In my last post, "VP Choice: Why Romney Must Get It Right," I noted that Governor Romney had to thread the needle with a VP pick who displayed unquestioned competence, while exciting the GOP base. In picking 42-year-old Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has done just that.
While the general election campaign will reveal whether Americans are mature enough to take the fiscal medicine that Romney and Ryan are boldly proffering, Romney is now officially the lone adult in the self-serving, narrow-minded living room of U.S. politics. This is because, with the Ryan pick, Romney has unequivocally shown he is dead serious about tackling America's most pressing issue: its crippling debt. Thank you, governor.
Being president is not about playing Santa Claus. It's not about granting sugary concessions to every government-dependent sheep that comes bleating. It's not even about "fairness" or "justice." The job of the chief executive is to preserve and protect the union. A true chief executive knows that we cannot do great, noble and discretionary things if we end up like either Greece (nearly 50% of Americans don't pay any federal income taxes at all) or Japan (with stagnant growth for decades).
If we want to marshal the world against an encroaching, and still politically oppressive, China, we cannot owe China trillions of dollars. We cannot flex our moral muscle against corrupt "oil-i-garchies," if we are dependent on those "oil-i-garchies" for our very energy.
The litmus test is simple: if we have to borrow from an economic and political competitor or a morally bankrupt energy supplier to pay for a program, we cannot afford that program. It takes a common sense Midwesterner like Paul Ryan to grasp that basic equation.
This is not about "heart" or "compassion" or the other wildly irrational tropes that big-government Democrats have used for decades to guilt-trip hard-working Americans into supporting bloated federal giveaways, and to keep lower class Americans dependent on the Democrat-controlled welfare teat. I am all for a welter of fine programs, including those that encourage alternative energy development, national park preservation, and water, soil, and air cleanup. Moreover, I wish every American had quality health care, regardless of their medical status. Moreover, I wish higher education were free for those academically qualified few who are genuinely hungry for it.
However, those are not remotely realizable goals in an era when we continue to be out-performed and out-competed by the nations of the Far East. Right now, we need a national budget that encourages the time-honored American principles of hard work, self-sufficiency, and innovation. We need to encourage businesses to set up shop in America, instead of moving those jobs overseas.
Money goes where it is treated best. And, with Mr. Obama's proposed tax increases on job creators, dividends and capital gains, money is running scared. And tepid employment and wages, combined with a schizoid stock market, are the consequence.
To get this country on the right growth trajectory again, we must summarily end the prevailing culture of co-dependence that Mr. Obama has encouraged and get back to the culture of inner strength and fortitude that Teddy Roosevelt - he a Progressive - called for many years ago. Were he alive today, TR -- not to mention Democrats Truman and FDR -- would have zero compassion for those who regularly choose to deal in illegal drugs, who deliberately disrupt classroom learning, who consciously enter this country illegally, or who live generation after generation on the government dole.
These leaders would instinctively know that those are unacceptable behaviors in a great republic. These great lions of the left and the right would instinctively see that we need to stop seeking out excuses for self-stifling behaviors under the all-forgiving rubric of "social injustice." Instead, we need to reward and encourage greatness, and punish lassitude and illegality. That is what a moral nation does. And that is what Americans have failed to do for far too long.
By extension, that means punishing those at the very top the harshest of all. Our system of free enterprise completely depends on trust. The hand of law enforcement cannot, and, for the protection of liberty, should not, be omnipresent. At some point, and within reason, we need to police each other, especially when others in our midst are unable or unwilling to police themselves.
This is why whistleblowers at large corporations must be fully protected against reprisal for ratting out their bosses. It is why no company, no matter how seemingly indispensable to the American economy, should be bailed out for its inept decision-making and shoddy products. Many Americans are rightly disgusted that we recently "bailed out" any company for any reason at all, let alone for transparently failed execution and investments. The U.S. government should not be picking winners and losers in any sector (whether Big Oil or Solyndra).
Unfortunately, the conventional liberal line is that GM and Chrysler "deserved" a bailout -- which, by the way, Paul Ryan supported, along with supporting TARP -- though AIG and Bank of America did not. Utter baloney. I am a diehard environmentalist, but no company should be bailed out for their outsized risk-taking and failure to execute and innovate, not to mention their outrageous entitlement obligations. When government bails out companies, it dramatically encourages the growth of the DC lobbying set, who then work the levers of government, not to mention tax credits and loopholes, to protect corporate interests of all stripes from feeling the sting of capitalist failure. That must stop now. And that will only stop with wise leadership at the top.
A wise president has the guts to be hated. A wise president, like a wise parent, is not looking to be loved. A wise president brings on the fight when the cause is right.
Almost four years since the financial crisis of 2008, it is now clear that President Barack Obama lacks the guts, fortitude and wisdom to do what it takes to balance this country's budget, encourage reinvestment in America, and dramatically grow U.S. jobs. As brilliant and tactically tough as he has been abroad (adroitly offing Bin Laden, surgically striking Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen, and bringing U.S. troops home from the disastrously costly and deceitfully sold war in Iraq), he has been distressingly soft at home. He has caved in to all manner of constituencies, including on student loans (when we are already amidst a student loan default crisis), initiative-sapping quotas, illegal immigration, ending welfare reform, and government investments that grow the inefficient, politically dependent public sector at the expense of the job-creating private sector.
Mr. Obama seems strikingly unaware that foreign buyers of U.S. government debt are largely paying for his ambitious spending spree. Moreover, he is especially blind in his insistence that raising taxes on America's job creators and investors will somehow plug the hole in the budget dyke. By most estimates, Obama's proposed increased taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" will at best pay for the operation of the U.S. government for four months over ten years. It does absolutely nothing of substance to deal with the real long-term drivers of our debt: too much Medicaid, too much Medicare, too much Social Security, too many other government-based entitlement programs, which are all going to grow exponentially as baby boomers retire.
Yes, Mr. Obama has courageously fought to decrease defense expenditures. As a registered independent, I fully get that this is a huge blind spot for Republicans, who have never met a military boondoggle they did not like. This is why on a fundamental level I do not trust Mr. Romney or Mr. Ryan. I hope that they will tilt the GOP away from the homophobic, Intelligent-Design-believing southern nutball fringe of the party that tragically foisted the incompetent George W. Bush on the nation in our great post-9/11 hour of need. Moreover, I believe that they can successfully reform non-defense entitlement programs. However, I do not trust that they will do anything meaningful to bring down the cost of U.S. defense, which Republican Congressman Ron Paul has correctly noted can be safely cut by 15 percent without any meaningful diminution of U.S. soft or hard power abroad.
In this way, I resemble many centrists and independents in that I am deeply saddened by the unoriginality on both sides. What we really need is an independent candidate who gets in his or her bones that the crisis of our time is that we are living beyond our means and that we need to dramatically cut everything in the federal budget, including defense, not just those programs that are politically unpopular with one's respective political base. And we need to end all tax loopholes and tax credits in order to fund the across-the-board tax cuts needed to get this economy moving again.
Unfortunately, the absurdly self-defeating nature of our current political system -- with its obsession that a presidential candidate be more pure than the purest choir boy, successful but not so successful that he engenders class envy (Romney is the poster child here), some kind of Christian or Catholic (though devout Catholic Ryan heroically broke ranks to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians), rabidly attached to a lockstep base, and not too original or forward-thinking -- invariably yields white bread candidates.
During most elections, we are forced to choose between the squares of yesteryear when what we really need is a brand new voice in the wilderness of our decline and despair. The cautious, status quo Mitt Romney is not that voice. However, he now has at least one singular aspect that distinguishes himself from Mr. Obama. By today's choice of VP, Mitt Romney has signaled that he is willing to go straight at the pressing issue of our time: our debt and concomitant credit downgrade (the biggest stain on brand USA in a generation). Moreover, he has shown the courage to choose as his running mate the one person with a credible, specific and highly public plan to address it.
The community organizers at Team Obama think they are going to have a field day attacking the common sense Ryan Plan as "extreme," "unfair" "heartless," "evil," and, Aquinas forbid, "Randian." But, they forget that with his VP pick, Mr. Romney has shattered the one attack that was working on the Massachusetts Mormon: that the famously private Romney was secretive about his policy plans for the nation.
No more. This will be an election about the Ryan Plan. You can't get more clear, transparent, and specific than that.
Common sense Ryan Plan reforms like raising the age of Medicare eligibility (in an era when most folks are living longer), ending special interest loopholes, modernizing job training, encouraging personal responsibility, and restoring entrepreneurial opportunity will warm not only the hearts of the Tea Party faithful, but also moderate Americans tired of the hysterical, unseemly class warfare rhetoric coming out of the Obama White House. Swing voters en masse will appreciate that Romney and Ryan are honest about the hard choices that the country faces. Moreover, voters in both parties will find their straightforward talk to be a refreshing alternative to the populist pandering coming from Team Obama's David Axelrod and his faux Jacobins, who still haven't put forward a credible plan to tame the nation's deficit.
Because of the prominence of Mr. Ryan and his plan, we will finally have an election about policy. After decades of talking in vague and coded tropes -- "hope" and "change" is the classic example -- we at long last will get down to arguing the specifics of how to preserve and protect this great union from fiscal and moral ruin.
Bully for all that.