Recently the argument-du-jour made by programs like the Daily Show and Up with Chris Hayes, among others, has been that despite his tough talk Paul Ryan is not a fiscal conservative. The argument is pretty basic and since I’m sure most of you have seen it I’ll just hit a quick recap. Ryan voted for TARP, Medicare-D, the Bush Tax Cuts, the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts, and the Iraq Invasion. This information is then tied to a ballooning federal debt—rightfully so—and the point is made that Ryan is just another in a long line of Republicans who talk tough about fiscal responsibility but can’t seem to vote in line with their own rhetoric.
While this is absolutely true and illustrated by the fact that Ryan is despised among many true fiscal conservatives who consider him a sell-out it’s not the right way to come at the VP nominee.
I understand the allure of making the argument. It says, “Look, I know you guys like Paul Ryan because you think he’s a fiscal conservative but he’s really not so you shouldn’t like him.” But what is the expected result of such an argument?
To answer that question it should first be asked who this argument is directed toward. Ostensibly, it seems to be directed at those who find virtue in fiscal responsibility, and implicitly toward those who are not already solid Romney or Obama voters. So we’re talking about Independents; swing voters.
Why would we ever want to present this argument to a swing voter?
The implication of the Stewart/Hayes argument is that a fiscal conservative is somebody that a voter should want in office. It validates the notion that if Paul Ryan were a true fiscal conservative a voter would be correct in supporting him for office. With this as the debate’s premise, Romney and Ryan don’t need to show that they’re devout fiscal conservatives at all. They only have to show that they’re more fiscally conservative than Barack Obama. Maybe they can’t win the “Paul Ryan IS an Ayn Rand disciple through and through” debate but they can win the “Paul Ryan is more fiscally conservative than Barack Obama” debate. And the point is that that’s not the debate we want to have.
The debate shouldn’t be whether or not Ryan is a fiscal conservative; it should be whether or not the economic policy prescriptions of fiscal conservatives are what we need right now, or ever. It should be that in tough times the last thing we want to do is impose austerity measures on the American people. It should be that dismantling and diminishing social programs while people are suffering is evil. It should be that trickle-down economics has never worked. It should be that we haven’t forgotten that and we’re not dumb enough to fall for the same old rehashed repackaged tired argument again whether it’s called trickle-down or job-creator economics. It should be that deregulation brought this country to the brink of economic catastrophe. This should still be pretty fresh in everybody’s minds.
The combination of Ryan’s policy prescriptions and Romney’s insatiable greed and refusal to release his tax-returns crystallizes the point. All they want is all they’ve ever wanted. More money. And they don’t give a shit about you.
The upshot is this: Whether or not Ryan is a true-believer is wholly irrelevant because he’s dead wrong either way! It doesn't matter what Ryan thinks. It only matters that he's wrong.
By framing the debate as whether or not Ryan is actually a fiscal conservative Stewart and Hayes accept the premise that the same old Conservative economic policies are acceptable, if not desirable. They’re not. They’re dangerous and have screwed Americans time and time again.
Shift the debate.
I love you guys but you should really know better.
Edit #1: Let me say that the point of this diary is not to malign Stewart and Hayes. The point I'm trying to make is that the argument they put forward on their shows is not one that is advantageous to the Obama campaign. So anyone interested in seeing Obama re-elected might want to consider how effective running with the "Paul Ryan is not a real fiscal conservative" argument is before running with it.