Editorial : Paul Ryan enlivens presidential race
The Kansas City Star
And the presidential race is set.
Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s selection of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate establishes a ballot choice of stark differences.
Ryan, 42, brings with him a record of a Washington insider, tea party hero and full-throated champion of budget-cutting plans. He wants to radically trim entitlement spending, remake Medicare into a voucher-like system, slash individual and corporate tax rates, and slice deeply into many low-income programs. They include Pell grants for college students, food stamps and job training.
Response among conservatives is strong and positive. Ditto for Democrats who see Ryan as a gift-wrapped explosive device whose ideas will frighten many and inevitably help President Barack Obama in November.
Here’s an upside: Ryan’s budget plans should spur Democrats to offer more specifics of how they will manage the budget in the future. Allowing Bush-era tax breaks on the wealthy to expire is not enough of a plan.
We’ve argued previously that Obama whiffed on the bipartisan and sound Simpson-Bowles fiscal proposal nearly two years ago. Had the president embraced the findings and pushed Congress toward some of its recommendations, the high road on budget reform would be his.
After much commentary in advance of the GOP veep pick, Ryan “misses” on several fronts.
Romney’s favorite pitch — that he offers real contrast to Obama based on his private business experience — doesn’t mesh well with Ryan’s all-government background. He has been an aide to congressmen and senators (including time with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback) and has served stints at conservative think tanks and 14 years in Congress.
The ethnic and gender diversity speculation wishes are out the door with Ryan, too. The diversity angle he does meet is youth: Ryan is the first Gen-Xer about to reach a national ballot.
Also, neither Republican can claim foreign policy expertise, a key factor that Obama sought when he chose Joe Biden as his running mate four years ago.
Finally, Ryan’s budget plan skirts specifics on Social Security fixes (although he favored privatizing it in 2004), doesn’t call for major defense cuts and protects oil subsidies. Initial calculations estimate it won’t provide budget surpluses until 2040, a rather long time frame for Republicans who have hammered the deficit topic throughout the Obama years.
While Romney has praised the Ryan budget plan, it’s not clear if it would become his plan as president. Romney has been short on specifics on his budget ideas, other than to promise to keep the Bush tax cuts (including those for the upper income) and trim tax rates more, cut nondefense spending, eliminate unspecified regulations and kill health care reform. But he hasn’t said which regulations would go and how health care would be handled in the future, especially for the millions of uninsured.
Both sides have plenty of answers to fill in for voters. The nation now must hear those answers in much greater detail.