh, and since we're talking taxes:
In picking Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has doubled down on his own campaign promise to give big tax breaks to the wealthy, uniting himself with a candidate who goes even further to do so: While Romney would bring taxes for top incomes down to 28 percent, Ryan has proposed bringing the top rate down even lower, to 25 percent. Meanwhile, Ryan’s plan would actually increase the effective tax rate on the very poorest Americans by getting rid of tax breaks that benefit low earners.
Under Ryan’s plan, the six tiers of tax rates would be simplified to two rates: 25 percent for higher earners and 10 percent for lower-earners. But the overall impact of the Ryan budget would still disproportionately benefit the wealthy. The top 20 percent would get a $13,907 tax cut in 2015, and the top 1 percent would get a whopping $155,808 tax break, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. By contrast, the bottom 20 percent of Americans would pay $159 more in taxes in 2015.
That’s because the Ryan budget would get rid of tax breaks that benefit low-income Americans, including expansions of “the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and American Opportunity Tax Credit that were enacted in 2009,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. As a result, effective tax rates on those with incomes than $30,000 would actually go up, while going down for the wealthy, the CBPP concludes.
Ryan says that he would also eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy, among others, to order to help pay for these rate cuts, which total almost $10 trillion, according to the CBPP. But he’s declined to specify which tax breaks for the rich he’d actually get rid of. Instead, “Ryan has said the House’s tax-writing Ways and Means Committee will sort that out later,” as Businessweek pointed out earlier this year. What’s more, Ryan actually wants toexpand one of the biggest tax breaks that benefit the wealthy: He wants to eliminate taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest. So it remains unclear how Ryan would ensure that $10 trillion in rate cuts wouldn’t explode the deficit. (read more)
Now watch this:
Hell, we can't all be rich, right?