Declaration of (class) war

The choice of Paul Ryan makes this a pure “plutocrats vs. the rest of us” race.

Just in case you had any doubt that this election was basically about the Republicans’ downward class warfare, Mitt RomneyHood has chosen Paul Ryan as his running-mate. You remember Ryan: the author of a budget plan so insanely plutocratic that voters refuse to believe how evil it really is, and so full of magic asterisks and implausible assumptions that it can’t be taken seriously even by the most hawkish of deficit hawks. Every nickel it takes from the poor and middle class it hands back to the rich in tax cuts. That’s why Newt Gingrich dismissed it as “right-wing social engineering.”

By now the attacks on Romney’s business practices and tax secrecy have worn away most of the teflon, and the Democrats can spend the next three months pointing out that Romney would be a complete catastrophe for the middle class. Voters won’t have any problem believing that Mitt Romney is for helping the rich at the expense of everyone else.

And since all but ten Republicans in the House voted for the Ryan plan, this ought to be worth a few House seats as well.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

37 thoughts on “Declaration of (class) war”

  1. Well good, now the American people are presented with a real choice on what priorities and policies are important to them. Romney is casting his lot with movement conservatism, rather than etch-a-sketching back to the middle as many expected him to do. If Romney loses, Republicans can’t really blame his squishy RINO principles for the loss (as they did with McCain, even though Palin was probably a much bigger factor), since he chose the conservative white knight as his running mate. They’ll either be forced to face reality and moderate their policies if Romney loses, or have their extremism reinforced if he wins. Finally Ryan’s ideas will get the close scrutiny they deserve, and rather than just being praised for being “serious” and “thoughtful” about entitlements, the ramifications and flaws of his policies will be exposed.

    1. Ryan is a True Believer in a kind of libertarian, selfish, dog-eat-dog economics. I don’t know that he’ll bring out the evangelicals, but he’s sure to bring out any Republican for whom reading Ayn Rand was a defining moment.

      The Ryan pick is scary because I think he’s truly unhinged from any sort of morality that implies you should help your fellow man. On the other hand, he’s young and pretty naive. The Republican establishment sees him as some sort of boy genius because he produced a budget–all by himself! But what kind of budget? A cruelly plutocratic one. I think he’ll end up being a political liability, particularly when the opposition researchers get ahold of him.

        1. Doesn’t stop him being young, pretty and naive. I mean here I am at 42 and all those things are true of me. Well, other than the naive, young and pretty bits that is.

      1. “Ryan is a True Believer in a kind of libertarian, selfish, dog-eat-dog economics.”

        But he’s not anywhere near the kind of libertarian that most libertarians would recognize.

    2. When they lose, they won’t moderate their approach at all. They’ll get shriller, whiter, angrier and more violent. They really do believe that this is the last chance to save America. They haven’t yet realized that they are the monsters from the sleep of reason threatening our national well-being and happiness.

      1. Unfortunately, past history seems to bear out this forecast. Randy Roth’s book, American Homicide, clearly shows that when there are significant schisms in the body politic, homicide tends to increase. As he notes, “homicide rates have fallen during the terms of presidents who have inspired the poor or have governed from the center with a popular mandate, and they have risen during the terms of presidents who presided over political and economic crises, abused their power, or engaged in unpopular wars” [my emphasis].

  2. I was discussing possible VP picks with my father, a retiree, centrist, and Medicare recipient, yesterday, and we both agreed that Romney would never pick Ryan because his positions on entitlements were political suicide. I hope we were more correct about the latter than we were about the former.

    1. = = = that Romney would never pick Ryan because his positions on entitlements were political suicide = = =

      This assumes that Obama can dodge all questions about his desire for a “grand bargain” during the campaign season. If he gets pinned down and forced to talk about that, it is going to be harder to draw a line between the Obama-Bowles-Boehner “entitlements reform” [= Social Security slash] plan and Ryan’s.


    1. Put it this way: if Mitt Romney can’t turn out the GOP base to vote against the Kenyan Muslim Crypto-Gay Usurper, just how bad a politician is he? This pick screams appalling internal polls and utter desperation to me.

  3. Another thought. The moderate Labour politician Gerald Kaufman described his party’s old-socialist 1983 election manifesto under Michael Foot as “the longest suicide note in history”. Paul Ryan’s budget plan is much longer. 1983 Labour manifesto, Ryan roadmap.
    Intrade bettors have notched up Obama’s re-election chances by 1.2% to 59%, closely tracking Nate Silver. I’d put them far higher than that now. Privatising Medicare, slashing Medicaid, gutting renewable energy, and tax cuts for the rich beats renationalising British Aerospace and abolishing the House of Lords any day.

  4. Obama must be thinking, “oh, you want this campaign to be about issues, do ya? Alright, we’ll make it about issues!”

    I’m pretty stunned. I’m all in for Obama but I’ve been fairly even handed in my Romney thoughts. I’ve even defended him when I felt some things were a bit of an overreach. But this pick makes me think he is just a complete spineless twit. This guy is like a girl who only cares about the wedding and not the marriage. He just wants to win so bad but seems not to care one wit about the actual job that comes with winning. It’s pathetic.

    1. = = = Obama must be thinking, “oh, you want this campaign to be about issues, do ya? Alright, we’ll make it about issues!” = = =

      Yes. A good place to start would be what exactly a “grand bargain” on “entitlements reform” would consist of. What is President Obama, and the Democratic Party’s, plan for that?


      1. I’m a bit of a cynic, but I truly believe that if/when Obama wins the election, he’ll scrap the discussion of a grand bargain and shift leftward once again. He’s been trapped over the last two years by a do-nothing, insane congress.

        I could be wrong, though. Maybe he’s much more of a right-center Democrat than anyone thought.

        1. I suspect that depends on how things work out in the House/Senate races. Obama sounds to me like a man weary of opponents who negotiate in bad faith.

  5. I’ve been planning to vote for Romney pretty much all along, and the Ryan pick is a positive for me. So, views differ. It will be interesting to see how this changes voter’s views, if at all.

    1. Just so, and I’m sure my GOP friends will feel the same. But what appeal will he have outside the base?

      … Re: turnout, fear of a doubled-down Romney may motivate Dems lethargic about Obama. No one can kid himself now that Romney is a moderate. (except those with limitless self-delusion, like Thomas Friedman.)

    2. Dave,

      Have you taken a look at the criticisms of Ryan’s fiscal proposals?

      Do you agree with him that all taxes on estates, dividends, interest, and capital gains should be eliminated?

      1. Dividents, interest, and capitol gains yes. Estate, no. We are putting an awful lot of our tax on income, and I think we would to well to get more revenue from gasoline taxes and tolls, and a VAT. We really should be encouraging people to invest productively, and discouraging consumption, and in particular consumption of expensive housing.

        1. The taxes you propose are disastrously regressive and likely to throttle demand and with it the economy.

  6. Here’s a great description of Ryan, from Gawker:

    “Ryan…..was inspired to enter government by reading Ayn Rand and embracing objectivism. He cleaves to a Manichaean worldview of a class of noble producers, toilers, geniuses and leaders being sapped and infected by a parasitic leecher class of government-funded layabouts and race hustlers.

    He paid for college with Social Security checks.
    At first glance, Ryan looks uncannily like a grown-up Eddie Munster. His gloomy expression, gray complexion and huge widow’s peak make him look like some baleful predator. It’s just a guess, but his favorite cartoons growing up were probably the “Goodbye Blue Sky” part of The Wall and every sequence in Watership Down when Fiver sees the fields being torn like flesh and the warrens pumping blood like arterial soil. But watching him on the Wisconsin primary trail, humping Romney’s leg with the charisma of an autistic undertaker, Ryan looked positively Orthogonian. He’s Nixon without the jowls, the education or vision. Ryan has the most famously ill-fitting suits and sweat-beaded upper lip since we booted Dick’s ass into exile at San Clemente. And he has the personality and soulless ambition to match. If Paul Ryan didn’t have government with which to minister suffering, illness and contempt unto millions, you could easily imagine him applying for a hot new fastracked position as the H.R. Director at a death camp.”

  7. Ryan also serves rather well the Obama campaign’s magic formula, currently eating away at Romney like acid: that he’s a hardened plutocrat who only wants to secure the wealth of the ultra-rich, the rest of us be damned. Ryan’s budget, philosophy, and generally gloomy demeanor will, I think, energize Democrats and independents who feel that the GOP stands only for the rich.

    I think the Ryan pick was made to ensure that GOPers get to the polls rather than sit this one out (see Dave Schutz above.) I’d suspect that Ryan will get just as many Democrats terrified of Ryan’s “right wing social engineering” vision to the polls–so maybe they’ll balance each other out?

    1. Guy Benson says: “Paul Ryan is one of the sunniest, most likeable conservatives on the scene today.” Wow, in more ways than one, I simply cannot understand the conservative mentality.

      I see Ryan as a glum, heavy-browed, shambling old man in a young man’s body. Look at how his whole face slumps toward the ground, how his hairline threatens to consume his face. Not sunny, not likeable. Morose, depressing.

      1. Ah, but Guy Benson doesnn’t say he IS likeable. He says that by conservative standards he’s ONE of the most likeable. In other words, as orcs go, he’s a cut about average. Doesn’t get him tickets to the Rivendell Ball.

  8. Two thoughts:

    a) This is easily the weakest GOP ticket on foreign policy in living memory. Neither Romney nor Ryan has a shred of credibility on those issues and Obama polls very well on them

    b) If you wanted a politician to amplify every weakness in Mitt Romney’s record and highlight his ludicrously dishonest fiscal views and desire to butcher the safety net, you could not do better than Paul Ryan

    I think even our wretchedly stupid and cowardly media will be forced to look at the monster that the GOP have cobbled together as their presidential slate and conclude that they have no credible plan in any area. Hell, even Gingrich rejected the Ryan plan, before he became unquotable! Boehner’s on record as essentially refusing to endorse it. The GOP have been trying to pretend they didn’t vote for it.

    This ought to be the biggest early Christmas present of all time, if the Obama team just use their opportunities with a modicum of ruthlessness and efficiency – and I think they’ve got plenty of both qualities.

  9. An evil pick, to be sure, but it provides a snappy campaign slogan: “Take the Money and Ryan!”

  10. Romney may have conceded Florida to get Colorado, New Hampshire and Nevada. Ohio is still a toss up, but more likely falling toward Obama anyway. Virginia and North Carolina movement conservatives will be energized, which may help there. A hail Mary pick, and fraught with the danger that Romney’s lack of charisma is even more highlighted–not a good omen as Dukakis was upstaged by Bentsten in the corporate media narratives in 1988.

    Still, I wonder what Biden is going to do with Ryan and his Galtian draconian budget plan?

    1. I think Biden will more than hold his own against Ryan. He’s a lot more likable, he’s got a good record of fighting for the safety net, he’s done the VP job and done it well. He’s also a pretty good speaker who connects with ordinary folks in a way that Ryan really doesn’t seem able to do.

      1. Agreed, Nick. I was not clear in that one sentence. I meant to imply if not expressly state that Biden likely knocks Ryan on his butt–rhetorically speaking…:-) Still, I remain where I’ve been, which is that Obama and his corporate Democrats stand for the slower destruction of the middle class (managing the decline, they call it) while Romney and his new sidekick are in favor of a more rapid destruction. We argue in elections around the margins and around culture wars, not anything that is economically important.

        1. This is sadly true and in large measure the product of a system that simply isn’t designed to let anything positive happen very quickly. This slow-walking tendency is exacerbated by the astounding cowardice and stupidity of far too many Democrats. Still, we must believe that brighter days will come. At least the sight of Paul Ryan being hungrily nuzzled by the sharks should be worth the price of admission.

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