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Aug 16 2012

The Deeply Unserious Paul Ryan

There’s an interesting narrative developing on the naming of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate, even on the part of many liberal commentators. He’s being hailed as a Deeply Serious Man, an Important Thinker who will bring our attention to the necessity of fiscal discipline. Take Will Saletan of Slate, who writes:

A wonderful thing has happened for this country. Paul Ryan will be the Republican nominee for vice president.

Ryan is a real fiscal conservative. He isn’t just another Tea-Party ideologue spouting dogma about less government and the magic of free enterprise. He has actually crunched the numbers and laid out long-term budget proposals. My liberal friends point out that Ryan’s plan leaves many details unclear. That’s true. But show me another Republican who has addressed the nation’s fiscal problems as candidly and precisely as Ryan has. He’s got the least detailed budget proposal out there, except for all the others…

It speaks enormously well for Romney that he made this choice. It tells me he’d run the country the same way he ran Massachusetts: as a prudent, numbers-oriented businessman.

Ryan may not help Romney win this election. For the reasons given above, he may actually hurt the ticket. And there’s a good argument to be made—which Democrats surely will make—that Ryan’s emphasis on austerity is a bad fit for a weak economy. But Ryan’s ideas are important for the future. As the recovery proceeds, we’ll move out of a context in which stimulus made sense, and toward a context in which reining in deficits and debt becomes more essential. We’ll need more attention to those traditional Republican principles. We’ll need more voters, especially young voters, who value those principles. We’ll need a generation that thinks like Paul Ryan.

And then there’s Jacob Weisberg, who hails Ryan as providing the real substance that Romney will need.

Introducing his running mate against the backdrop of the USS Wisconsin on Saturday, Mitt Romney flubbed his easiest line. “Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States,” he declared. There is no way to avoid reading this as a Freudian slip. Romney’s chief problem as a candidate has been his substantive vacuity, his failure to stand for anything beyond flexibility itself. In choosing Paul Ryan, he opted to outsource the content of his campaign to his opposite: a principled, conservative idea man. Ryan is now the head of the Republican ticket, Romney the body.

All of this is nonsense. Ryan is nothing even remotely like a “principled, conservative idea man.” His votes in favor of Medicare Part D and TARP and for trillions of dollars in unjustified war spending prove that to be true. He has proven himself quite willing to jettison his stated principles for party loyalty. Nor has he laid out anything approaching serious long term budget proposals. You simply cannot call yourself a champion of fiscal responsibility if you’re going to seriously argue for cutting trillions of dollars in federal revenue while raising defense spending. You cannot be considered a serious fiscal thinker if you’ve already ruled out tax increases for anyone other than the poorest Americans and demand astonishing tax cuts for the rich. If that is your plan, you’re not a deep thinker, you’re a partisan hack.

31 comments

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  1. 1
    tacitus

    To be fair, compared with the rest of that sorry bunch, the fact that Paul Ryan has actually crunched any numbers at all might seem quite impressive to some.

  2. 2
    slc1

    Somewhere Ayn Rand is smiling.

  3. 3
    busterggi

    “As the recovery proceeds, we’ll move out of a context in which stimulus made sense, and toward a context in which reining in deficits and debt becomes more essential. We’ll need more attention to those traditional Republican principles. ”

    You know, if Republicans had ever no run up the deficit that might make sense but as they’ve always done the opposite over the past century at least so tradition belies them.

  4. 4
    thisisaturingtest

    He has actually crunched the numbers and laid out long-term budget proposals.

    That’s an interesting assertion to make, in the light of this admission to Brit Hume, about Romney’s plan, that “we haven’t run the numbers on that specific plan.” Is Romney’s plan that much different than Ryan’s own? How “serious” can a candidate be when he hasn’t “run the numbers” on a plan he presumably embraces, as one put forth by his party’s presumptive ticket-header?

  5. 5
    Michael Heath

    Another false meme being spread by the Romney camp, that even mainstream media outlets are blindly promoting, is that Messers Romney and Ryan are policy wonks.

    The reality is that both demonstrate an aversion to economics and instead almost exclusively rely on conservative talking points to reconcile their arguments. Especially Paul Ryan, whose arguments are based on economics analogous to how Anthony Watts’ arguments are based on climate science or Bill Dembski’s to biology. Mr. Romney on the other hand doesn’t even bother to fake it, just claiming the president knows nothing about economics and then heading straight to the talking points – no economically literate or mangling of economics like Ryan does is even expressed.

  6. 6
    Raging Bee

    Ed, he’s even less serious than you say he is. Mindlessly advocating endless spending cuts, year after year, regardless of the cuts already made (not to mention their consequences), without even trying to talk intelligently about specific spending programs, proves that Ryan is either a robot or a lazy, constantly complaining child. He’s appealing to an ignorant and shortsighted mindset that automatically blames gummint for everything that’s wrong with anything; and he’s no more serious than the mindset he’s pandering to.

  7. 7
    Reginald Selkirk

    Paul Krugman:

    Look, Ryan hasn’t “crunched the numbers”; he has just scribbled some stuff down, without checking at all to see if it makes sense…

    David Stockman:

    In short, Mr. Ryan’s plan is devoid of credible math or hard policy choices.

  8. 8
    Reginald Selkirk

    In other news, Ryan sponsored a fetal personhood bill, and is a climate change denier.

  9. 9
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    But show me another Republican who has addressed the nation’s fiscal problems as candidly and precisely as Ryan has.

    This makes Saletan look even stupider than Ryan. ‘Sure his plan won’t work, ignores the numbers, and in fact just consists of a bunch of teabagger buzzwords strung together with economics jargon, but the rest of his party doesn’t even have that.’ This doesn’t make him serious, it makes him a candidate for getting a D instead of an F in a high school economics course because the teacher can tell he at least did the reading, even if he doesn’t understand it.

  10. 10
    lclane2

    Ryan shares two things with Romney, a privileged upbringing and the conviction that everyone is an entrepreneur. If you’re not an entrepreneur on the surface it’s simply a matter of slapping you in the face and admonishing you to “shape up.”

  11. 11
    jamessweet

    To be fair, compared with the rest of that sorry bunch, the fact that Paul Ryan has actually crunched any numbers at all might seem quite impressive to some.

    I think that’s the crux of why this narrative is getting any traction. As Paul Krugman said, Ryan hasn’t really “crunched” anything, he’s just “scribbled some stuff down” — but that still puts him ahead of many of his fellow teabaggers.

  12. 12
    fifthdentist

    Maher said something like, “Somehow he’s the smartest guy in the party and she’s the stupidest woman on earth, but they agree on everything.”

  13. 13
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Ryan is a younger Gingrich with less baggage, and the same sort of “what a dumb person thinks a smart person looks and sounds like” thing going for him.

  14. 14
    Michael Heath

    Reginald Selkirk asserts:

    [Paul] Ryan . . . is a climate change denier.

    Here’s a column Rep. Ryan wrote in 2009 for The Journal Times.com, whoever they are. I link here to Rep. Ryan’s own House of Representatives page. The emphasis in bold from the portion of this column I quote here is added by me. It reveals Rep. Ryans’ Big Bang level-hypocrisy where I assume this crowd can easily pick out the obvious falsehoods I quote here by Ryan.

    To the detriment of the American people, environmental issues have fallen victim to the hyper-politicization of science. The Journal Times editorial board sensibly cautioned both sides of the political divide against this unfortunate trend (“Science must trump spin,” The Journal Times, 12/3/09). At issue in the Journal Times’ recent editorial and on the minds of many Copenhagen observers are published e-mail exchanges from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). These e-mails from leading climatologists make clear efforts to use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.

    The CRU e-mail scandal reveals a perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion. The e-mail scandal has not only forced the resignation of a number of discredited scientists, but it also marks a major step back on the need to preserve the integrity of the scientific community. While interests on both sides of the issue will debate the relevance of the manipulated or otherwise omitted data, these revelations undermine confidence in the scientific data driving the climate change debates.

    Beyond the need for a more respectful scientific debate, leaders in Washington have failed to provide the American people a serious policy debate. Unilateral restrictions on domestic energy production are not only harmful to our economy, but would actually hinder the environmental goals these actions promise to achieve. Making manufacturing more expensive here in America would drive manufacturing jobs overseas to our competitors, like India and China. For every ton of emissions we reduce, India and China will produce several tons more.

    The American people deserve a respectful and open dialogue on these important issues. Environmental stewardship and economic growth are not mutually exclusive goals, and I will continue to fight for both of behalf of those I serve in Southern Wisconsin.

    I liken this column to the Eagle Forum page of Sarah Palin doing a written questionaire when she was running for governor. Eagle of course being Andy Schlafly’s mom’s gig. Ms. Palin claimed in that questionaire that she supports ‘under God’ in the Pledge because the founding fathers did. Someone provided me with an archive of that page quickly enough I still have it in spite of Schlafly’s efforts to wipe clean Ms. Palin’s illustration of her incredible ignorance of history. So I hope techier people than me can also archive this page in case this Ryan page gets removed. If they do, I’d appreciate a link to that archive.

  15. 15
    Michael Heath

    fifthdentist writes:

    [Bill] Maher said something like, “Somehow he’s the smartest guy in the party and she’s the stupidest woman on earth, but they agree on everything.”

    Who is ‘she’? Sarah Palin? Michelle Bachmann? Somebody else?

  16. 16
    lofgren

    Ryan is nothing even remotely like a “principled, conservative idea man.” His votes in favor of Medicare Part D and TARP and for trillions of dollars in unjustified war spending prove that to be true.

    I agree with the rest of the post – I think Ryan’s budget plan being one step more developed than something scribbled in crayon proves his lack of serious thinking beyond a doubt without reference to anything else – but I will say that politicians, like all voters, often find themselves in the position of having to vote for the lesser of two evils. Meanwhile rhetoric like this from the media discourages them from ever even trying to explain why they voted the way they did. It’s always better to just pretend it never happened so that everybody stops talking about it as quickly as possible. This is exactly the kind of reporting that makes sorely-needed nuance impossible in American politics.

    Also, it’s not fair to call Ryan a partisan hack. The defining feature of a hack is utter mediocrity. Ryan is a partisan master.

  17. 17
    Doug Little

    The CRU e-mail scandal reveals a perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion.

    I wonder what color the sky is in Paul Ryan’s universe?

  18. 18
    fifthdentist

    Sorry, Michael, yes, Sarah Palin.
    We’ve got a story breaking here with the HS band director having sex with a student so my mind wandered.

  19. 19
    Michael Heath

    fifthdentist:

    We’ve got a story breaking here with the HS band director having sex with a student so my mind wandered.

    Hey, that happened when I was in high school in the 70s’. What’s up with those band directors?

  20. 20
    lofgren

    Hey, that almost happened in Mr. Holland’s Opus, too. Clearly a pattern is forming. Yet another excellent reason to cut funding for the arts in public schools.

  21. 21
    Who Knows?

    Huh? I thought Newt was thing thinking / idea man conservative?

  22. 22
    abb3w

    @14, Michael Heath

    So I hope techier people than me can also archive this page in case this Ryan page gets removed.

    In most web browsers, some equivalent of “File -> Save as…” usually works to provide a local cache. You may want to specify something like “HTML Archive” as the type, to preserve some of the graphics/CSS stuff for prettier formatting; but that’s not essential.

    If you’re using a recent Windows/IE combo, you might have to tap the “alt” key to reveal the tools bar.

  23. 23
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    I would echo what abb3w said (except I reloaded the page and found abb3w’s already-extant answer).

    If you use a Mozilla browser, get the Mozilla Archive Format extension, which you can configure several ways, including to make the saved file compatible w/ IE and others. There’s two options “Save Complete” and “Faithful Save”, the former makes sure to grab positively everything, while the latter grabs everything you’d notice and makes sure the archive displays properly locally with not net connection.

    Of course, you are interested mostly in the text and provenance, so the config would largely be a matter of taste here.

    Don’t know about archive extensions for Chrome, as most Chrome extensions suck mud (largely the fault of the Chrome API), so I stopped looking. But you can still save a complete web page. And then archive it, if you like.

    Whatevs, I archived that page.

  24. 24
    Michael Heath

    Did you archive it in a way where you can provide link URL link to somebody else?

  25. 25
    dailydouq

    The deeply serious man is running away, as fast as he can, from his inspiration in life, who would kick him in the balls for his lying and hypocrisy. His “inspiration” was a vigorous atheist, who strongly supported right to choose and totally opposed wars of choice. Personally I think Ayn Rank sucks, but when someone declares they follow her blindly, then to cherry pick what to follow and what not to follow just shows what a hypocrite (or really brainless person) Ryan is. He takes the bits he wants and discards everything else, thus it’s easy for him to stand up and lie that his plans save Medicare (he is stupid enough to actually probably believe that).

  26. 26
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    In most web browsers, some equivalent of “File -> Save as…” usually works to provide a local cache. You may want to specify something like “HTML Archive” as the type, to preserve some of the graphics/CSS stuff for prettier formatting; but that’s not essential.

    Provided, of course, that what you’re looking at is actually a straight-up HTML page and hasn’t gotten too crazy with frames.

  27. 27
    inquisitiveraven

    Alternatively, you could use screen capture software like PicPick and grab a graphical image of the page in question. It may not get you the text and the HTML formatting, but it won’t be flummoxed by frames either.

  28. 28
    Reginald Selkirk

    Perhaps Paul Ryan takes himself seriously, which would tell us more about Dunning-Kruger than about the Republican’s party’s chances in the fall election.

  29. 29
    dogmeat

    This doesn’t make him serious, it makes him a candidate for getting a D instead of an F in a high school economics course because the teacher can tell he at least did the reading, even if he doesn’t understand it.

    As a high school teacher who teaches economics, I must say I’m insulted, INSULTED!!! (/joke)

    I most certainly wouldn’t give Mr. Ryan an “F!” I’d more likely give him an “L” or an “M.” Giving him an “F” would be an insult to those students who failed.

    His plans are fiscal and economic garbage. He claims he will balance the budget but if implemented his policies would dramatically increase the deficit and tank the economy in one swoop fell. He’d slow down government spending, thereby laying off thousands of people,potentially millions in the likely resulting cascade effect; all the while flooding the investment market with money a’la the 1920s. We’d end up with a depression that would make the Great Depression seem like a fun filled day at an amusement park. Add to that he’d kill both Social Security and Medicare (name one insurance company that would take a voucher from a 70 year old triple bypass cancer survivor with diabetes). It would be more kind to implement a sort of Carousel end of life spectacle from the old 70s movie Logan’s Run

  30. 30
    lorn

    Most of the talking heads claiming that the Ryan plan is serious are well paid to be very selective with facts, history and criticisms of the GOP. Most of them are also innumerate and are so impressed that the Ryan plan has numbers (Look … numbers … shiny) that they overlook that the numbers don’t add up, or get you where he claims. But, in the sense that Ryan’s plan embellishes the usual empty rhetorical excretion with shiny numbers it is a richer form of rhetorical emptiness. The idea here is that claiming that here are ’49.375 dancing sparkle ponies on the dark side of the moon’ is waaaay more convincing, and serious, than just claiming there are sparkle ponies on the dark side of the moon.

    Of course this is also keyed to line up with the frequent GOP criticism that ‘the president hasn’t provided a budget’. Which forgets the lesson from Civics 101 that the president is in the executive branch and doesn’t need a budget. The attempt to frame Ryan as ‘serious’ and Obama as, in comparison ‘un-serious’ hasn’t got a lot of traction but Rove is nothing if not persistent and it may not have hit the top of the Wednesday meeting GOP issued talking points yet.

  31. 31
    abb3w

    @24, Michael Heath

    Did you archive it in a way where you can provide link URL link to somebody else?

    That’s a question of finding a bit of web-accessible storage for the HTML file (or file, and folder of relative linked resources).

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