There are really only two things you need to know about Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s choice for Vice President. First Paul Ryan has no experience, education, or knowledge about any area of government except economics. If the call came to him at 3:00 am, he’d not know what to do about the national security question posed to him, but he might know what the White House was being charged per minute for the call. Second, Paul Ryan’s solution to the economic challenges facing America will only compound the fiscal problems of America.
A. No Experience Other than Economics
Not every person can be an expert on every aspect of government. Paul Ryan is a perfect example. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics. Born in 1970, Mr. Ryan is 42 years old. His first job out of college was to work on Capitol Hill as a staff economist for Senator Bob Kasten from Wisconsin. In 1998 he ran for Congress and has been a member of the House of Representatives since then. During his last 14 years in Congress he has focused on economic matters and now serves as the House Budget Committee Chairman. Whether you agree with his attitudes about economics, it is clear he has the requisite experience to deal with budget issues. That doesn’t mean he is qualified to run the country as President, if Mitt should be elected and then die in office. In that regard he represents only a slight improvement over Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin wasn’t qualified to serve on John McCain’s cabinet in any position other than sugar-cookie server, and that would presuppose that Romney directed her in advance not to buy them from 7-11.
The President of the United States oversees the Department of State, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Environmental Protection, and the Small Business Administration. The President also appoints an Ambassador to the United Nations, a Trade Representative, and the Director of Management and Budget. Of these 19 Departments or offices, Ryan is knowledgeable about one. We might have anticipated that Romney would name Ryan as a member of his cabinet as the Director of Management and Budget, but certainly not as the person to replace him as President. Paul Ryan might be qualified to buy the uniforms of the Navy Seals who took out Osama bin Laden, but his experience and expertise would end with writing the checks for the uniforms.
B. Ryan’s Budget Is a Disaster
Paul Ryan only knows about the economy, and he’s wrong about that. While Mitt Romney has lauded the Ryan Budget as “marvelous,” it is only marvelous if you want to see the United States default on our debt and fall into a downward spiral from which we could never recover. Whatever you think of the Ryan Plan, the incontrovertible problem is that it gives tax cuts immediately, and that it does not assume reduction of the deficit for 10 to 15 years, and wouldn’t balance the budget for 28 years. Even though touted by conservatives as the solution to our national debt, Ryan’s budget provides for tax cuts for the wealthy reducing revenue more than it proposes cuts to spending. Ryan’s proposal advocates the implementation of a voucher system for Medicare. Even if you think that is a reasonable approach to limiting spending, which I don’t, Ryan’s plan would not apply to current beneficiaries or to those within 10 years of eligibility. In ten years the country will be bankrupt, and most medicare and social security beneficiaries will be dead. In addition to lowering taxes for the wealthy, Ryan does not propose any cuts to military spending. The bottom line is that even if you favor the cuts in spending on entitlements proposed by Paul Ryan, they don’t come soon enough to avert disaster.
The Ryan Plan reveals that his budget is all about politics and has nothing to do with reality. Almost half of America falls into two groups; baby boomers, and senior citizens. Today Medicare is the only health insurance for most elderly. By suggesting cuts 15 years from now, Ryan is pandering to the elderly. His proposal would not affect any elderly now, with the expectation that the deficit will be the problem of the elderly in the future, not current voters. In 2010 exit polls showed a GOP “tsunami” from senior voters who were unhappy about “Obamacare” and $500 Billion in Medicare cuts.
Thus Mitt Romney is running on the idea that he will balance the budget and reign in the deficit. The fatal flaw is that his cuts don’t occur for 15 years, and in the mean time he proposes increase to the military budget and decrease in revenue through tax cuts for the wealthy.
The lesson is that we should not be debating the merits of vouchers or cuts to Medicare in the Ryan budget. We should be debating the fundamental flaw of the Ryan budget. The only thing the Ryan budget proposes for the next four years is lowering taxes, and increasing military spending. It seems beyond reason to think that this approach will solve the predictable disaster if something doesn’t happen NOW. The best chance we have of actually dealing with the looming disaster caused by our current deficit is to re-elect President Obama. It’s not about Obama’s policies vs. those of Romney or Ryan. The reality is that we are better off electing the politician that can’t run for re-election, so that his motivation is to actually address the deficit, even if that would cost him votes. If re-election is no longer an issue, then the President is free to deal with the pragmatic issues of addressing the deficit.