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Perhaps Obama Should Simply Ask Romney to 'Go Through All the Math' | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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Perhaps Obama Should Simply Ask Romney to 'Go Through All the Math'

Paul Ryan revealed every bit as much about the agenda of a Romney-Ryan ticket in his Sunday interview with Fox News as Mitt Romney did in his speech to that now-infamous fundraising event in Boca Raton.

Ryan acknowledged during a very long and very painful interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace that nothing matters to a Republican ticket populated by sons of privilege than lowering taxes for sons of privilege.

Here’s the critical exchange:

WALLACE: [What’s] more important to Romney? Would he scale back on the 20 percent tax cut for the wealthy? Would he scale back and say, OK, you know, we’re going to have to raise taxes for the middle class? I guess the question is what’s most important to him in his tax reform plan?

RYAN: Keeping tax rates down. By lowering tax rates, people keep more of the next dollar that they earn. That matters. That is incentives. That’s pro-growth policy. That creates 7 million jobs. And what should go first…

WALLACE: So that’s more important than…

RYAN: That’s more important than anything.

Cutting taxes for the rich is “more important than anything.”

More important than creating jobs.

More important than renewing manufacturing.

More important than maintaining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

More important that reducing deficits.

More important than addressing debts.

“More important than anything.”

That’s a striking statement of anti-tax absolutism that goes far beyond any agenda Ronald Reagan or most of the great conservative leaders of the past would have dared to advance. And it defines the Republican ticket every bit as thoroughly as did Mitt Romney’s remarks at the fundraising event in Boca Raton.

Romney said to the wealthy donors who had gathered to provide the money needed to elect a Romney-Ryan ticket:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it—that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.… These are people who pay no income tax.… my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

So Romney does not “worry about those people.”

But that is just part of the equation. It prompts another question:

Who would a Romney-Ryan administration worry about?

Ryan has provided the answer: the recipients of the Bush-Cheney tax cuts, who for a decade now have enjoyed the benefits of a redistribution of the wealth upward so sweeping that it has opened a yawning gap between rich and poor.

That’s a political position that Ryan has every right to take. And there is no reason to doubt that he is sincere—as sincere as Mitt Romney was when he said it was not his job to worry about the 47 percent of the American population that has been on the losing end of that redistribution of the wealth upward.

But it is, as well, a position that President Obama and Vice President Biden have every right—and, arguably, every responsibility—to discuss.

When he was being interviewed by Wallace, Paul Ryan was asked to explain the details of his economic agenda. He replied, “It would take me too long to go through all of the math.”

That caused a bit of an outcry.

Ryan responded by telling Milwaukee radio talk show host Charlie Sykes: “I like Chris; I didn’t want to get into all of the math on this because everyone would start changing the channel.”

Ryan argued that “when you’re offering very specific, bold solutions, confusion can be your enemy’s best weapon.”

On Wednesday night, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will take the stage for the first debate between the major-party presidential nominees.

The debate could go anywhere.

The candidates have a good deal of freedom to provide direction.

Perhaps President Obama should simply open up with a simple restatement of what Romney and Ryan have said about dismissing the most vulnerable half of Americans while pouring their energies into maintaining tax breaks for a very wealthy and very politically connected few. Then, on the assumption that an hour and a half might be enough time to “go through all the math,” the president might invite Mitt Romney to take all the time he needs to explain an economic agenda that certainly sounds like a plan to “take” from the 99 percent and “give” to the 1 percent.

For more debate forecasts, check out Mattea Kramer's guide to the presidential debates.

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