Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

On Being Jack Kennedy

Biden’s use of the famous Lloyd Bentsen put-down of Dan Quail—“Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”—is getting pretty good play among the punditry. (Yay!)  Now, hopefully, Obama and Biden will educate the public about the tax rates on the wealthy and on capital gains in, say, 1963. 

And on whether, y’know, America was a European-style socialist country back then because of that—as Romney actually has claimed on several occasions during the last year.

And, in case you missed my update to my last post: The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank is the first pundit I know of thus far to GET IT.  
Go, Dana!

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Why Last Night’s Debate Will Really Matter—and, yes, it will. [– UPDATE: Dana Milbank GETS IT! It’s a start. Hopefully only JUST a start.]

Not surprisingly, the pundits have concluded that, while the debate last night will stop the bleeding for the Dem ticket—stop the momentum for Romney/Ryan—it won’t make a difference beyond that. People don’t vote for the vice presidential candidate; they vote for, or against, a presidential candidate.

And anyway, Biden smiled too much!  And Ryan was serious and wonkish! 

The problem with that analysis is that Biden was wonkish, too.  And in being wonkish—and in smiling and even laughing at Ryan’s canned claims repeating Romney’s from last week—Biden began the process of pointing the public to the fact that Romney’s biggest hits from last week are based on nonsense.
It is, in other words, the substance of Biden’s performance, rather than the performancestuff that the pundits fixate on, that actually will matter.  In my opinion, one of the most effective moments was Biden’s giving the lie to an important part of the supposed Reagan/Tip O’Neill analogy: that, heading into the negotiations with O’Neill, Reagan didn’t give specifics about what he wanted.  

Another important moment—moments, actually; he did it two or three times—was Biden’s challenge to the claim that six studies showed that the Romney/Ryan tax math would work.  Biden’s emphatically shaking his head and, yes, smiling and then laughing—he wasn’t able to inject comments, and Raddatz (who impressed me less than she did everyone else) played Lehrer; she asked no questions at all about this—his facial reactions got the message across.

I have two complaints, though.  One is that Biden didn’t point out that the Five Point Plan is actually not a plan at all but instead just a statement of generic goals—as is the claim that it will create 12 million jobs, like magic.  Presumably, Obama will do that at the debate next week, and do so clearly and repeatedly.   

The other is that Biden didn’t say, much less emphasize, that it mattered for the policy outcome that Reagan was dealing with a Democratic House as well as a Democratic Senate.*  After the election, the House will continue to be controlled by the Tea Party—and, by Romney’s and Ryan’s own account, they’ll let Congress play a big role in drafting legislation.  That is, the House will support the Romney-Ryan administration in trying to force enactment of … the Ryan budget.  Presumably, Obama will do this, too, at the debate next week, and do so clearly and repeatedly.   

But Biden succeeded, I’m pretty sure, in raising questions in people’s minds about the forthrightness of Romney’s representations last week (reiterated by Ryan last night) , and the truthfulness of his claims.  Obama might actually pick up the ball from Biden and run with it.  
Could happen!

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UPDATE: Dana Milbank of the Washington Post gets it! It’s a start.  Hopefully only just a start. 

But … woo-hooo!

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*CORRECTION: The sentence was corrected for the sake of clarity to include the words “for the policy outcome”.

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Jonathan Bernstein Nails the Mad Hatter

Beautiful. (I was thinking the same thing during the debate, but since no one afterward pointed it out, I thought I must have misunderstood.) 

Just wondering whether Romney still has his old calculator around.  The one from his Bain days.  The one that could actually add and subtract!  And multiply and divide and perform algebraic, trigonometric and calculus equations, and do amazing other types of calculations too, apparently.  

You know.  The one that tallied up the funds in that Caymans IRA and in the Swiss and Bermuda accounts and shell corporations.

Better still: Maybe he can borrow a calculator from Brad Malt, his family’s trust-fund trustee and lawyer.  Or from that PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountant who did his taxes for the last two decades or whatever.

Oh.  Wait.  He did.

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Why Doesn’t Rachel Zubay Know That Most Provisions of Obamacare Won’t Start Until 2014?

Rachel Zubay, 32, works as a waitress at Abdalla’s Steak House, in the shadow of a recently idled coal-fired power plant. She’s got two kids, is in the middle of a divorce, has no medical insurance and is paying $50 a month on a $15,000 surgical bill after she injured her ankle and foot in a nasty fall. She figures she’ll have it paid off in five or 10 years.

She’ll probably vote for Romney. What about the president’s health-care plan, which is supposed to help people afford medical insurance? “Obviously it hasn’t helped me at all,” Zubay says. “I’d be better off moving to Canada.”

Michelle Obama gave a lovely, effective speech earlier this month at the Democratic convention.  But in my opinion, her best moment came two days later, while making a particular comment during a taped clip that was part of the little film played before her husband delivered his acceptance speech.  In one seemingly unscripted moment, at the end of brief comments about Obamacare, she said something about hospitals and physicians sending bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars to, say, a single mothers with hourly-wage jobs—and doing so “with a straight face.”  What was most effective were not even her words but the spontaneous, pained, incredulous look on her face as she said “with a straight face.”

I’d love to see the Obama campaign use that clip in an ad that also makes clear that the part of Obamacare that will help Ms. Zubay by the time she’s 34, and her young children, and millions of others too, won’t start until 2014.  If it starts at all.  Which, Romney/Ryan, if elected, will do their best to keep it from doing.

Seriously.  It probably didn’t occur to Obama that some people think that Obamacare’s main provisions have started but have just failed to help them.  But now, he knows.  And Ms. Zubay probably isn’t the only one who’s planning to vote for Romney, in part because of that evil Obamacare, who recognizes the benefits, healthcare-wise, of living in Canada.  Or Germany.  Or Taiwan.  Or Israel. 

What some of them don’t recognize, I guess, is that if they injure a foot two years from now, they won’t have to pay $50 a month for the next several decades.  They’ll be able instead to use that $50 a month for other things.

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A (Very Big) Problem With Robert J. Samuelson’s Political Advice to Romney – [Corrected]

Earlier this week, before the, um, video-recording news broke, it was reported that Romney planned to bring one of those debt clocks to his campaign rallies.  Hmmm, I thought; Obama should return the favor; he should bring a debt clock to his own rallies. A clock that shows what the debt will be under Romney’s “I’ll cut taxes by 20%, and then I’ll cut them more, and then I’ll …”, as he told the Detroit Economic Club last February. 

Or maybe Obama should take two debt clocks to his rallies: one showing the likely debt under Romney’s plan, the other showing the projected debt under the Ryan serious-about-debt-reduction plan.

Sounds like a (campaign) plan, to me!

But, of course, now that the video-recording news has broken, Republicans are scrambling to figure out how Romney can salvage his campaign.  The solution?  Turn it into a plus by illustrating how unmanageable the debt will become—and how awful it will be for later generations to have to handle—if we don’t get entitlements under control!  Y’know, by reversing the savings in Medicare under Obamacare!  And by reducing by 205, rather than raising to Clinton-G.H.W. Bush levels, income tax rates on people with incomes above $250,000!

Yup.  Conservative Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson* uses his column today to join that chorus.  He urges Romney to turn that video-recording lemon into lemonade by claiming that what he (Romney) really meant when he said he knows “some believe that government should take from some to give to the others,” and that he thinks “that’s an entirely foreign concept,” was that the 47% of people who make too little money to pay income taxes as the current tax code is structured should be required to pay income taxes in order to negate some of the revenue loss from the 20% reduction in the tax rate for people with incomes above $250,000, some with incomes way above $250,000.  Like Romney.

Er … I mean … he should turn the discussion into one that shows how serious a challenge it will be for younger generations of people who will take personal responsibility for themselves by forgoing, say, college-tuition loans because those loans no longer exist—oh, or by asking their parents to pay the tuition, and then to lend them the money to become entrepreneurs, like Tagg Romney—to pay down that national debt that by then will be trillions of dollars larger, courtesy of the Romney/Ryan income tax reductions.

Sounds like a (campaign) plan, to me!  Go for it, Mitt!

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*CORRECTION:  Welllll, commenter rjs informed me that Samuelson is not an economist.  He just sorta masquerades as one.  Ooooops.  Sorry about my gullibility there, folks.

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Dwight Eisenhower, That Damn Foreigner!

I know some believe that government should take from some to give to the others. I think that’s an entirely foreign concept.

— Mitt Romney, yesterday

Might Romney consider checking what the income tax rates on the wealthy were during the 1950s and ‘60s?

Nah.

What was that funny line that Texas Governor Ann Richards used about George H.W. Bush at the Dem convention in 1992?  Stick a fork in him; he’s done?

Yeah.  That was it.  Stick a fork in him.  He’s done.

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The link from “a fork,” above, is to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s hilarious Romney takedown today.  Enjoy.

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My email correspondence with Glenn Kessler

An email correspondence between Glenn Kessler and me yesterday afternoon and evening, which I’m publishing here in full, speaks adequately for itself, I think.  But first, this, because I think it’s relevant:

NEW YORK – Mitt Romney on Friday denounced an anti-Muslim film that is stirring unrest in the Middle East, even as he stood by his condemnation of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for its implied denunciation of the film.

Romney denounces film aimed at Muslims, Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times

Here’s the email exchange:

Sure, feel free to post the exchange. If you read my column consistently, you will see that I simply look at things on a case by case basis, and let the chips fall where they may. I also welcome criticism and critique, since it keeps me sharper–and I often learn something too.

Glenn

PS: thanks for the kind words on the photo!
————————–
Glenn Kessler
Columnist, “The Fact Checker”
The Washington Post
cell phone:             (202) 439 0113  
www.washingtonpost.com/factchecker

Sent using BlackBerry, hence the typos 


  From: Beverly Mann

  Sent: 09/14/2012 04:41 PM MST
  To: Glenn Kessler
  Cc: Ombudsman Internet DropBox
  Subject: Re: “Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Should Stick to Checking Facts”

Thanks for responding.  Truth be told, I’m feeling a little guilty about having written what I wrote.  After I posted it, while googling something, I happened upon the recent Breitbart.com article, “Wapo’s Glenn Kessler has Fact Checker Tantrum Over ‘You Didn’t Build That’,” athttp://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/08/29/Wapo-Fact-Checker-You-Didnt-Buuild-That-Tantrum.  I guess you’re used for target practice by both sides.

I’d like to post this email exchange as a follow-up to my blog post  Would that be okay with you?

Btw, in your photo you sorta look like a nice guy.

Beverly Mann


From: Glenn Kessler <kesslerg@washpost.com>
To: Beverly Mann
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2012 6:19 PM
Subject: Re: “Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Should Stick to Checking Facts”

Thanks, I had read your column. I didn’t think it was opinion, but rather explanatory. You seem to have focused on a small part of the overall column too.
————————–
Glenn Kessler
Columnist, “The Fact Checker”
The Washington Post
cell phone:             (202) 439 0113  
www.washingtonpost.com/factchecker

Sent using BlackBerry, hence the typos 


  From: Beverly Mann
  Sent: 09/14/2012 02:53 PM MST
  To: Glenn Kessler
  Subject: Fw: “Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Should Stick to Checking Facts”

Dear Mr. Kessler,

I would have cc’d you on this originally but I couldn’t find your email address.  I just found it on your Twitter feed.

Beverly Mann

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Beverly Mann
To: “ombudsman@washpost.com
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2012 11:40 AM
Subject: “Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Should Stick to Checking Facts”

Dear Mr. Pexton,

I am a contributing writer for a blog called Angry Bear, and just posted a piece there called “Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Should Stick to Checking Facts,” athttp://www.angrybearblog.com/2012/09/glenn-kessler-washington-posts-fact.html. The blog is picked up by several aggregators, including Business Insider, so I thought you might be interested in reading the post.

Thanks.

Beverly Mann

I’d just like to add that, for me, the bottom line is that I don’t understand the pejorative characterization of the Cairo embassy’s statements as an apology, much less do I think it is helpful to this country’s interests to have official Washington appear to sympathize with the sentiments of a communication whose sole purpose is to cause the reactions that the homemade film clip at issue did this week.  And apparently Romney’s internal polls are showing that a majority of voters agree; thus Romney’s own apology (borrowing his term) yesterday for the sentiments in that film.

But Glenn Kessler’s obviously no wingnut.  He’s a journalist with a difficult and worthwhile assignment, trying not to fall off a tightrope. 

As for Mitt Romney’s stupefyingly robotic and simpleminded take on even the most serious foreign policy issues, I suggest a comparison of his statements (and those of his loopy foreign policy advisors) with this column by Washington Post foreign policy columnist David Ignatius published late Wednesday.

More and more, Romney comes off as not just craven but ignorant and stupid.  I reiterate my characterization of him in earlier posts as a truly dangerous bull in a china shop.

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Did Romney’s Foreign Policy Team Indicate That He Would Try to Establish Autocratic Puppet Regimes In the Middle East?

The headline on the Washington Post’s opening Web page was irresistible: “Romney aides: No Mideast turmoil if he were president.”  The headline of the actual article, by Philip Rucker, though, is headlined “Romney team sharpens attack on Obama’s foreign policy.” 

Both headings are accurate. Romney’s foreign policy team—drawn, apparently, entirely from the farthest-right faction of George W. Bush’s foreign policy advisors—issued a series of written statements yesterday.  And among them, if I understand correctly, is one in which they suggest that the Obama administration should have established a puppet government in Libya after Gadhafi fell last year. Oh, and probably one in Egypt, too.  And in Yemen, and in ….

Y’all know: Like the puppet government that these very same folks, then Bush administration officials, tried to establish in Iraq back in 2003.  The effort that worked out so well.  Remember?

It’s time now for Obama and the news media to make it far better known than it is now who Romney’s foreign policy team members are—and to remind people of what happened when last they directed this country’s foreign policy. 

As for the fact that Romney has delusions of autocratic grandeur, or at least of mystical powers over Middle Easterners to cause them to happily acquiesce to our efforts to control them, Romney himself is taking care of that just fine, thank you. 

And at least he’s finally making clear where all that extra money for defense spending will go.  If not where that money will come from.  

Romney’s sons all are too old to be subject to any new military draft necessitated by his and his policy team’s  desires, and his grandchildren all are very young.  So the Romney family is save.  Many other families, though, probably not so much.

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Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Should Stick to Checking Facts [Edited for clarity]

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, wrote last evening:

The controversy over a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is an interesting example of how words and context matter. State Department officials reportedly tried to dissuade the embassy staffer who wrote it from posting it, but he did so anyway. Nuland’s comment on Thursday is clearly an effort to say that top State Department officials really did not like the statement.

 We had noted on Thursday that the Cairo statement had many of the same elements of previous such statements, but in weaker form. Let’s take a closer look at the statement and why it appeared weak — and then also examine how it has been repeatedly mischaracterized by the Romney campaign as the tragedy in the Middle East unfolded.

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

— Embassy statement, issued 6 a.m. EST, some six hours before the attack.

What the statement got wrong: 

1. Unbalanced:   The language on freedom of speech is weak. It is never stated that this is a U.S. right. In fact, freedom of speech is only backhandedly mentioned in the context of people abusing the “universal” right of free speech. Indeed, the statement even seems to suggest that one’s right to free speech is limited when it comes to criticizing a religion.

Compare the language above with this 2006 statement during uproar over the anti-Muslim Danish cartoons: “Freedom of expression is at the core of our democracy and it is something that we have shed blood and treasure around the world to defend and we will continue to do so.”

2. Mischosen: The reference to the Sept. 11 attacks seems gratuitous and even a little odd. The mention of the anniversary seems to demean it.

 3. Not Clearly Comprehensible: The message fell flat and was misinterpreted. In the aftermath of the attack, some clearly thought the statement expressed sympathy for the attackers.

The Romney campaign’s repeated errors on the Cairo embassy statement, Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, last evening [Formatting, boldface and italics his]

Wow.  Where to begin? 

Well, how about with Kessler’s assertion that the phrase “the universal right of free speech” is a weakerstatement than one than one that identifies the right of free expression as one that is mainly just ours?  Pardon me, but doesn’t the phrase “the universal right of free speech” suggest that America views a belief that free speech is a basic human right rather than just one that is optional, country by country?  I mean—to adopt Romney’s words—isn’t the issue American values, American principles?  Presumably ones we don’t think should be limited just to America, even though we (some of us, anyway) well understand that we can’t force other countries to adopt that value?

Then there’s the odd request that we compare the language above with this 2006 statement during uproar over the anti-Muslim Danish cartoons.  Which is hard to do unless we know whether the 2006 statement was issued by an embassy staff under duress and fearful of an imminent storming of its perimeters, or instead was issued by the State Department itself after days of angry Muslim protests in the Middle East. 

And what’s with the claim that the “reference to the Sept. 11 attacks seems gratuitous and even a little odd. The mention of the anniversary seems to demean it”?  Really?  Is Kessler sure about that?  He is, after all, supposed to be a fact checker.

But worst of all, I think, is his last assertion, the one in which he says that the message fell flat and “was misinterpreted. In the aftermath of the attack, some clearly thought the statement expressed sympathy for the attackers.”  As a fact checker, he should have mentioned that the “some” who clearly thought the statement expressed sympathy for the attackers” were, y’know, Mitt Romney and other rightwing Republicans—all of whom presumably think that the embassy personnel have powers of clairvoyance.  After all, the statement was made before the attacks occurred.

Kessler would, I’m sure, make a fine (rightwing?) opinion columnist.  But the use of his Fact Checker column as thinly -veiled punditry is—how should I say this?—mischosen.  Not to mention that some of his assertions of fact in that piece are downright bizarre.

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Oh, Mr. Ryan, Do Get Wonky On Us. Please. (I.e., thank you, Brit Hume and Matt Miller.)

In poker a “tell” is the physical giveaway or tic that lets you know someone is lying about his or her hand. In politics it’s the mode of evasion a politician chooses to sidestep a truth he or she doesn’t want to admit or to avoid saying something against self-interest. In his debut interview with Fox News’ Brit Hume Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan’s “tells” were audacious and revealing. They suggest an opening Democrats would be wise to pursue.

Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to cloak himself in his supposedly charming “wonky-ness” to sidestep two simple questions from Hume: When does Mitt Romney’s budget reach balance, and when does Ryan’s own budget plan do the same? Ryan pirouetted because Hume’s queries threatened to expose his famed “fiscal conservatism” as a fraud.

It’s worth parsing Ryan’s tactics in this exchange because it shows the brand of disingenuousness we’re dealing with. So let’s go to the videotape. Have a look at the relevant two-minute portion of the clip (excerpted on this CNN video) and then we’ll dissect it.

Okay, you’re back. Hume started with a simple question: “The budget plan that you’re now supporting would get to balance when?”

Now, for context, recall that in the last era of epic budget smackdowns, 1995 and 1996, Newt Gingrich would have had an equally simple answer: in seven years. President Bill Clinton’s failure to embrace the goal of a balanced budget at all was a major political liability that Clinton finally (and shrewdly) erased when he came out with his own 10-year plan in mid-1995. (It’s worth underscoring that a 10-year path to balance was viewed then as the outer limit of credibility — pledging to end the red ink any further than a decade out didn’t pass the laugh test.)

Since Ryan knows that Romney’s bare sketch of a plan never reaches balance, he stumbles momentarily before trying to move the conversation to his comfortable talking points about Romney’s goal of reducing spending to historic norms as a share of gross domestic product.

But Hume grows quietly impatient. He practically cuts Ryan off.

“I get that,” Hume says. “But what about balance?”

You can see Ryan flinch. He doesn’t know, he says. Why not? “I don’t want to get wonky on you,” he says, recovering, “because we haven’t run the numbers on that specific plan.” But that’s not “getting wonky” at all. As common sense (and the Gingrich/Clinton approach) suggests, there’s nothing arcane about this subject. You decide on a sensible path to balance as a goal and come up with policies that achieve it. All this means is that Romney hasn’t done what a fiscally conservative leader would do. Trying to evade this as a matter of not “getting wonky” is Ryan’s tell. He’s betting Hume is too dumb, uninterested or short on time to press the point.

Recognizing Paul Ryan’s ‘tell’when he is trying to avoid something, Matt Miller, Washington Post, today’s edition

Wow.  Okay.  That’s a much longer excerpt from someone else’s piece than I like to use, unbroken by my own commentary.  And it doesn’t even include the real coup de grace of that column, the best I’ve read in a really long time.  The column goes on recite further details of that interview:  

“Your own budget . . . when does that contemplate reaching balance?” Hume asks.

There’s no exit. Not until the 2030s, Ryan finally admits, looking uncomfortable — but then he quickly adds, making a face, that’s only under the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring rules, implying that they’re silly constraints every Fox News viewer would agree are ridiculous (instead of sensible rules meant to credit politicians only for policy proposals that are real). Ryan adds that “we believe” if we get the economy growing, “it would balance in 10 years.” But that’s supply-side faith-based budgeting again — exactly what we ran an empirical test on in the 1980s. (And the truth is, if Ryan’s big tax cuts were properly accounted for, his plan’s real date of balance would push well beyond 2040).

And finally that promised coup de grace:

Why am I harping on this? Because it’s impossible to overstate how central the unjustified label of “fiscal conservative” is to the Ryan brand and the GOP’s strategy. As Clinton understood in the 1990s, “fiscal responsibility” is a values issue important to the voters who decide modern presidential elections.

The point: Democrats can’t afford to let Ryan/Romney’s phony image as superior fiscal stewards survive. And Hume’s interview shows how swiftly this charade can be exposed if Democrats and the press zero in on simple questions like Hume’s. If the press is primed to cover this more intelligently, such queries will also expose the big Republican lie — the idea that you can balance the budget as the baby boomers age without taxes rising.

Let me be clear. The most important issue facing the country isn’t when we’re going to balance the budget. It’s how to get growth and jobs reignited in the near term and how to renew the country’s promise and competitiveness after that (an agenda in which long-term budget sanity is just the ante). But if Democrats spend all their energy on Medicare — and don’t knock out the GOP ticket’s undeserved reputation for fiscal responsibility — they’ll find themselves in unexpected peril as the race heads to the fall.

In a lengthypost I wrote on Wednesday I expressed my own fear of the danger to Obama and the other Democrats of an all-Medicare-all-the-time campaign focus, because it removes the emphasis on the dramatic income tax reductions for the wealthy and therefore on the radical reduction of tax revenue—which, among other things, surely would require a substantial reduction in Medicare benefits to current and imminent beneficiaries, despite Romney/Ryan’s protestations to the contrary. Here’s how I ended that Wednesday post:

A lot of eyebrows were raised on Sunday when Ryan, sitting next to Romney in an interview, told Bob Schieffer that he wants to end the tax breaks that apply only to the wealthy.  That’s nice, but of no effect.  A seminal part of his tax-and-budget plan, passed this year by the House, is the elimination of all income taxes on capital gains and dividends.  And although this would mean that many very wealthy people will pay no income taxes or estate taxes, and many other very wealthy people would pay income taxes at a single-digit rate, the elimination of these taxes would apply as well to the non-wealthy who have a capital gain or receive stock dividends, however small.  And so—voila!—Ryan’s statement, made with such earnestness, does not apply to the issue of taxes on capital gains and dividends.  Nor, for that matter, to estate taxes, which his plan entirely eliminates; some non-wealthy people leave small estates, after all.  And semantics is the name of their game, the objective of which is the enabling of ever more vast accumulations of wealth, utterly unfettered by tax obligations.  Pure and simple.

My big fear about the all-Medicare-all-the-time campaign that began last weekend with Romney’s Ryan announcement is that it allows Romney and Ryan to claim the mantle of straight talkers about what they warn is a Medicare-caused fiscal calamity that awaits.  They have yet to explain why, if they fear such a calamity, they propose to reduce federal revenue by trillions of dollars, through their tax-elimination-on-the-wealthy plan.  And when they stress, as they do again and again, that their destroy-Medicare-in-order-to-save-it plan will not end the current program for its current or relatively-imminent recipients (those who are 55 or older), maybe they’ll deign to reveal what programs will be eliminated in order to pay for Medicare for current recipients and baby boomers andand—the trillions-of-dollars tax cuts for the wealthy.

My suggestion: Hurricane disaster relief for the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, which will vote for this ticket en force, and crop insurance and drought disaster relief for the plains states, which will vote for them and their budget plan in almost as large percentages. 

In 2005, Ryan now-famously advised his audience when he addressed an Ayn Rand fan club that they should make no mistake: current politics is a clash between “individualism” and “collectivism.”  And indeed it is.

Now, let’s ensure that the public knows the specifics.  

After all, for all the indignant denials Romney has made about Harry Reid’s allegation that Romney paid no income taxes for a period of at least 10 consecutive years, Ryan’s plan—the plan being the one that Romney adopted all the way back last winter, during the primary season; the drafter being the person whom Romney has chosen to be a heartbeat away from the actual presidency has made —would enable Romney to openly pay no taxes on most of his income for the next ten years and beyond.

And about Medicare anyway: Isn’t it a collectivist program?

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UPDATE: Turns out, I’m very late to this party.  How could this not have gotten a lot of media attention earlier?

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