It’s the budget, not the economy, stupid

By Rob Cox
August 11, 2012

By Rob Cox 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s the budget, not the economy, stupid. That variation of the 1992 slogan that propelled Bill Clinton into the Oval Office may now apply to Mitt Romney’s candidacy. The Republican presidential wannabe’s choice of conservative House budget chief Paul Ryan as his running mate has the power to transform a heretofore mealy campaign into something substantive: a referendum on fixing the American balance sheet.

It’s pathetic that it has taken the nomination of a 42-year-old Wisconsinite from Congress to give Romney’s candidacy much appeal, even to his base, beyond the simple fact that he is not Barack Obama. But at a time when debt crises threaten the sovereignty of developed nations and the U.S. fiscal picture is about as bleak as it has been has outside of wartime, righting the country’s finances is the stuff of long-term legacy creation.

Despite his relative youth, Ryan has spent 13 years in the House, neutralizing arguments that he’s unprepared for the post. Though that includes the Bush era, when Congress was at its most profligate, Ryan has since distinguished himself as a proponent of fiscal probity. His recent counter-proposal to the White House’s budget was a serious attempt to propose constructive fixes to vexing long-term economic problems.

Elements of Ryan’s plan, particularly deep cuts to entitlement and Medicare spending, offer the Democrats a distinct target. But that’s a necessary debate for the country to engage in. For Romney, too, it’s a better issue to campaign on than a half-hearted defense of the GOP’s more recent obstructive record in Congress.

Moreover, whatever either candidate says on the stump, tangling with America’s finances will be the chief legislative task of the new president. Congress will not find a solution to the so-called “fiscal cliff” of some $450 billion of tax increases and $1.2 trillion of spending cuts that take effect from 2013. In all likelihood, a lame-duck legislature will extend the implementation of these into the first half.

That requires a leader capable of shaping a grand compromise to knotty fiscal predicaments, one that takes a European-style crisis off the table. It is going to require shared sacrifice, including meaningful spending cuts and a fairer tax code. Done right, a long-term budget deal creates confidence, lifts economic growth and puts the unemployed back to work. Ryan may not have all the right answers, but his arrival on Romney’s ticket at last begs the question.


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Simpson bowles is a much better alternative, or better yet a single payer healthcare system.

Posted by fromthecenter | Report as abusive

Isn’t it interesting that “tax cuts” do not apply to the 42% of Federal tax revenue from Social Security and Medicare taxes, paid almost entirely by American laborers, not investors, earning under about $105,000? That is Republicanism, in a nutshell.

Why don’t they just gas unemployed males and be done with the problem of “lazy” “poor” “uneducated” men who will not “find a job”? It would be kinder. We treat stray dogs better.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive

No, it’s the lack of revenues stupids…..

Posted by sylvan | Report as abusive

If you really want to get down to our national budget just look into what no President, Congressman or media person will investigate and come forward to the public with not even the late night comedians.The TOTAL expenditures to maintain our military presence outside the US Continental Borders,an amount which would dwarf the medicare and social security benefits. We are led to believe we are threatened by some outside military power WHO??. It is just an excuse to collect Federal Income Tax. When the middle class is gone its to late to to think about military spending!

Posted by lawbider | Report as abusive

1. Paul Ryan authored budget proposals that would end Medicare as we know it.

2. Paul Ryan’s budget plan would have cut SNAP grants by 18%. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) grants, also known as food stamps, has kept 3.9 million Americans (equivalent to the entire population of Oregon), including 1.7 million children, out of poverty, and allowed them to keep their families from going hungry. This plan also would have drastically cut jobs, leaving 174,000 people out of work.

3. Paul Ryan is bad for women. He voted for a bill that would have effectively banned abortion coverage by insurers who received federal or taxpayer funding.

4. Paul Ryan is extremely anti-choice. “The misnamed Protect Life Act is about allowing women to die if they need an emergency abortion,” said Meghan Rhoad, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is a vicious attack on women’s rights and on the most basic right to life.’”

5. Paul Ryan wants to defund Planned Parenthood. This ideological attack would only result in more women losing access to necessary and basic health care. One in five American women have used Planned Parenthood health services.

Paul Ryan has a long history of voting against affordable health care and women’s health.

His legislative priorities leave millions of people at risk of losing their health care and in medical and financial danger.

Combined with Mitt Romney’s bad policies, it’s clear: the Romney/Ryan ticket is bad for women and families.

Posted by JusticeNow4U | Report as abusive

The tough choices that Rombot/R-Ayn say they will not be afraid to make are choices they are afraid to tell. They both want to severely cut discretionary spending and tax deductions. They both won’t say how, just trust them. As Reagan once said “Trust but verify.” The Romney ticket has asked for our trust, we ask them to verify that trust. They have run as the stealth ticket. Anyone can say the other side sucks, both sides do. One side outlines what it will do, the other side says giving to the rich, trickle down, no regulation will work this time. After the S&L crash, the 90-91 recession, the great recession that lost 8 million jobs in a year, put 20% of all mortgages underwater, this American does not trust nor support the Romney ticket.

Posted by JamesChirico | Report as abusive

experience & competence vs 4 years of failure, incompetence and no experience as well as no leadership – wait, I have to think about it for a while…Really? 4 years later 14 million people are still unemployed, more mega-corps are laying off thousands daily, the economy is borderline double dip recession because of the “give away free money” policies of Mr Welfare state Obama who has proudly put millions of middle class Americans on food stamps – that’s his legacy – food stamps and anyone wants 4 more years of food stamps? Really?

Posted by justinolcb | Report as abusive

How can you have a meaningful discussion when Romney and Ryan won’t tell you anything specific about their budget proposals? They will cut but refuse to say what will they cut? They won’t answer. They talk in generalities so their proposals cannot be subjected to criticism. In short their talk is all fluff and smoke and meaningless.

Posted by Chris08 | Report as abusive

@ justinolcb

Can you back up your comment with any factual and reliable sources to lend any credibility to what you are saying?

Posted by BuffaloGirl | Report as abusive

I went searching for specifics on how Romney/Ryan would “save” the economy. I couldn’t find any meaningful numbers or research reports stating how Romney/Ryan would accomplish any of the things they have stated. There needs to be a debate, but for a debate to occur both sides need to offer concrete numbers and clear bullet points of action rather than just saying that they (Romney/Ryan) will fix things when in office.

Posted by ProfMagyar | Report as abusive

All President Romney needs to do in order to turn around the U.S. economy is to propose the exact opposite of what the Obama team has afflicted us with over the past four years.

See folks? It’s not at all difficult to be a president that’s superior to Obama. In fact, even Nikacat could do better. Write in “Nikacat” next time you vote. You don’t know how many worthless bureaucratic heads can roll until you’ve seen a nikacat in action.

Posted by nikacat | Report as abusive