Those of you of A Certain Age may remember a comedy show from BBC Wales called Ryan and Ronnie. It featured a surreal and grotesque caricature of a Welsh household (“Our ‘Ouse – a totally ordinary story of a totally ordinary family in a totally ordinary street”) which played on the already outdated idea that all Welsh families lived in terraced houses on steep hills in mining villages.
And that was what made it funny, unlike the selection by one Willard Mitt Romney of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for his running mate. For this Ryan also believes in a grotesque and outdated caricature, this time of economics. He is a self-avowed disciple of Ayn Rand. If he had his way, Medicaid and Medicare would soon be a thing of the past, as would much of Social Security. And much public education.
So why on earth pick him? Ah well. Romney is deeply mistrusted by the GOP base, who have for some time suspected that he is not conservative enough. So, as with John McCain choosing Sarah Palin, Mitt has felt it necessary to go for someone whose conservative credentials are in no doubt. The Beeb’s Mark Mardell has called the choice a “bold and ideological” one. That’s code for “risky”.
Right wingers are elated at the news: the Maily Telegraph’s routinely clueless Tim Stanley, who you can tell as he’s a doctor, has asserted “This thoughtful conservative is a cautious but clever choice”. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines thinks Ryan is a good pick as “He should kick Biden’s ass in the televised VP debates”. Yes Paul, like Jimmy Carter’s thoughtful approach did with Reagan.
More realistic pundits, even on the right, are not so sure: Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight put it like this: “Not a pick you make if you think you’re ahead”. And Paul Krugman has been dismissive of the Ryan budget plan, calling him “The Flimflam Man”, and noting that, far from cutting the budget deficit as is claimed, Ryan’s plans would widen it by 2020 to a cool $1.3 trillion.
Even Newt Gingrich has called Ryan’s proposals “Right-wing social engineering”, and to be “Right-wing” to Newt, you’ve got to be going some. The Ryan agenda as previously advertised cuts taxes massively for the top 1%, while forcing 95% of the population to pay more. Medicare would be effectively dismantled and seniors given vouchers and told to buy their own insurance.
And which was that state that the 2000 Presidential contest hinged on? That would be Florida, home to, well, a lot of seniors, the kind of folks who are more likely to get out and vote come November. And for those not of A Certain Age, there is the question of how all the cuts to Federal and State programs result in more of those jobs. Ideological purity and ritual incantation might just not be enough.
So today, Barack Obama has something to smile about. There’s lovely for you, boyo.