Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney/Ryan 2012?

By now most of you have heard that Mitt Romney has picked Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate. This will be one of those very rare times where I delve into a purely political issue that is utterly unrelated to economics, but it seems important enough to warrant a post. I've already torn into Ryan's budget plan and health care plan before, so I won't waste any more breath on that sort of thing. Romney's VP pick is interesting to me for a few reasons.

The first reason is that Mitt Romney's strategy has been to be as vague as possible about his policy proposals. Now, I know what you're all probably saying, "He's just a politician, all politicians are vague about promises and proposals!" Well, yes, I guess that's true. But the vagueness of the Romney campaign's policy proposals has transcended traditional political bounds. They're more like the suggestion of policies than actual, detailed proposals. Romney picking Ryan as his VP puts him in a bit of a bind, though. As much as he may or may not want to admit it, Paul Ryan has policy proposals. They may not add up when all is said and done, but they have more in the way of detail than anything Romney has proposed thus far in the campaign. And now, for better or for worse, Romney is now inextricably linked to Paul Ryan's past policy proposals. To name a few examples:

  • Ryan's budget plan.
  • Ryan was one of the main driving forces behind the 2005 Bush Administration attempt to privatize Social Security. You know, the one that was scrapped because even the Bush Administration thought it was too aggressive?
The other reason this is such an interesting, if risky pick for Romney is that Paul Ryan has spent his entire life in politics. On its own, this fact would be basically irrelevant. But Governor Romney has based much of his campaign on the fact that he is a talented businessman and that Barack Obama has not spent a "single day in the private sector." It runs somewhat counter to his message, then, to appoint a man who has likewise not spent a single day in the private sector to be his Vice President. This probably won't be a major issue for Romney, but still, something to mull over.

Above all, I think this pick represents a very risky move by the Romney campaign. I can only speculate as to why they made this choice, but I'm almost certain that the main dynamic of the campaign will change from being about economic growth to one about debt and entitlement reform. David Frum is too right when he says that the Romney campaign will now have to explain why restraining cost growth in Medicare after 2023 will create spectacular economic growth in 2013.

I, for one, am skeptical.