Michael Wolraich's picture

    The Paul Ryan Challenge

    Politics is a serious matter, of course, of course. The future of the country is at stake, a great war of ideas and all that. Individualism and equality and security and liberty and lots of other weighty words.

    But as we harrumph our way through the Economist and the New Republic, anyone looking over our shoulder might notice that we'd slipped the latest issue of People between the pages. For all our puffing about Ideas, we spend most of our political leisure time obsessing over gaffs and scandals and expensive haircuts and bad tans.

    Not you, of course, oh fair-minded deep-thinking reader. You would spare no more than a chuckle over Mitt Romney's bumbles in Britain. Nor would you stoop to speculate about his reasons for keeping cash in the Caymans. You care nothing for the arcane mysteries of Mormon underwear or when exactly he stopped being CEO of Bain Capital or how many luxury automobiles fit into his profusion of garages.

    Hold on a moment, I can see you starting to bristle around the neck. I agree with you; these issues are not insignificant. A president must be able to engage foreign nations diplomatically. He must be innocent of unscrupulous financial activity. He should care about American workers.

    Nor are these issues irrelevant to the Ideas that we clutch so proudly to our inflated chests. Mitt Romney's wealth and occupation symbolize his economic values. His religious faith underpins his social conservatism. Those are Ideas, after all.

    And yet, one has to wonder sometimes, how much of the fuss is really about Mitt Romney's Ideas, and how much of it is about Mitt Romney?

    I think back to the last election when my cortex feels up to the task, and I try to remember what we talked about. I remember a charming black man, a cranky old war veteran, and an obnoxious woman who shot wolves from a helicopter. I'm missing someone, I think. We talked about race, I vaguely recall, and war. Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb-Iran. I remember that.

    Anyway, that's much too exhausting. Let's return to the present. A new character has joined the play. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Wonderboy, enter stage right. The critics are chattering about his place in the drama. Was it a desperation move? Will he boost the ticket? Is he too extreme for America?

    These are important questions, of course, of course. But I wonder if they miss the import.

    The new kid is trouble, I think. He's trouble because he doesn't shoot wolves from helicopters. He doesn't have cash in the Caymans, so far as we know. He doesn't screech about socialism or bellow about off-color immigrants or sing ditties about blowing up Muslim counties. He doesn't wear funny underwear.

    At first blush, he looks like a well-proportioned, fine-leather briefcase stuffed with political manifestos of a highly conservative hue.

    Perhaps you are glad for those conservative manifestos. "At last!" you say to yourself as you rub your palms together, the American voters will finally see the black soul of the Republican Party, stripped bare and bound to a post where we can all throw sticks at it.

    But I wonder... If we are all so confident that America will hate Paul Ryan, that pure vessel of modern conservative ideology, then why do we spend so much time yacking about tax returns and luxury cars? Why not stick to Romney's Ideas, which are hardly less conservative than Ryan's?

    Perhaps it's because we suspect that Ideas alone will not win an an election.

    The trouble with Paul Ryan is that his goofy, inoffensive smile and dull-as-paste background leaves us nothing to talk about except his Ideas. We may find that when we put aside the bible-bangers and warmongers and banksters and race-baiters and morons and hypocrites and all the other ugly flotsam and jetsam in the Republican Party, the average American will not find the bare conservative ideas nearly so offensive as we would like to think they will.

    And then we may find that a nice young man named Paul Ryan with nothing objectionable in his briefcase except the Ideas themselves will sooner or later take the Ideas out of the briefcase and nestle them in a great big filing cabinet in the Oval Office.

    Michael Wolraich is the author of Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual



    The Ryan-Romney ticket moves the debate even beyond the budget and the economy into morality.
    The Ryan Plan is so damaging to social programs benefiting our poorest and most vulnerable citizens that it prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly blast the devout Catholic for not just tearing holes in the nation's safety but for his "shredding of the nation’s moral obligations."

    Genghis, we are together on this one.

    I believe, however, that there are many Americans who distrust anyone from Washington, D.C. who enters the room with nothing but a briefcase.  It is the distrust which drives so many candidates to grab the "outsider" label if they can.  And when someone starts off with distrust, the other's smile is not inoffensive but something ominous.

    Agree. that's why I said Mitt missed it when he didn't pick GOP star Joe the Plumber for VP.

    Joe Wurzelbacher would have arrived with one of those fancy higher priced rubber plungers in one hand, and a propane torch and matches in the other. Americans would understand where he was coming from and what he was gonna do - put the nation back on the trajectory it was on when GWBush left office.

    Tom Toles

    ...When Paul Ryan isn’t warmly dreaming of the nutcase Ayn Rand, he is burbling about his other mentor, Jack Kemp......who had an idea that conservatives could win more elections if they stopped being conservative. Oh how TEDIOUS it had become to fight for balanced budgets when it would be so much more fun to cut taxes. If that sunshiny idea sounds familiar, see also Ronald Reagan. And it had some success, and some plausibility, way back when. Before it was tried.

    But the Romney idea that the problem with the US economy NOW is that the rich do not have enough money.....Enter Paul Ryan. Shift MORE money to the rich. THERE’s the solution America is waiting for. That will “energize the base,” all 1000 plutocrats with their wallets bulging from PAST tax cuts and bank bailouts. As for balancing the budget, Ryan sounds serious, like they always do, until you press for details as elusive and mysterious as Mitt’s tax returns. Ryan has wheeled out a massive cannon to fire at that deficit. Take a look inside. You will discover either that the cannon is empty, or that it’s your head that’s the cannonball.


    Interesting observation by Steinbeck. Fits with the worship and obsession with celebrities. On Ryan's budget cutting Romney tax rate to near 0%:

    Ryan's numbers don't always add up. And when they do, the results can be stunning. When Democrats tested arguments about his budget in focus groups, they found it difficult because voters refused to believe that a politician would actually propose, say, gutting Medicare to cut tax for the rich. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says it's "the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history."...Ryan's 2012 budget "promotes saving by eliminating taxes on interest, capital gains, and dividends," in addition to repealing the estate tax...for Mitt Romney....tax rate would drop to close to zero.

    MotherJones, Paul Ryan in 6 Charts.

    You're probably right about Ryan personally.  He's been vetted and, we know this is important, the people who cover national politics like him on a personal level.  Though, if he's released a whole lot more tax returns than Romney has, people might well wonder why.

    As for beating him on ideas, he is going to have to answer some uncomfortable questions about just what he wants to do with Medicare and Social Security and about why he'd tax Mitt Romney at well less than 1% while taxing waitresses a lot more.  Heck, Obama's already all over him for blocking a bill that would give some relief to drought stricken farmers.

    I wonder whether being tied to Romney will elevate Ryan or prove his undoing.

    So destor this where all the old TPM crowd ended up. I just found this site and joined today. In regard your comment about Ryan I found him to be rather cold and heartless. My old buddies at Pru invited me to a Club for Growth meeting in NYC where Ryan was the featured speaker. In his speech he threw out numbers right and left and it was difficult to follow without the source documents. However, a Princeton professor (Reinhardt) was in the room and challenged him on his statistics about healthcare and had the documents with him to challenge Ryan's numbers. Ryan got visibly angry that anyone would dare challenge his numbers. 

    I asked a question about the safety net and his response is the safety net is not the job of the government, people in need should turn to family, friends and church if they are needy. Furthermore, he said " if people planned ahead they would have no need for a safety net". That is cold and totally unrealistic. 

    destor - this comment was by me, jdledell, but it would not recognize the name. 

    Independents find both parties are hypocrites.

    "We may find that when we put aside the bible-bangers and warmongers and banksters and race-baiters and morons and hypocrites and all the other ugly flotsam and jetsam in the Republican Party,

    (put aside as valuable; or Cast aside..... as worthless).

     the average American will not find the bare conservative ideas nearly so offensive as we would like to think they will.

    How very truthful Genghis;; We long for the days when morality meant something and people with moral values had a say and weren't cast aside.

    I think Romney chose Ryan so he can position himself as the moderate choice between the crazed Negro socialist Barack Obama, on the one side, and his own vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, on the other side.  To the extent Democrats take the bait and start spending all their time talking about Paul Ryan - who is not running for President - the ploy will work.  My suggestion would be that they focus their attention back on Romney and all of the many reasons that exist not to like him.

    You make it sound as if he's a manchurian candidate with a ready made plot to plant a stealthy and deceptive policy mechanism that will destroy the intregity of the nation.


    No, that&undefined;s Obama



    Ghengis, you have a keyboard problem. I know because I had the same thing happen to me last week. Unplug it and plug it back in. Good luck!

    Well, it's only Monday. Romney still has the rest of the week to say something weird and take the focus away from Ryan.

    Thinking back to the last presidential election, I cannot recall any pre-election plan put forth by Uncle Joe that made it all the way to the policy stage post-election. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, but other than important foreign policy work and occasionally saying goofy shit, Biden hasn't been in the forefront. But then, that's a VP's job -- being cheerleader to the quarterback.

    I am not worried about Ryan.

    I am worried about Romney. It seems to me like he wants to be president so bad, not because he's earned it, but because he thinks he's entitled to it by virtue of wealth. I don't like my country being played with like it's some kind of rich man's toy. How can I take this candidate serious when it appears all he does is respond to the biding of other rich men?

    I liked his dad. He was a good governor. And if it says anything, my own dad -- a die-hard Democrat union man -- liked him too.

    But, Mitt ain't no George.

    I&undefined;m not worried about Ryan this year. Vice presidents don&undefined;t matter very much. I am worried about when Ryan runs for President.

    But that&undefined;s not the only point of this piece.

    When Ryan runs for President, won't he have Chris Christie to deal with in the primaries?  

    At the Iowa State Fair, Christie will win the pie-eating contest, because Ryan will sit there and sip his P90X protein shake.  

    Face it, Ryan won't be able to get around Christie in the primaries ... literally.

    Divining the future. Okay. Yeah. I can totally see Ryan as a future presidential candidate. There have been whispers in the background of that possibility ever since the debut of the Ryan Plan. Sort of like the whispers after Obama spoke at the Dem convention. Uh-oh. And the wimmins will vote for him because he's soooo dreamy. Double uh-oh.

    The Republicans are trying to pull their party back together after the TP fracturing. A candidate like Ryan, who has broad appeal across the Republican board for all the reasons that have already been discussed to death, will be a viable threat to any Dem candidate in the future.

    Ryan gives off a sense of reasonableness. He is not shrill like SP was/is and he isn't going to go around the country accusing citizens of not being Real Americans. (Has anyone else noticed that kind of rhetoric is so far missing in this election season?)

    He and a few others (keep yer eye on Rick Snyder) have a real shot at future high office because of the impression they give off of being reasonable and able to steer the ship away from the waterfall even though the rest of us know the ship they will pilot will be steered into the rocks instead. Saving the ship from the waterfall is enough for some folks. And there is where Ryan becomes president in 2016. Or maybe Snyder.

    I'm shutting down my crystal ball now. It's starting to smoke and give off a bad smell.

    A nice young man named Paul Ryan has many objectionable 'things' in his briefcase....If you consider the plethora of things like this:

    Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has ascended to political stardom among conservatives for his staunch opposition to big federal spending programs, but the newly minted Republican vice presidential nominee sought grant money from the 2009 stimulus package he has consistently derided.

    The Boston Globe reports today that Ryan penned four letters to Energy Secretary John Chu in 2009 to request millions of dollars for two Wisconsin conservation groups through the federal government's sweeping American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, often simply referred to as the stimulus package.

    Both groups ultimately secured the funds — including one that received a $20 million grant — but the letters were submitted at a time when Ryan was in the vanguard of the Republican Party's opposition to the federal program, decrying it as an example of wasteful government spending. (TPM)

    Of course, there may not be anything bizarr-oh or whackadoodle (yet), but it's early. Until then, we have the opportunity to become aware of things like the above and secure our seatbelts, because it's going to be (no doubt) a bumpy and wild ride as we learn more about this guy with the 'goofy, inoffensive smile and dull-as-paste background'


    we are all so confident that America will hate Paul Ryan, that pure vessel of modern conservative ideology

    Front page photo of NYT dead tree today, says to me some in Iowa like him, they really really like him:

    Credit & caption: Ben Garvin for The New York Times; Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential choice, campaigning Monday at the Iowa state fair. Page source

    And here's the website summary of Adam Nagourney's headline article which happens to be right next to it:

    Medicare Rises as Prime Election Issue

    Florida is emerging as a test of the Republican Party’s gamble that concerns over the deficit will trump voters’ worries about Paul D. Ryan’s proposed Medicare overhaul.


    Everyone at the fair didn't heart Ryan.

    As the Wisconsin congressman yesterday gamely plowed through a stump speech, hecklers screamed, supporters chanted and the police pulled protesters from the stage.

    “Iowans and Wisconsinites, we like to be respectful of one another,” Ryan said after two women scrambled over hay bales to jump onto the small podium. “These ladies must not be from Iowa or Wisconsin.”


    Ain't Paul D. Ryan one of them fellers that voted against paying the deficit and caused the default that turned us into a temporary deadbeat country? How do the Republicans figure the deficit problem that has now been dealt with (until the next time) will be in the forefront and not Medicare, which is always hovering around in the minds of seniors?


    There were a lot who really, really like Palin - she could fill a nice stadium when she was on the trail.  Enthusiastic crowds are not much of an indicator of how well a candidate is going over with the general electorate.

    I like Paul Ryan's idea of making us send our Social Security taxes to Wall Street.

    I just believe the Republicans and Wall Street really, really care about protecting our retirement money, that's why they worry on it and talk about it all the time. 

    Just wondering, Where does the Social Security money now go?

    Do the politicians have it all spent, as soon as it is collected?

    Do the funds we send in earn interest? If it did earn interest what rate of return?

    It's clear, the Government will bail out the banks anyway.  

    If the banks had the use of the money and the politicians couldn't spend it?

    Just wondering. 

    Social Security taxes go to the SS Trust Fund which held $2.7 trillion at the end of 2011.

    The money is legally obligated to only be used to pay SS benefits to wage earners. That's the part the Republicans hate. It's why they want to privatize and profitize SS, education, or anything the government does.

    Public money can't be skimmed to pay kickbacks to politicians, run attack ads before elections, or pay fees to 'free market' GOP supporting Wall Street bankers.

    Now the Republicans don't want to honor the SS Trust Fund, see second link above.

    Why? Because you can't payoff the SS Trust Fund with SS taxes on wage earners.

    You have to do it with general revenue. Which means you might have to raise income tax on corporations or the rich. That's a no go with the GOP.

    If SS payroll taxes are turned over to Wall Street, there would be no fixed benefit as there is now. If you think you can trust Wall Street with your 401K retirement and your SS account, you are exactly the kind of sucker the swindlers on Wall Street are looking for.

    I definitely don't trust the politicians.

    Is the 2.7 trillion in IOUs?

    Is the legal obligation based upon the good faith of the government?

    Can you say Bail out anyone?

    I asked about what is the interest rate that is paid on the 2.7 trillion?

    Maybe I missed it in the link you provided?

    Even at the most conservative basis, say a brokerage firm charges 2 basis points per year and possibly less, if negotiated down.

    With stipulations that the money has to be invested in US companies or what ever stipulations we impose.

    You don't think there would be enough return, on the invested money to bring more benefits to the investors; US?

    On the piddly amount of money, in my managed account, I've made over a 10% gain, year after year, despite the recession.   

    In such companies as Kraft or any of the other 8  well run companies my broker has invested for my retirement. People still have to eat.

    Some people made money off cigarettes stocks. People still smoke despite the costs or the risks. Personally I find it distasteful. 

    Do we still subsidize the tobacco industry?  

    Has the SS trust fund produced anything close to 10%? 

    How long before any part or the 2.7 trillion doubles?

     So that WE the People have  MORE return, to provide a better retirement?

    I hope the trust fund makes better than the passbook rates, currently at 0.05%   

    Could you imagine 2.7 trillion at that rate, no wonder it will go broke That wont even keep up with inflation.

    Kraft food, passes on the cost of inflation to it's consumers.  

    Consumers who buy Kraft foods, would also help finance the SS trust fund that has investments in Kraft foods.

    Even Madoff didn't make 10% a year 'year after year', you are quite a character Resistance, sounds like you won't need SS, more power to you! Who is this broker, or is it you?

    If your dividends and capital gains are high enough, quit your job, then you'll pay no SS tax at all, like Mitt and the big boys on Wall Street! The fact is SS is the largest source of retirement income for Americans over 65, and its importance in this regard is growing. It is also indexed to inflation.

    You still haven't answered my question.

    Then you attack me for investing money I received from a serious accident so that I wont just have to rely on welfare?

    I suppose you want some of my settlement money?

    Somehow I'm to be associated with Romney?

    Gallup: No Bounce:


    Maybe it's time for Mitt to change the sign in the war room from It's the base, stupids to It's the independents, stupids?

    This poll doesn't capture the enthusiasm of the base. The point of a base strategy is not to convert independents but to turn unlikely voters into likely voters.

    I'm not saying it's going to work, just that the poll does not offer evidence that it's not working.

    It's not what Ryan is, it's what he isn't. He isn't an hispanic ,he isn't a woman. He's a serious thoughtful person , like Romney. Who's the one who counts. Having more of the same as VP doesn't add a single electoral vote to the ticket .

     It's not that I think Romney will be easy to beat. It's that Ryan doesn't make it any harder compared to the alternatives .

    Ryan doesn't make Romney weaker ,he just fails to make him stronger.



    Frank Rich still sees mostly lotsa bungling by team Mitt:


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