Friday, August 10, 2012


Unless the media is the victim of a disinformation campaign, which is possible I suppose, Mitt Romney is about to announce that Paul Ryan will be his pick for the vice-presidential nomination. That is evidence that Romney really does want the election to be based on the issues. And my sense is that the Obama campaign would welcome a debate on the policy preferences personified by Romney and Ryan: tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of business, and gutting social welfare programs. Bring it on!

Politically, this move seems like a serious misreading of the Wisconsin recall campaigns, which Romney must be interpreting as a public clamor for taking benefits away from public employees. But the Democrats won a few of those recall campaigns, and may have lost the biggest one, the Scott Walker recall, more because people were tired of recalls, than because people love Scott Walker's ideas. That is shown by polls indicating that President Obama still has a pretty sizable lead in Wisconsin. Paul Ryan may not even be able to turn Wisconsin around for Romney. The choice of Ryan also makes this election more of a choice election, and less of a referendum election, and that should make Romney's chances worse.

But if Romney is right that a debate on the issues is what people want, and is also right that the Republican ticket should present a clear ideological alternative, then he has made the perfect choice for VP. If Romney thinks he is going to win a debate on those issues, however, he is facing a much tougher road. I mean, let's suppose that the electorate even has a glimmer of a sense that income inequality is one of the problems facing our nation. People know that the rich are getting much richer, and the poor and middle class are barely holding their own. We are experiencing levels of inequality not seen since the 1920's, much, much greater inequality than during the relatively egalitarian, and relatively prosperous times of the 1940's through the 1960's. Now someone could make the argument that this rising inequality is due to natural forces or the changing structure of the economy or globalization or something like that. You could also make the argument that the government should not interfere with these "natural" forces.

But Romney and Ryan will not be making that argument. No, they are the perfect duo to make the argument that in these disturbingly unequal times, what the government should be doing is making that inequality even worse. Romney advocates giving people who make $3 million in income per year a tax cut worth $250,000. He thinks that rich people do not have enough disposable income. And Paul Ryan is the architect of the Ryan budget, the guy who wants seniors to pick up more of the tab for Medicare. He thinks the poor and elderly have too much disposable income.

Romney's pick should help tremendously in clarifying the issues at stake in the election, which is why the Obama campaign is probably fairly excited about it. Voters should be able to understand that their choice comes down to the following:  If people think the government should help make the rich richer and the poor and middle class poorer, they should vote for Romney-Ryan. If not, they should vote for Obama-Biden.


  1. And so the end of discussion about dogs and 'he said she said' and 'I know you are but what am I' comes to a close. It will be fun to discuss policy again.

  2. This particular policy debate has been going on for hundreds of years, and it will probably go on for a few hundred more years. But even though the debate will never be finally resolved, it's still good that people understand that the election is about something substantive and real.

    So I'm ok with discussing policy, but I'd much rather discuss process. And we still want to see Romney's tax returns. Don't expect the Obama campaign to stop talking about that.

  3. Everyone recognizes that the Obama campaign (and many more of us) will continue to ask for his returns other than '10 and '11. So what?