Saletan on Ryan: why the love?

Paul Ryan is less wild-eyed than Michelle Bachmann, but an honest, serious conservative? Not hardly.

William Saletan thinks that Paul Ryan is wonderful: “an honest, open-minded, solution-oriented fiscal conservative.” Of course Saletan admits that Ryan’s “honesty” is somewhat modified by his willingness to pander to the Grover Norquist faction: his draconian spending cuts for the poor and middle class are completely matched by his generous tax giveaways to the rich, leaving no actual deficit reduction in site. But why quibble? As long as you’re hurting poor people, you must be serious about the budget.

Saletan assumes that the inconsistency between Ryan’s proposed cap on total federal spending and Romney’s commitment to continuing to feed the military-industrial crowd means that Romney has to back off. Um, last time I checked, that wasn’t the way it works. Instead, Ryan will learn to love the bomb, or at least the defense budget. That will make his insanely imaginary “deficit reduction” plan that much more imaginary, but Saletan and his ilk won’t let that bother them.

(Here’s a suggestion for Saletan: now that you’ve greased your source, how about you PUTDP and ask him whether he supports his version of a defense budget or Gov. Romney’s?)

What Saletan doesn’t provide is any basis for thinking that “fiscal” is a necessary modifier when calling Ryan a “conservative” (in the debased current sense of that term). Ryan voted against ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And while he may not personally be a spittle-flecked hater like many of his co-partisans, if he’s ever objected to any of their excesses – for example, the attack on Huma Abedin’s loyalty, or on reproductive freedom – I must have missed it.

Nate Silver points out that Ryan’s voting record is about as reactionary as Michelle Bachmann’s and that Ryan is (using DW-Nominate scores) the most extreme Vice-Presidential candidate in American history.

Not that I disagree with Saletan’s claim that Ryan is among the best of the current crop of Republicans, in a World’s Tallest Midget sense. But “love him”? Really?

Update And yes, the Very Serious Mister Ryan is a global-warming denier: not just someone who wants to argue about benefits and costs, but someone willing to slander the people doing the research: “leading climatologists … use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.”

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:

18 thoughts on “Saletan on Ryan: why the love?”

  1. to me, it’s the opening to the third paragraph that explains the love–

    “Ryan refutes the Democratic Party’s bogus arguments. He knows that our domestic spending trajectory is unsustainable and that liberals who fail to get it under control are leading their constituents over a cliff, just like in Europe.”

    in this one poorly premised statement you can find a blend of deficit hawkery, hippie-punching, and a “very serious person’s” misreading of the results of european austerity. for a pundit like saletan, what’s not to love?

  2. I am constantly amazed, and dismayed, at the Democrat’s inability and failure at framing issues in a manner that helps Americans decide who to believe, and who to vote for. The Republicans tell an incredible lie, an over-the-top, hypocritical lie, that they are profoundly worried about our deficits, and our Democrats are caught flat footed, deer-in-the- headlights style, and try to respond as if it were a serious conviction in the first place.

    Is there a sentient being who doesn’t credit R. Reagan with firing the opening salvo in delving our country into massive, unwarranted, and irresponsible, deficit spending? And, who other than G.W. Bush, exponentially, doubled down on that recklessness? And, again, who, other than the Republicans, through their hold on The House, and/or, their unprecedented threat of filibuster, continue that debasement to this day?

    Furthermore, where did the money go? Infrastructure? Health Care? Education? No, of course not; it went into the pockets of the richest among us while reducing the rest of us to a 21st Century variation of serfdom.
    Now, that’s a pretty simple story to tell. If the Democrats have a hard time telling it, have them call me. As a businessman I can give them the names of some ad agencies that would salivate at the opportunity.

  3. A “real fiscal conservative?” What a joke. Ryan wants to eviscerate Medicare and Social Security so the Romney class and its descendants will never be troubled by having to pay any – any – of those nasty taxes. As a cover, he waves his nads and talks about cutting unspecified loopholes to get revene back.

    He’s a fraud and a con man, and if Saletan were willing to spend ten minutes with Ryan’s plans and a calculator he’d know it.

  4. Romney’s biggest personal liability is that he’s a product of extreme privilege that happens to be running on a set of policies that benefit those born with silver spoons in their mouths more than anyone else. His biggest personal asset is that he can sort-of-credibly claim to be running against Washington since he’s never held Federal elective office (despite his best efforts). Vice Presidential picks are generally attempts to patch over your liabilities: Joe Biden, DIck Cheney, and Al Gore and HW Bush had experience to pair with outsider candidates, John Edwards and Sarah Palin had vitality to pair with candidates who had trouble exhibiting authentic enthusiasm. Bad VP picks such as Quayle and Lieberman either present no benefit (despite the risk inherent in any choice) or address liabilities that no one worries about outside the beltway (Lieberman covering Gore on the family-values taint of being associated with Clinton). Ryan shares Romney’s liability as a fellow silver-spooner (albeit to a lesser degree), and he negates Romney’s advantage by being a lifetime Washington insider (which is true no matter how much he tries to pretend he’s somehow worked from outside the GOP establishment).

    Notice that there are very, very few Democratic “consultants” (read: people who only “consult” for CNN) out there warning Republicans that this is a bad move. This is what Republicans did across-the-board when Obama honed in on Bain and Romney’s personal business/financial history; in politics it’s a good sign you did the right thing when the other side attacks your tactical decisions. Maybe I haven’t looked around enough, but I don’t think this is happening today.

    As a Democrat, the Ryan pick isn’t the very best thing in the world because at least he’s somewhat intelligent and can string some BS together extemporaneously into a sentence that sounds good even if it’s actually nonsense. Michelle Bachman would be a less-than-ideal choice in the same way–she believes and advocates some insane things but does so somewhat smartly, at least when you grade on a curve. I suspect Ryan, like Romney, will find out that his rhetoric will start to fall flat once he’s actually called on his BS when he’s forced to repeat it over and over.

    I’m a little confused as to why Paul Ryan would accept the VP slot when he could’ve easily announced he was running for the nomination in December or January and won… probably as late as the week before the Iowa caucus, which required no ballot qualification and where he had a huge home-region advantage.

    1. Romney’s biggest personal liability is that he’s a product of extreme privilege that happens to be running on a set of policies that benefit those born with silver spoons in their mouths more than anyone else.

      Yes, and Ryan increases his vulnerability on this score. Under Ryan’s “roadmap” tax plan Romney would have paid hardly any taxes in 2010. If the deduction for
      charitable contributions stayed intact he would pay no income tax at all.

      The Ryan tax plan creates a hereditary tax-free plutocracy. That’s plain as day, and the Democrats need to point it out unrelentingly.

      1. I suppose Ryan is a better pitchman on this score than Romney because he wasn’t born rich and powerful (and, heck, likely isn’t rich – yet). He is more able than Romney to sell the Republican idea that it’s fine for all the wealth to go to the very top, essentially untaxed, because one day you or your kids might join them up there – even as the Republicans eviscerate the education funding, the safety net, etcetera that might make such a feat possible.

        1. It’s only in comparison to Romney that being born into a powerful family in a small town doesn’t count as being born rich and powerful. Ryan launched his career from a job he got via nepotism after graduating college. He lives in a 6-bed, 8-bath mansion (not going to post a picture because that’s creepy, but it’s easy enough to find one) that’s appraised at a half million dollars. This is “rich” to everyone except for Republicans in America.

  5. Just a quibble: the DW-nominate scores only go back 108 years, so Ryan isn’t rated against John C. Calhoun.

  6. What I find interesting is that Romney felt no need to shore up the Southern vote with a fellow Southerner or an Evangelical. Two Northern Republicans running against two Northern Democrats. For a while it seemed that having the South represented was really important (and why Palin was a mistake for McCain), but perhaps that paradigm failed?

    1. I don’t think Romney has any fears the South will fail to turn up at the polls to restore the White House to a person of high albedo.

  7. On Ryan’s climate change skepticism, it is useful to quote the entire context in which Ryan issued his remarks in 2009:

    “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.”

    As subsequent third party and objectively conducted investigations have revealed, the e-mails Ryan cites from East Anglia “make clear” nothing of the sort happened that Ryan’s staffer, who appears to have relabeled a Fox News report on Congressional letterhead, concluded.

    The media should get on the case and ask Ryan whether he stands by these provably false judge-jury-executioner comments from 2009.

  8. Who would think that it isn’t serious to talk about raising the payroll tax cap on upper income people, but it *is* serious to talk about reducing benefits on lower income people? Oh, that’s right: upper income reporters! It’s funny how reporters who pride themselves on objectivity tend to be socially liberal and economically conservative, which just happens to correspond to their own personal interests (shades of Upton Sinclair). I won’t understate just how much laziness is responsible for this kind of reporting, but the larger issue is that Saletan *wants* to buy what Ryan is selling. And look: he agrees with him on economics and disagrees with him on social policy. Balance!

    “Maybe, like me, you were raised in a liberal household. You don’t agree with conservative ideas on social or foreign policy. But this is why God made Republicans: to force a reality check when Democrats overpromise and overspend.” -William “I Just Tells it Like I sees it!” Saletan

  9. MK is right on the mark. Ryan is a complete and hopeless mess, and apparent idiot-wannabes such as (but certainly not limited to) Saletan are trapped in the quicksand-like quagmire of not wanting to be accused of “liberal bias” for renouncing the simple folly of these right-wing bounders and everything they have done and now propose to do. The facts are that ALL of it is utter nonsense. Why should it be so hard simply to say that? Is the fear of being targeted by some right-wing flash-mob all that powerful and pervasive?

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