Robert Kahne: Romney’s Best Possible Pick

I have to object pretty strongly to Jonathan’s first reason for liking the Paul Ryan pick–I believe the characterization of Paul Ryan as a policy wonk is an affront to policy wonks of all stripes.

As Mr. Allen very astutely characterized, Ryan is an ideologue–which is perfectly fine!  He is a politician, that is the best thing for an ideologue to be!  However, it frustrates me to no end when people say that Paul Ryan is driven by policy.  He is clearly not.

Like most other people, he is driven by a set of core beliefs in which he has faith.  They were also illuminated by Mr. Allen: tax cuts always stimulate, and government spending is fundamentally bad.

My biggest problem with Mr. Ryan is that he tries to use policy research and econometrics (my fields of study) to justify his beliefs.  Here is an example of what frustrates me: when I was getting my Masters degree in public policy, we had a class which was essentially about how to be a non-partisan research staffer for a legislative branch.  One of the lessons we had was about how to deal with policy makers who try to rig the rules of the game to get their research staffs to achieve the conclusions that they want, rather than conclusions that reflect reality.  The example for the class?  Paul Ryan.  (The issue at hand was his 2010 “Roadmap”, for which he asked the CBO to ignore all possible economic effects of his tax cuts, because, as Mr. Allen states above, he believes tax cuts to be stimulatory.)

To me, Paul Ryan is Sarah Palin with a better education.  His ideas are as conservative and (in my opinion) bad for the county, but he wraps them in fuzzy math to make them seem more palatable to the media adjudicators of our society–and is somewhat successful in doing that.
As somebody who spent a lot of time working hard to understand the economic effects of policy, nothing drives me more mad than seeing a trusted news person reading from a congressional white paper something that defies the basics of policy analysis.
Politically speaking, however, I think that the pick of Paul Ryan furthers my hypothesis that the 2012 election is exactly like the 2004 election–a prohibitive front runner during the challenging party’s primaries who the base really does not like running against a bunch of bad candidates who eventually and inevitably wins his party’s nomination to challenge a President with middling approval numbers but who is fiercely hated by the other party’s base, who chooses a running mate which his base absolutely adores but with whom the rest of the country is somewhat unimpressed.  I see the end stacking up a lot like 2004–a clear, but close, reelection of the sitting President.  (A fun game is trying to match up the primary candidates from 2004 with 2012–Gephardt-Gingrich, Cain-Dean, Bachmann-Mosely Braun, etc).
I think the pick was the best possible one Mitt Romney could have made.  But, as a Democrat, I don’t like him.


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