- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Radical Ryan, Centrist Obama, & Other Myths

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 [1].

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Radical Ryan, Centrist Obama, & Other Myths"

#1 Comment By JonF On August 16, 2012 @ 6:06 am

Apparently the Rush Limbaugh set is checking in. Alas, I’m used to more thoughtful analysis on this site than a parroting of shop-worn talking points.

#2 Comment By freshbrewedcoffee On August 16, 2012 @ 6:33 am

“Bush’s $485 million bailout… ”

This should say billion.

#3 Comment By libertarian jerry On August 16, 2012 @ 7:29 am

If you look at the last 100 years a pattern emerges. The American voters elects a “progressive” who makes fundamental changes to the American Fabric. This is followed by a “conservative” who reforms some of the excesses but the changes stay in place. Wilson brings us the Income Tax,the Federal Reserve and the direct election of Senators. Wilson is followed by Harding and Coolidge. The next big fundamental changes come with FDR who brings us The New Deal and Social Security numbering. Then in 1946 the Republicans take over Congress and later we see the election of Eisenhower. After Kennedy is assassinated, LBJ comes in and we have the Great Society followed by 2 “conservative” Republicans. This pattern is continuing up to this day. The fundamental changes occur. America becomes more collectivist and it is followed by “conservatives” who keep the changes but moderate those same changes. As Presidential puppets come and go,the real powers behind the throne in America,the Elitists and Globalists,hold on to and expand their power. In other words,the more things change,the more they stay the same.

#4 Comment By jwaand On August 16, 2012 @ 10:38 am

Wages VS Investment Income:

Thoughts on one aspect of the Ryan Tax Plan: Ryan’s suggestion is to reduce the tax on capital gains and qualified dividends from the current 15% to 0%. However, the majority of the middle class receive their income from wages, pensions, or other retirement account distributions, all taxed as ordinary income not investment income. By definition if you are really rich most of your income is classified as investment income not wages. In other words someone like Warren Buffett who is willing to pay his fair share would see his taxes greatly reduced. One last little thing if you are a CEO or Partner instead of receiving a cash bonus (taxed as ordinary income) you can have your company declare your bonus a special dividend distribution or distribution of capital. This little trick is something I learned from my 25 plus years in the Securities & Institutional Investment Management Business.

#5 Comment By Sean Gillhoolley On August 16, 2012 @ 11:24 am

You blame too much of the debt on Obama, and not enough on Bush. The wars continued to cost under Obama, because simply pulling out without a plan made the situation even worse. The interest in all the debt that Bush created is often conveniently left out, as if it is some small, insignificant number. The bailouts, which were already in the works as Bush handed off to Obama, are shoved entirely onto his plate. This is intellectual dishonesty, and we all know it…so it won’t sell. Good luck in November. 4 More Years!

#6 Comment By reflectionephemeral On August 16, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

JonF is correct.

More specifically:

As proof of his moderateness, Obama has doubled the national debt in four years,

In reality, the decisions that turned our surpluses into deficits mostly preceded the Obama administration. See: [2]

appointed the most leftist presidential cabinet in American history — typified by the very partisan Attorney General Holder

In real life, Pres. Obama is the most centrist Democratic president of the postwar era. See: [3]

and is now giving away welfare without the congressionally mandated work requirement.

This, too, isn’t something that’s happening in real life. He’s acquiescing to GOP governors’ requests for more flexibility. See: [4]

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. …

As noted above, Pres. Obama is actually the most centrist Democratic president of the postwar era. Also, conservatives should be glad Pres. Obama didn’t actually have the mostest liberalest voting record in the Senate before handily winning the presidency in 2008. See: [5]

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.

In real life, Ryan’s budget increases the debt in the next ten years. See: [6] (Could be worse; his initial Roadmap added to the debt until the 2060s). As to Medicare, remember, the long-term problem there is with health care costs in the US, not something unique to Medicare– which actually does a better job controlling costs than private health insurance. We pay 2.5 times the OECD average for health care, for not-any-better results. See: [7]

It’s a free country– if you prefer Romney-Ryan, that’s great, knock yourself out. But you do a disservice to your readers by retyping myths that you find emotionally appealing without engaging in fact-checking.

#7 Comment By dedc79 On August 16, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

Rep. Joe Walsh referred to President Obama as a “son” who needed to be picked up and patted on the head and sent on his way. I see you went with the slightly less attention-grabbing “adolescent.” Have you thought at all about where this desire to paint our President as a child might be coming from? Was George W. Bush an adolescent as well? Where was he on the child-to-adult spectrum in your opinion, given the way he spent so recklessly and built up such enormous deficits?

#8 Comment By JB On August 16, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

Sean: Bush was a reckless, irresponsible president who spent hundreds of billions of dollars more each year than the federal government takes in. Obama is an even more reckless, irresponsible president who spends more than ONE THOUSAND billion dollars each year more than the federal government takes in. This is mathematics, not ideology or politics. Subtract the additional interest payments attributable to the Bush-era new debt from the current budget, as you suggest, to see how much deficit spending Obama we can fairly attribute to Obama. Even with this approach, the last two Congresses (Jan 2009 – Jan 2013) and Obama have incurred SEVERAL TIMES more net new federal debt than Bush and his 4 Congresses (Jan 2001 – Jan 2009). Summary: Bush and both parties in Congress racked up foolish levels of debt, while Obama and both parties in Congress racked up far higher levels of debt than that. Let’s stop pretending that one party or the other is to blame. Both parties are buying votes with unconstitutional federal spending — through programs, subsidies, and privileges favored by the “left” and “right” — and they are both continuing to move us rapidly toward insolvency.

#9 Comment By Mr. Patrick On August 16, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

“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.”

If balancing the budget necessitates squeezing blood from a stone, then I’m afraid I have bad news, Mr. Gottfried: The budget will not be balanced.

#10 Comment By Bob Jones On August 16, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

Libertarian Jerry,

I think it is a misconception to state the “Wilson brought us the income tax”. The ability of the Federal government to levy taxes on income was granted through the 16th amendment, which was passed through Congress and then ratified by the states in February of 1913, thus a full month before Wilson actually became President. IT should also be noted that Congress then had to actually pass laws taxing income, which were ultimately signed by Wilson (at least the first one were). While I understand the basic point, I think it is inappropriate to simply blame Wilson for the income tax (God knows there are plenty of other real bad policies that Wilson should be blamed for), and is certainly historical inaccurate. Further, blaming Wilson solely for the fed is also a bit of fuzzy history, since the bulk of the legislative work to create the Fed occurred during the Taft administration, Wilson did, however, sign the Fed into law.

One other point to be made about the Income Tax. One of the key drivers in the amendment was the Christian Temperance movement, who needed for Congress to find another source of revenue to replace the Alcohol taxes, so that Alcohol could be banned. Prior to the income tax the tax on booze was one of the major sources of revenue for the Federal Government. Thus, the income tax is another of those unintended consequences of trying to use the government to regulate morality.

#11 Comment By Peter Fallow On August 16, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

Barack Obama is the true conservative in this election. His complex and sophisticated political philosophy is truly Burkean. Mitt Romney seemed so reasonable in 2008, but I just don’t know what happened. All of a sudden, he just became such an extreme candidate, the extremiest ever! The contributers to AmCon are just a bunch of Fox News shills and I am disgusted by the anti-intellectual ravings of the likes of Paul Gottfried and Pat Robertson. I think I’ll go and read some real conservatives, like David Frum, Jeffry Hart or Doug Kmiec.

#12 Comment By Dylan On August 17, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

Mr. Fallow, with all due respect, have you read AmCon very much? Nobody says you have to agree with everything in it(and indeed, there is a decent amount of disagreement among the writers), but its contributors are decidedly not “a bunch of Fox News shills.” I see more criticism here of the Fox News crowd and the mainstream right than I do of the Obama administration. Also, I don’t think Pat Robertson has ever written for this magazine. I’m going to assume you mean Pat Buchanan, but even he and Mr. Gottfried, although I disagree with a number of things both of them say, are hardly run-of-the-mill Republicans. There’s a hell of a lot more Burke here than there is in your average “conservative” website.

#13 Comment By James Kabala On August 18, 2012 @ 12:42 am

I don’t really like to invoke an Internet in-joke invented by the anti-religious, but I believe the comment by “Peter Fallow” may be a case of Poe’s Law in action.