Listening to Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers give her (and the Democratic Party leadership’s) reaction to the choice of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate the other day, I thought my ears had suddenly failed. Powers began to rail against Romney’s “dangerous” ideological choice; she assured the TV-viewers that this “is exactly what President Obama wanted.” Apparently Ryan is injecting an extremist element into the campaign, as Obama’s top advisor David Axelrod is telling us. One gathers that this degree of fanaticism just wasn’t there before. Up until Ryan’s selection, the campaign supposedly featured nice moderates, led by perhaps the greatest moderate of all, Barack Obama.
As proof of his moderateness, Obama has doubled the national debt in four years, appointed the most leftist presidential cabinet in American history — typified by the very partisan Attorney General Holder — and is now giving away welfare without the congressionally mandated work requirement. And this is only to touch the surface of Obama’s radicalization of our politics, something fully consistent with his careers in the Illinois state legislature and the U.S. Senate, where our current president had the most leftist voting record of all the members.
By contrast, the 42-year old congressman who has been picked as GOP presidential candidate was a centrist, even liberal, Bush Republican through most of his Washington career. He voted for Bush’s $485 million bailout of Wall Street in 2008 and before that for the former president’s Drug Prescription Act. In 2007 Ryan was only one of 35 Republicans who supported ENDA, a law sponsored bY Congressman Barney Frank outlawing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. (He now deplores that vote.) Since then Ryan has made a name for himself as a critic of Obamacare and increased federal spending. And he gained bipartisan respect as a fiscal reformer, up until the time he became Romney’s vice presidential pick.
Looking at his proposals for reducing the federal debt and putting entitlements on a sounder fiscal basis, it seems to me that Ryan may be calling for too little too late. Fixing things will take more than offering those who are under 55 alternatives to Medicare. Last year Medicare revealed a combined deficit of $288 billion; and its unfunded liabilities will soon be reaching $90 trillion, unless the rising debts can be brought under control. Ten years from now, even with the Ryan budget, the federal government would be spending as much as it did under the Clinton presidency but at a higher percentage of GDP. If my opinion were asked, I’d call for the abolition of the Department of Education and for a removal of as many posts in the federal administration as is humanly possible. And that’s only for starters!
At the very least, we’ll have to increase taxes, force some of the people who have been exempted into paying income tax, and raise the age of eligibility for Social Security, in view of the growing numbers of seniors. I’m not a fan of the welfare state but if the voters want to have one, they should pay the cost. I seriously doubt that by opening our gates very wide to indigent immigrants, we can import a work force that will look after those who are already here. Many of those who come, especially the very young and elderly, bring added social expenses, and right now there is difficulty finding jobs for American citizens.
Ryan isn’t particularly bold in addressing the federal student-loan program, which should be phased out and not simply kept at its present level. Obama is fishing for votes by calling for steeply increased federal funding for a bad scheme. The loans not only drive up college tuitions, as Ryan points out, they also saddle those who are going into unpromising employment situations with crushing debts.
Obama’s partisans tell me that their idol is a “conservative liberal” or, even less plausibly, a “liberal conservative.” I couldn’t disagree more. A once-and-always community organizer, he strikes me as someone who is out of his depth in the presidency. Too often he acts like an ideologically excited adolescent. On August 13, he gave instructions by executive order to our public school system to practice “proportionate discipline” in dealing with delinquent student behavior. Obama is apparently offended by “disparate use of disciplinary tools.” Economist and Philadelphia native Walter Williams explains what this order is about: if black kids raise havoc in North Philadelphia schools, it will be necessary to find a “proportionate” number of whites and Asians to punish. Never mind disciplining the real troublemakers! This proves an observation by the English author George Orwell that some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals (or those imitating them) could believe them. Unlike Obama, Ryan brings to the presidential campaign a sense of deliberateness. One only wishes that he were more “extreme” in his budgetary solutions.
Paul Gottfried is a professor at Elizabethtown College and the author, most recently, of Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal.