Ronald Reagan famously challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” Mitt Romney has just challenged President Obama to “Show us your plan!” Mr. Obama has painted this presidential election as a stark choice; in choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, GOP contender Mitt Romney has answered in kind. While Reagan pushed Gorbachev to free his country, Romney will now push Mr. Obama to address our nation’s fiscal abscess -- something the president has resolutely refused to do.
Paul Ryan is the nation’s premier budget wonk; he understands better than anyone that the looming fiscal cliff is nothing compared to the chasm that lies further down the road. He has studied the future, and he has a plan. Nothing could be more important. Without a clear program for reducing our deficits, our social safety net will unravel and our investments in our future – in schools, in infrastructure, in defense -- will wither.
President Obama has yet to present the country with any plan to resolve our fiscal crisis; his budgets have been scorned even by his own party, he ignored his own Simpson-Bowles debt reduction commission and he continues to enact programs destined to buy votes and sink our fiscal ship. His inattention to this challenge is indefensible.
Facing Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan on a GOP ticket that is now energized to make financial stewardship the core of this campaign, Mr. Obaama will have to defend his negligence.
No one has better articulated the threat posed by our soaring debts and deficits, or more boldly prescribed remedies, than Mr. Ryan. He has been pilloried by the left for proposing realistic changes that might actually save Medicare and Social Security – programs now expected to go bankrupt by 2024 and 2033, respectfully. The latest report from the Trustees of Medicare conclude that “the fund is not adequately financed over the next 10 years”, even assuming that Congress follows through on all the gimmicks (such as the so-called “doc fix”) that purport to prop up the program.
Rather than lay out solutions to intractable problems such as the aging of the country, the left has simply scorned those who do, like Mr. Ryan. Last year one left-wing group infamously ran an ad depicting a Ryan look-alike pushing Granny off a cliff in her wheel chair. Such cynicism is loathsome, but powerful.
The good news is that, as House Budget Committee Chairman, Ryan has done his homework. In a closed-door White House session about a year ago, Ryan respectfully criticized the president and his fellow Democrats for “demagoging” and misrepresenting his suggestions on how to save Medicare. The president responded, according to people who were there, that he didn’t doubt Mr. Ryan’s sincerity in trying to fix Medicare; he also acknowledged that solutions were tough because the public does not want any changes to the program. Ryan, at least, has the guts to try.
The choice of Paul Ryan is a bold move for Mr. Romney, whose campaign has bordered on bland. The more obvious choices – former Minnesota Governor and Tea Party favorite Pawlenty, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, would all have been excellent choices and brought electoral advantages. The selection of Mr. Ryan sends a very different message – that Romney is focused on solving the nation’s financial crisis. With his background in finance and his stint as governor, Mr. Romney brings credible credentials to this task. With the choice of Mr. Ryan, he now brings determination.