by Michael Tomasky
If I were writing a political novel about a presidential campaign, I would never dare have the government-hating, free-market, Rand-adulating vice presidential candidate of the right-wing party have inherited his fortune from a grandfather who made his money from government contracts. It’s too obvious, too pat. A fiction editor would say, “Come on, Tomasky, this is just too heavy-handed.”
Especially if the same candidate and his running mate were attacking the other guy with a lie that specifically distorted what he’d said about, of all things, roads and bridges! (“You didn’t build that.”) Grandpappy Ryan did exactly what Obama says other people did to help small businesses thrive. He built the roads. And he was paid to do so by government contracts. Forget fiction. That’s even too pat for Hollywood.
Ryan tries to address this by saying there’s no contradiction between the source of his wealth and his views because of course he’s not anti-government, that’s a caricature of his views, etc etc. This is absurd. No one who got into politics because of some arrested-development reaction to reading Ayn Rand is pro-government. He can talk pretty to Ryan Lizza, knowing that he’s talking to New Yorker readers, and try to pass himself off as nuanced, but there’s nothing nuanced about the numbers.
Back in 2001, Paul O’Neill wrote some talking points as debate prep for Dubya. As Jon Chait wrote (http://www.democracyjournal.org/20/the-triumph-of-taxophobia.php?page=all) in my journal, Democracy, of those talking points:
One frankly conceded, “The public prefers spending on things like health care and education over cutting taxes. It’s crucial that your remarks make clear that there is no trade-off here.”
Put more bluntly, what O’Neill was saying here is: You have to lie. By definition, you have to lie. You can’t tell people that tax-cutting will result in less money for these programs, which is the truth, so you/we Republicans have to invent a fiction of no trade-offs, of a free market that can deliver everything. What Bush delivered to us was essentially no net job growth in eight years and the worst crisis in 80.
So the Ryan-Romney ticket, as it should properly be called, has to say things like “we want government to do the things it does well.” Romney has to say things like he said on TV this morning, “No one is talking about deregulating Wall Street,” when in fact he is talking about exactly that. Because they can’t tell the truth and hope to get elected.
“What we’re going to do here is make sure society’s very richest people have a lot more money. Our theory is they will spend it and that will help the whole economy. History hasn’t been kind to this idea, but it’s our theory and we’re sticking to it. These are the people who pay us to run, after all. Besides which, we really don’t like poor people; we think at bottom that it’s their fault they’re poor, so it doesn’t really matter to us whether anything trickles down to them.” That’s the truth. How would that sell?