On Saturday Mitt Romney proved he is a serious man and will be a serious president. He also demonstrated that he is a shrewd political strategist.
In picking Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate, Romney bet both his election and his administration on a central task, reducing the national deficit and debt while restoring economic growth.
We all know the debt story, but it is worth a moment of overall recall.
With a GDP of $15 trillion, the U.S. in July carried $15.9 trillion in official debt and (as of trustees’ April reports) unfunded liabilities of $38.6 trillion in Medicare and $8.6 trillion in Social Security.
The real Medicare numbers may be higher. The trustees (who include the president’s Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner) have warned that the numbers include savings from Obamacare (rationing, deep cuts in pay to doctors) that are fantasies. By some counts, when you take away these make believe savings, the Medicare debt doubles.
But then again, thanks to the Supreme Court, the Medicare numbers may come down a little, too. Obamacare commandeered $700 billion in Medicare funds and sent it to the states to cover the new Medicaid costs that the 2,700-page law mandated. In its Obamacare decision, the high court threw out the mandate. Rather than gut public safety and education, many if not all states are likely to opt out of the federal program, declining those crushingly expensive dollars.
In any event, the total officially acknowledged U.S. debt is $63.1 trillion, more than four times the size of our economy.
The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said these IOUs constitute our biggest national security threat.
The unfunded Social Security liability means that the young people who told pollsters some years ago that they believed more in UFOs than that they would ever receive a dollar from the program were right.
And the unfunded Medicare liability means that Medicare is on the way to becoming just like Medicaid – with doctors refusing to take the program’s patients and official restrictions on coverage so extreme that researchers have found that there is no consistent difference in medical outcomes between those with Medicaid coverage and no coverage at all (http://tinyurl.com/9pn3rrv ).
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration and its allies are utterly unwilling to acknowledge that anything must be done except tax the “rich” a little more. As I discovered in a Google search that took less than a minute, even if the income of everyone from Warren Buffet and Bill Gates to the two-income family whose combined earnings equal $250,001 were taxed at 100 percent – entirely confiscated — it would raise only between $1 and 2.5 trillion as of 2009, according to the Tax Foundation (http://tinyurl.com/cul8ywm), barely a dent in the government’s accumulated obligations.
In other words, the administration is unwilling to acknowledge that the nation has a debt crisis. Pulling us out of the debt and deficit quicksand is not the president’s priority. Nor, considering his obsession with raising taxes, particularly on capital gains, is economic recovery. By the looks of his policies, only redistribution of wealth is.
In picking Paul Ryan, Governor Romney has signaled in a way that no one can doubt that as president he intends to turn the government around. He will, as his campaign now puts it, lead an American comeback.
Why is this a shrewd political strategy? Democrats clearly don’t think so.
But the case has been made – and with the Ryan choice Romney has embraced it – that alarm over spending and debt has driven the swing vote in American politics for nearly a decade, possibly even longer. The Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008 were not out of revulsion to the war in Iraq or in response to the Mr. Obama’s undoubted charisma and rhetorical sheen. They were primarily a rejection of the increases in spending and deficits of the GOP Congresses of the first half of the decade.
So Mr. Obama’s spending – a string of trillion dollar bailout and stimulus programs – was exactly the wrong political move, driving these voters back to the GOP, which, nevertheless, they didn’t fully trust. So in 2010 they voted Republican, but only provisionally. They wanted proof that the party wouldn’t revert to its 2001-2005 big spending ways. In picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Governor Romney has given that proof.
Over recent months, pollsters and pundits have debated whether the 2012 electorate would look more like 2008’s or 2010’s. This nerdy controversy is one reason for the enormous spread in the poll results (regularly running 11 percent between polls with supposed 3 to 4 percent margins of error). Make different assumptions, you get different outcomes.
Mitt Romney has just taken a huge step to insuring that the 2012 election is a replay of 2010.