Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., it turns out, is not just another pretty face. At least, that's what he says.
Yes, this seemed extremely obvious, but given the historic tradition of a presidential candidate choosing a running mate who balances a ticket more than one who gives it focus, it still had to be asked. Who would be in charge of budget decisions, if Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan, his vice presidential sidekick, make it to the White House?
Ryan's claim to fame in Washington -- his most prominent contribution as a thorn in President Barack Obama's side -- is his deficit reduction-centered budget plan and Romney's reputation as a chameleon certainly makes it probable that Romney would allow Ryan -- considered a wonky politician -- to do the actual heavy lifting. But, again, it was a serious point for him to say clearly in a recent interview that his potential new boss would, in fact, hand Ryan the reins to the budget details if Republicans were victorious in November.
But many are worried. In principle growth could cover a lot of underhanded deal-making -- giving away hard-won environmental victories or selling out Medicaid recipients, for example. Despite that, however, the Romney/Ryan ticket is all about growth and nothing else. If it backfires, this is the worst political plan since, well, since George W. Bush was in charge.
The Republican game plan relies on a magical promise that lowering the tax rate will increase tax revenue because businesses and individuals will respond by expanding.
Of course, a promise to lower taxes is like playing an advertisement for sugar-coated cereal in a kindergarten cafeteria. No matter what the voters feel about abortion rights, same-sex marriage and those other issues quickly fading in importance -- war and peace, for example -- it is hard not to be at least a little suspicious of a politician who says, "Vote for me and I'll lower your tax bill."
Romney and Ryan have placed the national deficit at the forefront of their economic strategy and made it clear they have a strong preference to avoid the details. You don't negotiate details of a budget plan before an election, Ryan said recently. Well, of course, you don't. How silly it is for voters to ask for details before they vote. Pardon us for asking.
The details that are known include reducing individual tax rates by 20 percent and lowering business tax rates by 10 percentage points. To make the tax code fair, Romney and Ryan would close loopholes but do not even claim they will shut down enough exceptions to make the changes budget-neutral.
They are relying entirely on growth and they are right. If Republicans win Nov. 6, that $16 trillion deficit will become a thing of the past faster than you can swing a cat in a circle. The trouble is, which way it goes is still unknown.
Businesses owners say consistently the reason they do not hire is there are too few customers to justify expansion. They say there are too many regulations to make a profit. They say taxes are too high in general. But they do not point to regulations and taxes as the difference between stagnation and expansion. It is customers who grow businesses, not regulations or taxes.
Here's one of the problems: Consumer spending already makes up 70 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. If the Romney/Ryan plan increases that, then it is a very, very good plan -- for China. It is still a question if it is or isn't good for the United States.
In international markets Monday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan rose 0.51 percent while the Shanghai composite index in China fell 0.3 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was flat, up 0.06 percent, while the Sensex in India added 0.21 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia was flat, falling 0.07 percent.
In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain added 0.42 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany gained 0.69 percent. The CAC 40 in France climbed 1.17 percent while the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.63 percent.
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