Mitt Romney defined and took command of the 2012 presidential election by selecting Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.
The November election will focus like a laser on Barack Obama’s accumulation of 5 trillion dollars of debt, his massive “stimulus” spending, the 20 tax increases to pay for his budget-breaking new entitlement program, Obamacare’s growing costs, and the unemployment and slow growth that Mr. Obama’s failed economic policies have wrought.
Adding Paul Ryan to the ticket highlights all the painful failures of the Obama administration and adds one final rebuke: The Republicans have a real plan — a written plan — to reform entitlement spending, reform all welfare programs and enact a Ronald Reagan-style tax reform that lowers tax rates for all Americans.
Four years ago, voters tired of two seemingly endless wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac collapse. Independents who had voted 60/40 for Bush switched to voting 60/40 for Obama, who rather vaguely promised “hope” and “change.” Neither “hope” nor “change” was fleshed out. The Democratic Party’s plans were deliberately occult.
The economic recovery that technically began in July 2009 is the weakest recovery in 70 years. Had the economy recovered at the rate it did when Reagan was turning around an economy wracked by 10.8 percent unemployment as well as inflation of more than 10 percent and interest rates hitting 20 percent, there would today be more than 7 million more Americans at work and the economy would be roughly 10 percent larger.
Mr. Obama’s Chicago boys are bravely claiming to be delighted to run against Paul Ryan because he has written down a pathway to tax reform, limited spending and an end to new debt. This plagiarizes the crowing in 1980 when Democrats went on TV to explain how pleased the Republicans had chosen their weakest candidate — Ronald Wilson Reagan — and his Kemp-Roth tax cut.
In 2000 and 2004 Democrats said they would destroy George W. Bush because he campaigned on a promise to reform Social Security such that Americans older than 55 could stay with the traditional system and that younger Americans would have the choice of moving to personal accounts such as an IRA or 401(k) in which they controlled their own investments for retirement.
The Democrats bet wrong. For decades Democrats were able to attack Republicans claiming they wanted to end or cut Social Security. But when Mr. Bush actually had a written plan that protected older voters who had trusted the government’s promises and also gave younger Americans an opportunity to have more choice and control over their retirement, the Social Security issue was for the first time a winner for Republicans. Older voters knew they had nothing to fear and younger voters wanted more control over their lives.
The Democratic Party was always going to claim the Republicans wanted to “gut,” “slash,” “eliminate” Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Now Democrats are faced with a written-down program that does none of those things. Mr. Obama has no plan other than to continue to spend and spend and raise taxes to pay for an unreformed and unsustainable entitlement train wreck.
Paul Ryan’s candidacy shouts out, “Where is your written plan, Mr. Obama? You have had four years. You had complete control of Congress for two years and did not reform taxes or entitlements or control spending. In fact, Mr. Obama, you did the opposite when you had power. Why would we give you power again knowing you will continue digging us deeper into debt?”
For three years, the Democrat-controlled Senate has not even written or passed a budget. It knows how unpopular their plans are. Even the establishment press will have to ask the Democrats for their written-down plan to balance the budget and reform entitlements. The Democrats have no plan. Mr. Ryan on the ticket calls out the emperor with no clothes. Without Mr. Ryan on the ticket, CBS could have spent months failing to ask Mr. Obama for his written plan. That is not possible now.
Mr. Ryan has also demonstrated a central strength required of any reformer who wishes to scrape off the accumulated barnacles of duplicative government programs and spending: He can say no to establishment Washington. Mr. Ryan was the lead Republican from the House in Mr. Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission. The commission proposed raising taxes from its historical rate of 18.5 percent of the economy to 21 percent of the economy. The government would take 2.5 percent more of the economy each year. Over the next 10 years, that 2.5 percent is a $5 trillion tax hike. Those real tax hikes would be traded for promises of spending cuts.
Mr. Ryan said no. He learned from the 1982 and 1990 budget deals that promised spending reduction in return for real, permanent tax hikes. The tax hikes were real. Spending increased rather than decreased. Paul Ryan learned from history and walked away from false promises with the complaints of the entire Washington establishment sounding in his ears. The scene was a repeat of Reagan’s courage and foresight at Reykjavik, Iceland, walking away from a bad treaty with a collapsing Soviet Union.
Mr. Ryan dramatizes how the Obama Democratic Party has careened to the left from even the traditionally liberal Clinton administration. A central reform in the Ryan budget is to block-grant means-tested welfare problems such as Medicaid, food stamps and housing subsidies. This is precisely what Mr. Clinton signed in 1996 — his one success in reforming government. The hard left said this would hurt the poor. Instead, states, freed of much federal red tape, were able to focus on helping the truly needy while freeing millions from welfare dependency. All attacks on Mr. Ryan show that Mr. Obama and the modern Democratic Party have moved miles to the left of even Bill Clinton and learned nothing from being wrong then.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and co-author of “Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future” (Wiley, 2012).