The Reality That Could Be Romney-Ryan

by George Kennedy on September 4, 2012

The Reality That Could Be Romney-Ryan

A Romney-Ryan presidency would likely rule over us but not be of us.  Revisit some of the policy prescriptions Romney took during the Republican presidential primaries – and that he and Paul Ryan continue to take.  Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman notes their policy proposals are neither honest nor responsible.   Romney and Ryan, however, remain in league with the most extreme elements of their base.  This team would rule out of contempt for us, not the noblesse they would have us believe.

If you believe you are who you associate with, that would be no less true of Romney-Ryan.  The middle class and the growing permanent underclass in this country do not populate the lives of either Romney or Ryan – except in their campaign rhetoric.  So the question is, “By what standard would they judge and measure our concerns over inequality and the wealth gap, for example? “   How would they evaluate the aspirations of at least two generations of Americans under the age of 55?

The standard of measurement most frequently cited by both Romney and Ryan is smaller government and yet-to-be-determined opportunities in the private sector.  Solutions to the average citizen’s concerns, say Romney-Ryan, are to be found in the magic of the private sector.  This is an important point because this election is largely about the role of government in American life.  Government cannot be excised from the lives of tens of millions of Americans because Romney and Ryan will that to be the case.

We can expect smaller government within the $400 billion dollar domestic discretionary budget (what’s left of the federal budget after defense, Social Security, health and safety net spending, and interest on the national debt).  Conversely, we can expect more favorable expansive government for the wealthy, the giant Wall Street banks, select corporate entities, and unlimited defense spending.  The “defense” budget is roughly $775 billion and, under Romney-Ryan, could go even higher.

Domestic spending administered by the federal government most likely would be privatized e.g., Medicaid, public funding for education, the student loan program, and Medicare.

It is fair to say both Romney and Ryan, bolstered by allies in Congress, Big Pharma, and the insurance and healthcare industries, would push to repeal the health care law for the 33rd or 34th time despite the recent Supreme Court ruling.  Furthermore, they would move to replace the Medicaid program with block grants to the states.  Eligibility rules would be established by individual states thus releasing millions of elderly, the poor, and children to the vagaries of state and local politics.  Moreover, cuts in support to health care providers would be restored while increasing the per capital cost of health care.

The student loan program would again be administered by private banks with their emphasis on profits and no risks i.e., guaranteed government support in the event of student default.

The current House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has already advocated offsets in domestic spending to support disaster relief efforts as they become necessary.  A Romney administration might not achieve total success in pursuing their right-wing agenda but, the impetus to do so would be strong and the quality of life for millions would hang in the balance pending outcomes on each domestic program subject to the budget knife.

Job creation.  This is a big one.  Romney and Ryan hammered the President over the number of unemployed (23 million).  Fair enough.  They conveniently failed to mention his positive record of 29 straight months of job growth and private sector jobs and over 4.2 million jobs created since 2009.  Romney promised to create 12 million new jobs within his term(s) as president.  We have yet to hear his plan to do so other than through the “trickle down” policies tried under the last three Republican presidents that produced job deficits.

The billionaires that financed the hundreds of millions of dollars in attack ads against President Obama expect a return on their investment:  a favorable regulatory environment, emasculated regulatory agencies, lower corporate and business tax rates, permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts, and a serious effort to complete the privatization of key domestic federal programs.  The lure of new sources of profit is intoxicating.

The assault on public sector unions and collective bargaining rights will continue.  Manufacturing wages will remain low – or at least half their previous averages.  Most ominously, Republican governors will bray loudly and incessantly regarding the need to strengthen states’ rights against the over-reach of federal intrusion.  Millions of Americans will be denied the right to vote, or find it practically impossible to meet new standards of identification.

Expect Wall Street to be given a continued pass.  The “defense” establishment will flourish; the tax burden on the middle class will increase, and the quality of life for the average American will decline.  The growing gap between wealthy Americans and everyone else will widen thus further weakening an already weak economy.

There is the likelihood the war in Afghanistan will be extended beyond 2014 and we may be in conflict elsewhere in the Middle East.

Romney presses the argument that he is more qualified to lead the nation out of its economic doldrums because he is a “business guy.”  That is questionable but millions of voters agree with him.

Thus far, he has failed to articulate a compelling vision for his presidency beyond “he is not the other guy.”  He refuses to lay out a plan for his presidency.

What Romney will learn should he become president is likely quite different than the reality he imagines: governing at the federal level requires a level of tolerance for ambiguity most business executives would find intolerable.  Decision-making can be messy because as Virginia Sen. Mark Warner reminds us, “Congress, the public, the press, advocacy organizations, and political parties” are stakeholders in government and not given to White House control.  The precision in decision-making and the ability to predict outcomes common to business executives fall victim to inevitable caution as all presidents learn.

Romney appears to have predictable ideas regarding what is right and should therefore happen.  Should his agenda mesh with his political base and his private sector pals, a dialogue will advance.  The wild cards are the public (the half that did not vote for him), the press, advocacy organizations, and the loyal Democratic opposition.

Romney will learn that powerful opposition can stretch timelines, affect budget projections, and compel politically unpalatable compromises.

It is fairly certain that Romney and Ryan will attempt to pursue a corporate-friendly agenda, perhaps more radical than that of Bush-Cheney and Reagan-Bush.  Concurrently, those policies that further privatize American society while shifting an even larger share of our national wealth to his corporate allies, will also widen the economic and social divide in this country.

To rule is to issue an edict.  To govern may be more complex than Romney would have his supporters believe.

George Kennedy

George Kennedy is a retired senior Foreign Service officer with extensive international experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon and two graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kennedy was a political advisor to state and federal officials and has authored strategy pieces for Members of Congress and presidential candidates. He serves on the Advisory Board for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona.

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