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What Romney Thinks Matters

…our problem is strong growth!?…
Mitt Romney’s choice of a vice presidential is puzzling. As I see it, Paul Ryan’s primary strength is that he shares a name with Rand Paul. Ryan has never worked outside the Beltway; he’s a pure Beltway insider. Obama at least worked before running for office, as a professor, as a lawyer and as a community activist. (Anyway who thinks Obama is a liberal needs to check where he taught, too — not too many years ago the Republican Party might have thought he was a little too conservative for them!)
Back to Ryan. I looked at junior’s budget proposal months back, and it didn’t make dollars and cents — the arithmetic simply didn’t add up. He wanted to reduce the Federal government to 3.75% or less of the economy. But he also promised not to touch the military — and the Department of Defense and related expenditures are a full 4.0% of our economy. And that’s just for starters. I didn’t see any point in spending more time on his proposal, but suppose I’ll now be forced to read through it carefully. Not today.
In any case, Romney’s choice does deliver a clear message, that he views our primary problem as economic growth so strong that it is driving wages up — because if interest rates are zero, government debt costs our society nothing. As a Wall Street insider, Romney can’t claim not to know that. Now wages are our economy’s biggest cost. If they aren’t rising, we can’t have inflation. Food prices go up and down; so do energy costs. But both are modest slices. Ours is a service economy; what matters are not things solid and liquid, but how much it costs to pay someone to cook us a meal, or change a bandage, or set up an IT system.
So Romney must believe that unemployment is not a problem. Too much employment is the problem — despite the 8.3% headline.
He’s out of touch with the world in which I live, with a recent college grad at home, still unemployed. And hasn’t Romney read the latest inflation reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? — April, 0.0%; May, -0.3%; June, 0.0%. The average is deflation. For those of you who believe in conspiracies behind every door (and the doors at the BLS are kept locked VERY tight prior to announcements, listen to the August 3rd 2012 Planet Money podcast Keeping the Biggest Secret in the US Economy), well, the Billion Price Project that relies solely on private sector data tells a similar story: there are simply no signs of inflation.
Will Ryan help Romney pull in votes? I’m not a political scientist, and know neither whether Wisconsin is a close race nor whether Ryan is respected there. All I know is that his state is not on the “swing” lists I’ve seen. Otherwise, unless a VEEP embarrasses the main candidate — I used to live in Ferraro’s home district, and so know up close that some picks are underwhelming — the apparent reaction of voters is “who cares?” Still, a junior House member doesn’t seem an impressive pick.
Does Ryan appeal to swing voters — well, I think not. I used to dance from party to party, but for a couple decades have lived in a Congressional district where elections haven’t been contested, so I don’t know whether I can still swing. (My blue suede shoes are Galabrier “Royal Robbins” rock climbing boots from the 1970s, so no, I can’t dance.) Still, my gut feeling is that Ryan has no appeal even among moderate Republicans.
I’d like an alternative to Obama. But It doesn’t look like the Republicans are providing one this time around.
Mike Smitka
CORRECTION: I do not follow who is whom among politicians, current and would-be. In the process I confused Paul Ryan with Ron Paul Jr (and hence Ron Paul Sr). In the first version of this page I mistakenly wrote that Ryan’s strength was his father’s name recognition. That is wrong; Paul Ryan’s father died while he was a teenager.