Paul Begala: With Ryan, Romney Has the Plutocrat Ticket
In selecting Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has doubled-down on the one thing he has never flip-flopped on: economic elitism. Romney, born to wealth, has selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who was also born to wealth. As the former University of Oklahoma football coach, Barry Switzer, once said of someone else: both these guys were born on third and thought they hit a triple.
There's nothing wrong with inherited wealth. Lord knows great presidents from FDR to JFK came into their fortunes through the luck of birth. But there is something wrong with winners of the lineage lottery who want to hammer those who did not have the foresight to select wealthy sperm and egg.
Finally, we have peered into Mitt Romney's core. It is neither pro-choice nor pro-life; neither pro-NRA nor pro-gun control; neither pro-equality nor antigay. But it is pro-wealth and very anti–middle class. Mitt Romney has decided to go nuclear in the class war.
Paul Ryan, the darling of the New York–Washington media elite, is almost certainly not the most qualified person Romney could have picked. Unlike governors like Chris Christie or Tim Pawlenty, or a former high-ranking White House official like Rob Portman, Ryan has never run anything larger than his congressional office or the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. The elite love Ryan because he speaks for more cowardly members of their class; his stridently anti–middle class policies are music to their ears.
You will often hear people who ought to know better dress up Ryan's savage economic priorities with euphemisms. Ryan wants to "fix" Medicare. No, he doesn't. He wants to kill it. Saying Paul Ryan wants to "fix" Medicare is like saying the vet wanted to "fix" my dog Major; that which used to work very well no longer works at all—and Major is none too happy with the procedure.
Ryan's budget is the fiscal embodiment of the deeply evil, wholeheartedly selfish so-called philosophy of Ayn Rand. In fact, Ryan has described Rand as "the reason I got involved in public service," and reportedly makes staffers read her works.
Think about that. As my buddy James Carville has said, what would all the Best People say if Nancy Pelosi made her staffers read, say, Margaret Sanger? Or if Barack Obama made interns study Das Kapital? Sure, a few months ago, facing Catholic protestors at Georgetown University, Ryan said he renounced Rand. But as the national Catholic weekly, America, wrote, he did not change the substance of a single policy. Some renunciation. It seems to me Ryan has renounced Rand's politically incorrect atheism, not her morally bankrupt philosophy of Screw Thy Neighbor.
Politically, the choice does the one thing Romney needed least of all: it shifts the focus of the 2012 presidential election away from the soft economy and onto the Ryan—now, Romney-Ryan—budget. The most radical governing document in a generation, the Romney-Ryan budget would dramatically alter America's basic social compact. No less an expert than Newt Gingrich called it "right-wing social engineering".
Don't be fooled. Ryan is no deficit hawk. He voted for all the policies that created the current ocean of red ink: the Bush tax cuts for the rich; the war in Iraq; the Bush Medicare prescription-drug plan, the first entitlement without a dedicated revenue source. Ryan cloaks his brutal budget in the urgent rhetoric of fiscal responsibility, but that's a Trojan Horse. As the Center for American Progress has noted, under the Romney-Ryan budget, "the national debt, measured as a share of GDP, would never decline, surpassing 80 percent by 2014, and 90 percent by 2022."
Ryan's real goal is to destroy the ladder of opportunity for the poor and the middle class. Look at his budget: Medicare would be shattered and replaced with a voucher system wherein seniors would be given a stipend and told to negotiate with the health insurance goliaths. According to the Congressional Budget Office, ten years after the Ryan plan was enacted, seniors would pay $6,400 per year more for the same health care, as the stipend would fail to keep up with projected cost increases.
And that's just for starters. One out of every four dollars spent on transportation—which is already underfunded—would be cut. Veterans' benefits would be cut 13 percent from what President Obama says is needed. Young men Paul Ryan voted to send into combat would suffer once more on the home front. Education would be cut, food safety, air traffic control, environmental protection—almost everything that makes us safer, smarter or stronger—would get hammered.
How can a budget so brutal not make a dent in the debt? If you have to ask you have not been paying attention. What is the holy grail for princelings like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan? Of course: tax cuts for the rich. The Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers and found that under Romney's proposal, 95 percent of Americans would see their taxes go up by an average of $500, but millionaires would receive an extra $87,000 tax cut. The net result: an $86 billion annual shift in the tax burden away from those making over $200,000 a year and onto those making less.
And so Romney Hood has his Friar Tuck. And somewhere in hell, Ayn Rand is cackling with glee.