Friends have recently been asking me whether I thought the choice of Paul Ryan would help or hurt Mitt Romney’s presidential chances. I haven’t been following the election closely because I already predicted Barack Obama’s reelection and I stand by that prediction from December 2011.
My response was that I think Ryan will hurt Romney. Let’s consider the worst possible presidential candidate. Mr. You’re Not Special would stand up in front of the American people and say the following:
- You’re not as smart, educated, or hard-working as people in Singapore.
- That’s why Singapore, despite having no natural resources, has a per-capita GDP that is 20 percent higher than the U.S.’s.
- That’s why Singapore can fulfill all required government functions by spending 17 percent of GDP (source) while the U.S. local, state, and federal governments spend a total of 42 percent of GDP (source).
- Which is why Singapore can have lower tax rates than the U.S.
- And because we are comparatively fat, dumb, and lazy, we can no longer afford all of the things that we want our government to do.
- Therefore we will have to cut back on health care, wars, public employee pensions, payments to the unemployed, etc.
The closer a candidate is to Mr. You’re Not Special, the worse he or she will do. That was the basis for my prediction that Barack Obama would beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 despite Clinton’s superior objective qualifications.
The only reasonable explanation for why government would have to be scaled back is that Americans aren’t smart and productive enough to afford the government that they want. What voter wants to hear that he or she is not smart and productive?
Let’s dig into some of the specifics of Ryanism. He wants to preserve the unlimited flow of government money to Medicare providers as long as the victims of this care (heart surgery for everyone!) are currently 55 years old or older. The median age of a voter is about 44 (source). The life expectancy for a 55-year-old is about 26 years. So Medicare costs will be ruinous for about 26 more years, necessitating savage payroll taxes. Those 26 years will carry the median age voter from age 44 through age 70, i.e., the rest of his or her likely working life. So Ryan promises “If you’re a typical voter, you will pay ridiculously high taxes for the rest of your working life in order the subsidize the world’s most inefficient health care system. But as soon as you do retire, you’ll get a voucher for minimal HMO care instead of the unlimited gold-plated care that you paid for others to enjoy.”
Did I miss something? What has Ryan said or done that would actually appeal to a voter who wants to think of himself or herself as exceptionally smart and living in a country poised for additional greatness?