It’s a good thing Romney’s running mate pick isn’t black.

I’ve read Paul Ryan described as “articulate”, that verboten appellation for intelligent black men, twice today.  Here’s David Stockman, writing in the New York Times:

PAUL D. RYAN is the most articulate and intellectually imposing Republican of the moment, but that doesn’t alter the fact that this earnest congressman from Wisconsin is preaching the same empty conservative sermon.

Thirty years of Republican apostasy — a once grand party’s embrace of the welfare state, the warfare state and the Wall Street-coddling bailout state — have crippled the engines of capitalism and buried us in debt. Mr. Ryan’s sonorous campaign rhetoric about shrinking Big Government and giving tax cuts to “job creators” (read: the top 2 percent) will do nothing to reverse the nation’s economic decline and arrest its fiscal collapse.

Mr. Ryan professes to be a defense hawk, though the true conservatives of modern times — Calvin Coolidge, Herbert C. Hoover, Robert A. Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, even Gerald R. Ford — would have had no use for the neoconconservative imperialism that the G.O.P. cobbled from policy salons run by Irving Kristol’s ex-Trotskyites three decades ago. These doctrines now saddle our bankrupt nation with a roughly $775 billion “defense” budget in a world where we have no advanced industrial state enemies and have been fired (appropriately) as the global policeman.

Wow.  I think maybe David Stockman should get the Honorary Curmudgeon of the Day Award.  Of course, he’s correct that nothing of Ryan’s cerebral proposals have any chance of reversing economic decline and arresting fiscal collapse.  The only thing will reverse economic decline is economic decline; the only thing will arrest fiscal collapse is fiscal collapse.   Extend and pretend will go on so long as it can, and then it won’t.  And then pain will set in.  Pain delayed is never pain denied. 

Then there’s Caroline Baum, my favorite of Bloomberg’s economic writers:

     Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” for which he was largely
responsible as chairman of the House Budget Committee, would
offer senior citizens a choice when they become eligible for
Medicare, starting in 2023: remain in the current program or
receive premium support and choose a private insurance plan.
Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, teamed with Ryan to re-
draft the Medicare proposal earlier this year.
     Experts can have a legitimate argument on whether health
care lends itself to competition or is fundamentally different,
with the fixed costs for hospitals and equipment overwhelming
any marginal savings from competition. But doing nothing isn’t
an option. If the articulate Ryan can drive that point home, he
will have advanced the debate.

                         Starting Point

     Ryan’s budget may not suit everyone, but it’s a starting
point. It calls for lowering tax rates — creating two flat
income tax brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent and reducing
the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent — and
eliminating loopholes. Almost everyone talks about lowering the rates and broadening the base; almost no one gets specific about the details.

Give Ryan a gold star for his efforts, sort of like all the kids get trophies for participation in sports these days, because he had the temerity to get specific about the details in his mythological budget.   But really, if nothing of what he proposes is remotely feasible politically, then why even bother entertaining it?  Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” is nothing more than an abstract treatise, something akin to what might have been dreamt up by do-gooder sophomores in a dorm room pondering the perplexities of world peace.

Next is E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, who magnanimously concedes Ryan’s charming and engaging personality, but darn it, doesn’t complete the trifecta by also referring to him specifically as articulate: 

How can Ryan justify his Medicaid cuts when, as the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found, they would likely leave 14 million to 19 million poor people without health coverage? How can he justify tax proposals that, as The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis pointed out, would reduce the rate on Mitt Romney’s rather substantial income to less than 1 percent? How can he claim his budgets are anti-deficit measures when, as The Post’s Matt Miller has noted, his tax cuts would add trillions to the debt and we wouldn’t be in balance until somewhere around 2030?

For Ryan, such questions (and many others arise) are beside the point because his purposes are so much grander. “Only by taking responsibility for oneself, to the greatest extent possible, can one ever be free,” he wrote in the introduction to his “A Roadmap for America’s Future” in 2010, “and only a free person can make responsible choices — between right and wrong, saving and spending, giving or taking.”

***

None of this takes away from Ryan’s charm or seriousness. My one extended experience with him came seven years ago, when I moderated a thoughtful and exceptionally civil discussion about politics between Ryan and his liberal Wisconsin colleague Tammy Baldwin. Both were impressive, and the encounter brought home to me why Ryan is personally popular. He is great to engage with and really believes what he says.

I suppose we’ll just have to go with “charm” and “seriousness”.  Though not as egregiously indicative of latent racism as is “articulate” when describing a black man, surely it shows the bigotry of low expectations Mr. Dionne has for Republicans in general.  Aren’t they generally just a bunch of frivolous assholes?  What does it mean that someone is “great to engage with”?  Does it mean Ryan is genial?  Is Ryan running for Ms. Congeniality, or as Mitt Romney’s potential Vice-President?  But really, who cares what the Vice-President thinks?  The office of Vice-President has been famously likened to a bucket of warm spit (and that was when there actually were buckets of warm spit, i.e., spittoons, in the halls of Congress).  

You will hear it over and over again from the self-serving political punditry that this is the most important election since…..1960 or 1980 or whenever.  Don’t believe it, it’s not.  David Stockman has things about right.  The Republicans are no more capable of returning the US to prosperity than are the Democrats.  The Democrats are no more capable of balancing the budget than are the Republicans.  The President, absent some existential crisis affording him imperial powers, is no more capable of reversing the nation’s economic decline and arresting its fiscal collapse as is the Congress or the Judiciary (and even were the President afforded imperial powers, it’s still not a given he would succeed at either task, considering the underlying demographics working against him).

The presidential race boils down to this—do the existing thugs running the country deserve to be allowed to pillage and plunder its resources for another four years, or, in the interest of fairness, should a different group of thugs be allowed to do so?  Sometimes it’s good to change thugs just because it tends to mitigate the accretion of power.  But sometimes it’s better to just let the existing thugs carry on for so long as they can, on a “better the devil you know than the one you don’t” sort of premise. 

If the relevant attributes of the existing thugs seem about even with those of the challenging thugs, the race will be decided on completely irrelevant matters, like which candidate is prettier on television, or perhaps even which candidate exhibits the most or least skin pallor.  And if the race does resolve to race, like it did in 2008, we do know one thing—it’s quite alright to rave over how “articulate” or “charming and serious” a candidate is, but only so long as he possesses a relatively high degree of pallor.

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