Political Animal


July 17, 2012 11:08 AM Exposing the Ryan Budget

By Ed Kilgore

The jury’s still out as to whether the questions being raised by the Obama campaign and others about Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital is having (or will soon have) an impact on actual support levels for the two candidates. It is clear, however (and this is the angle I have been emphasizing in posts on the subject), that the toxification of Mitt’s background at Bain creates a serious strategic dilemma for his campaign, since it’s that background that has served as the centerpiece of his own case for becoming president. But of equal importance is the utility of the Bain association in setting up future attacks on the policy agenda that Romney embraced in order to secure the Republican nomination, but that he would prefer not to discuss. WaPo’s Greg Sargent explained that aspect of the Obama strategy last week via an interview with Priorities USA pollster Geoff Garin:

The goal is twofold: First, to undermine Romney’s principal case for the presidency, i.e., that his business background makes him a “job creator” who is equipped to turn around the country’s economy. And second, to define Romney in a way that makes it easier for voters to understand his true policy goals and priorities on entitlements, taxes, and other issues.

So another shoe is due to drop as the general election campaign intensifies. And because Romney’s “true policy goals and priorities on entitlements, taxes and other issues” are mostly encompassed in the Ryan Budget, I strongly recommend a careful reading of new public survey research from Democracy Corps that shows how the abstract symbol of “the Ryan Budget” (which doesn’t poll terribly well even as an abstraction) can be turned into a powerful indictment of the GOP agenda. Here’s a snippet from DCorps’ findings, based on polling of the Ryan Budget’s actual features and consequences:

The most recent survey and focus groups by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps reveal deep opposition to the Ryan budget- and its potential to damage Mitt Romney’s candidacy if he embraces it in the coming campaign. At the outset, the Ryan budget (described in Ryan’s actual language) barely garners majority support. And voters raise serious doubts when they hear about proposed cuts—particularly to Medicare, education, and children of the working poor.
President Obama’s lead against Romney more than doubles when the election is framed as a choice between the two candidates’ positions on the Ryan budget- particularly its impact on the most vulnerable. The President makes significant gains among key groups, including independents and voters in the Rising American Electorate (the unmarried women, youth, and minority voters who drove Obama to victory in 2008). This is an important new finding; highlighting the Ryan budget’s impact on the most vulnerable seriously weakens Romney.

DCorps’ analysis emphasizes the need to go after the Ryan Budget on moral terms that go beyond dry recitations of the impact on this or that government program or service and reach the priorities it represents.

Here’s a specific finding based on a focus group of swing voters in Ohio:

To be sure, voters make judgments about the budget based on what is good for the economy and best for themselves personally. But more importantly, above all else, these swing voters in Ohio drew clear lines based on what is “right” and “wrong.” These definitions are powerful and immovable; they have the capacity to turn voters sharply and steadfastly against the Ryan budget and against Mitt Romney for endorsing it.

Keep in mind that closely associating Mitt Romney with the Ryan budget is a task in which the Obama campaign will have an important ally: the conservative movement, which (a) strongly feels that enactment of the Ryan Budget (which includes by incorporation the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and restrictions on federal funding for services deemed “immoral” by social conservatives) is its most important post-election task, and (b) does not trust Romney to carry out his promise to support and sign the Ryan Budget post-haste, and will want to hear him say it repeatedly. Moreover, many conservatives will cooperate in Democratic efforts to describe the Ryan budget as a moral gesture reflecting national priorities and the ultimate direction of the country, not just a way to (sic!) reduce budget deficits, boost the economy, or “control” entitlement spending. As Paul Ryan himself has made clear, the massive cuts in federal safety net programs he proposes are intended not simply to reduce spending levels, but to reverse the damage that dependence on these programs has caused to the “moral fiber” of the poor.

The big picture of this election is a fateful choice between two very different visions of the country’s future—a choice the Romney campaign is engineered to disguise or avoid until after the votes are cast, based largely on the very accurate calculation that a straight referendum on current economic conditions with minimum attention paid to the consequences of a Republican victory provides Mitt the best chance of victory. Focusing on the Ryan Budget after demonstrating that it’s just about all Mitt Romney truly offers (give or take a war with Iran and a couple of right-wing Supreme Court nominations) is the best and perhaps the only path to make this the “choice” election it really ought to become.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • stormskies on July 17, 2012 11:20 AM:

    Within this Obama, because the corporate media has done all it can to repress this part of the Ryan plan, should point out over and over what Ryan calls the 'territorial' tax. This tax would allow all existing U.S. corporations who have financial accounts in other countries to transfer the profits made in our country to those countries in such a way that they would no longer have to pay taxes on that money made in our country. That's right.

    And it's called the 'territorial tax'. Why is the corporate media repressing this information ? Ask yourself, for example, how much General Electric would make because of this plan ? Now you know the answer as to why.

  • c u n d gulag on July 17, 2012 11:24 AM:

    The choice needs to be made crystal clear!

    We have to stomp on their monacle's in our work boots, before they step on our throats in their wingtips!

  • Josef K on July 17, 2012 11:30 AM:

    I continue to be embarrassed as hell that Ryan currently represents part of my home state. What the hell does these fops know about either "moral fiber" or the lives of poor people?

  • c u n d gulag on July 17, 2012 11:31 AM:

    Also too - in the debates, I hope Obama asks Mitt which parts of the Ryan Budget does he support.

    And, after Mitt dodges the question, ask him, by listing off the most nefarious parts of it:
    'Mr. Romney, will you support cutting Medicare and Medicaid drastically for more and bigger tax breaks for you and your wealthy friends?'
    'How do we educate a nation of children while cutting their education money drastically? Answer me that, Mr. Romney.'

    And so on.
    Just keep documenting the atrocities, and get them in people's heads.
    They're not here to "Rebuild this nation" - no, they're here to tear it down, and sell-off the valuable pieces that are still left.

  • dalloway on July 17, 2012 11:45 AM:

    Someone recently did a focus group on the Ryan budget with potential voters -- who were so appalled by it they refused to believe any national party would run on this. Our only chance to re-elect Obama and take back Congress is to make it crystal clear that the Ryan Plan IS the Republican plan and that Romney is a hundred per cent behind it. Then and only then will it be the anchor that drags him to the bottom, as it should.

  • arkie on July 17, 2012 11:46 AM:

    Seems like a boxing analogy is called for here.

    It's the middle rounds. Obama's jabs (Bain and outsourcing) have opened some cuts on Romney. Romney and his handlers are shocked. They expected that Obama, like all of Romney's primary opponents, would stand there flat-footed and let Romney beat on him with his only punch (lots of money). Romney is off his game plan and is flailing around (Friday's media blitz) while Obama continues to dance around getting his jabs in past Romney's gloves and working on those cuts.

    Example: Clay vs Liston 1964
    See Round Six at beginning at 4:55: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qTCSQfqf4s

  • Ron Byers on July 17, 2012 11:54 AM:

    The problem with using the Ryan Budget as a club is the press is doing everything it can to avoid telling the American people what is in the Ryan Budget.

    Essentially the Ryan Budget crushes the middle class and the poor but doesn't reduce the deficit at all because it takes the money it raises from slashing programs and gives it and more to the ultra rich. It is the single greatest dark hearted and empty headed proposal made by an elected congressional leader since the Civil War.

    Sadly the press doesn't want to tell the American people what is in it. I guess GE wants all those tax cuts.

  • T2 on July 17, 2012 11:55 AM:

    Medicare. Obama needs to put the Ryan Plan Medicare policy out front and center and make sure everyone knows exactly what it is. The public totally rejected Bush's attempt to do the same thing with Medicare/SS that Ryan's plan does....give people a few bucks and tell them to get their own insurance. Ryan's plan does lots of really bad things, but placing a big emphasis on the Medicare angle and tying it to Romney is the #1 best attack Obama can make. It goes something like this:
    Romney and Ryan want you to pay for your own Medicare treatment, and if you are a multi-millionaire who doesn't pay any taxes that will not be a problem. But if you are not.......crickets to you.

  • rip on July 17, 2012 12:01 PM:

    Re: Ryan's "territorial tax"

    The term is too obscure - it should be referred to as allowing U.S. companies to offshore profits.

  • PTate in MN on July 17, 2012 12:06 PM:

    In the alternate reality of conservatism, the Ryan budget is defended because "we just can't afford" healthcare and social security. I understand why Grover Norquist and the "no taxes" cabal make this argument, but why do other Americans buy it? Are most Americans so simple that they can't connect the dots between slashing revenues through tax cuts and deficits?

  • Countme-In on July 17, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Paul Ryan knows about the moral fibre of the poor because he was raised on Social Security payments and used the money to buy his first copy of "Atlas Shrugged", yet another government transfer payment to Medicare parasite Ayn Rand.

    Call it the Bain/Ryan Budget.

    THAT will explain the Ryan Budget.

  • jjm on July 17, 2012 12:18 PM:

    Obama has done a very good job so far of opening American eyes to the deceptions practiced by the GOP over the decades. He's unmasked them as fiscal phonies, patriotic phonies, and moralist holier-than-thou phonies. He's demonstrated that the GOP is the party of the rich, no ifs ands or buts.

    I have every confidence that he will get this across to the people, even with the press against him.

    Still, I note that for the first time in O's presidency the Sunday morning talk shows, except on Fox, now feature Democrats, sometimes more of them than GOPers. This seems like they smell blood and it's Romney's, not Obama's

  • Joe Friday on July 17, 2012 12:43 PM:


    "Someone recently did a focus group on the Ryan budget with potential voters -- who were so appalled by it they refused to believe any national party would run on this."

    Good point, which I was just about to make.

    It was Kevin Drum (citing elsewhere but boiling it down):


    But it wasn't just a case of them being "appalled", they flat-out refused to believe any politician would actually do such radical things.

    There's a reason the Republicans were in the Congressional Minority for more than 40 years prior to 1995, and the nation has obviously lost it's collective memory of just what is their real agenda.

  • N.Wells on July 17, 2012 1:04 PM:

    "Ryan budget" is not the best frame: too few voters know or care who Ryan is, including whether he is R or D. "The Republican budget" would be better, particularly in association with words like "Medicare destroying" and "anti middle class".

    Along the same lines, "job-killing asset stripper" might summarize Romney as succinctly as possible.

    Re-electing Obama won't be enough, if the R's keep control of anything else. This election needs to be turned into a wave election with a smallpox-eradicating, cockroach-stomping, degree of removal of Republicans. They've been supporting everything in unison, so they need to be removed in unison: "my Republican rep isn't so bad" needs to become a discredited concept.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 17, 2012 1:10 PM:

    "DCorps' analysis emphasizes the need to go after the Ryan Budget on moral terms that go beyond dry recitations of the impact on this or that government program or service and reach the priorities it represents."

    It's amazing to me that analysis of this is even needed. But as long as the Dems know that this is the way to approach the transparently immoral Republican agenda, great. What took 'em so long? Now just cram the shit down Republican throats.

  • rwgate on July 17, 2012 4:53 PM:

    Things will really start to get interesting about the time of the Republican convention. The Ryan plan may actually be fairly mild compared to what is finally voted on, if Texas and Iowa are any indications as to the direction the Republicans are going. Both of those state's Republican Party platforms are totally insane. Romney is not going to be able to set his own policies (if he has any) in place, and will have to run on the Republican platform (or be tarred by it).

    I don't know how many debates there are going to be, but even one is probably more than Romney can stand. I really hope that none of them are moderated by FOX or CNN. Whatever happened to the League of Women Voters? Romney will be on the defensive having to deal with Bain, tax returns, offshore accounts, the Ryan plan, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security (the third rail), and the Republican opposition to every attempt Obama has made to get the economy going again.

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