The UK’s Guardian sports a typical “analysis” headline on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s selection of US Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate: “[F]irebrand from Wisconsin has built reputation on fiscal frugality.” Ryan, writes the Guardian‘s Paul Harris, is “determined to wield the axe on matters fiscal and slash American government in size.” Other media accounts note his affection for the work of Ayn Rand and jump to the conclusion that he’s some kind of “libertarian.”
These kinds of claims about Ryan should be seen as diagnostic tools. Electoral politics is congenitally afflicted with a dissociative disorder. Its participants, or at least its pundits, clearly lack the capacity to distinguish fantasy from reality.
Let’s take a quick look at Ryan’s “fiscal frugality” …
His successive budget proposals, issued under the title “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise,” would balance the federal budget — over a period of 30 years, during which the US government would rack up an additional $13 trillion in debt.
Yes, that’s right: The whining of what passes for the “left” in American electoral politics these days notwithstanding, Ryan’s “fiscal frugality” consists of government continuing to spend more than it takes in for THREE MORE DECADES. By which time, of course, the corollary promises of a “balanced budget” will have all been thrown overboard.
No, this is not fuzzy math, or anomalous behavior on Ryan’s part. He voted for the TARP bailout. He voted for the auto manufacturer bailout. He voted for the “stimulus.” He voted for Medicare Part D, the largest “entitlement” expansion since the days of LBJ’s “Great Society.” He’s never met a corporate welfare … er, “defense” … budget expansion he didn’t like.
If Paul Ryan is “fiscally frugal,” I’m the Queen of England.
Nor is he anything resembling a “libertarian,” even in the Bizarro World vocabulary of “minarchism” or “limited government.” During his tenure in Congress he has supported warrantless wiretaps, making the USA PATRIOT ACT permanent and federalizing drivers’ licenses and other forms of government-issued identification papers. He’s opposed following the US Constitution with respect to habeas corpus and speedy public trials for the hundreds of abducted individuals held illegally at Guantanamo Bay.
And, indicating his own individual case of dissociative disorder, he claims that the US is “a nation at war,” even though he presumably knows that at no time since his election in 1998 has the US House of Representatives voted to declare war, and even though he has personally voted for resolutions such as the “Authorization to Use Force” in Iraq, which clearly label themselves as not being declarations of war.
If Paul Ryan is a “libertarian,” so was Leonid Brezhnev.
But, please, don’t let your takeaway from these truths be that you should vote for Obama/Biden (or Johnson/Gray, or Stein/Honkala, or Goode/Clymer, et. al) in preference to Romney/Ryan this November. That’s not the point at all.
The point is that you’re never going to get “fiscal frugality,” or “civil liberties,” or even baseline moral human behavior, from electoral politics. Politicians do not shape the state. They serve it, and their perceptions of reality are distorted by it. Your choice is to see clearly, or to join them in delusion.