American politics are fascinating. I don’t know if it’s old age creeping up on me or if things have really started changing so swiftly I can hardly keep up anymore.
Let’s take budgets for instance. I can’t keep pace with what the Republicans are offering from one minute to the next. What they want today will be tomorrow’s scourge, depending on where the stars line up I suppose. Specifically, Paul Ryan’s budget seems to be one for deft acrobatics.
Paul Ryan said for years Ayn Rand was the single greatest influence of his life. He is on record saying that right up to April of this year. The Russian author and atheist, whose writings suggested the wealthy elite are to be set aside and treated special as a benefit to all society, clearly struck a chord with the young Republican in his formative years. Accordingly he produced a budget he titled The Path to Prosperity he felt was worthy of his mentor.
The budget was straight out of Atlas Shrugged. It cut taxes on the wealthy, slashed the social safety net, and created a balanced budget ... in twenty-eight years. It ended Medicare as we know it by creating a voucher system which people could use to buy their own private insurance. Certainly this would be in an environment where the Affordable Care Act was repealed and people were once again left at the mercy of the insurance industry.
To no one’s surprise, the left lampooned the budget. The Bishops and nuns of Ryan’s own Catholic faith called the budget “immoral.” Ryan shamelessly tried to defend the budget in Catholic publications by claiming the budget would increase jobs that would benefit the poor. Ms. Rand would have been proud. Mitt Romney was, as he tapped Ryan as his VP candidate.
Ah but politics is a whirlwind. One would expect the Democrats to oppose the budget, but Republicans, some in tight races or Democratic districts, also ran from it like clowns from a Volkswagen. Some are even running commercials stating their opposition to it. The Ayn Rand connection suddenly got rebuffed. At the GOP convention, Ryan claimed Jack Kemp as his economic influence. As if on cue, many on the right began to spout a party line that this is the Romney ticket and the budget will be the Romney budget, not the Ryan budget. Bleeding stopped, or so they hope.
And therein lies the rub. Romney has given few specifics about his budgetary plans. What he has put forth was called "mathematically impossible" by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. Like virtually every other issue, Romney has been murky about what he would do or how he would do it. He claims he will increase military spending while not touching social security or Medicare. His quasi budget calls for a huge tax cut for the wealthy and a tax increase on the middle class. And he says all of this will balance the budget. If we believe the few specifics offered, 57% of government will have to be slashed to pay for his wish list. But being specific seems to be the one thing this ticket seeks to avoid. On any issue.
We’re asked to believe all of this will create more jobs. We’re asked to believe a lot, actually. We’re supposed to believe a man who has flip flopped on every major issue several times. We’re supposed to believe Mitt cares about the middle class. We’re supposed to believe in a package of beliefs and platform goals that is nebulous at best. I suspect we’ll need to see more concrete ideas and consistency from Romney before that belief sets in.