Only days into the forging of America’s greatest presidential ticket ever, tensions are started to develop between Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. First, Republicans performed backflips all weekend about Paul Ryan being a brilliant, substantive policy leader and then yesterday realized that the Ryan budget was toxic and performed more backflips to explain “Mitt Romney hates Paul Ryan’s budget.” Presidential nominees have backed away from the stances of running mates before, but this one is extreme given that Ryan’s austerity-fueled budget is his only discernible qualification for being on a presidential ticket.
This would seem unprecedented, but remember how Mitt Romney has barred all discussion of Bain Capital and his tenure as the Governor of Massachusetts? It seems his staff is prepared to disavow any prior qualifications for high office for the greater good of the campaign.
And now another split. American Bridge points us to the Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan 60 Minutes interview. Bob Schieffer asked about the low tax rates paid by the super-wealthy and Paul Ryan jumped in offering to close the loopholes that rich people use to skirt their obligations to America.
Oh, Paul. You may have wanted to vet that answer first. Even if Republicans earnestly want to close tax shelters — and I believe that they do…after cutting tax rates here to the point that America is just as a big a tax shelter as the Caymans — this may not be the time to ever mention “the tax shelters that are uniquely enjoyed by people in the top tax bracket.” Has Ryan been watching the election up until this point? Because tax shelters aren’t exactly the Romney campaign’s preferred talking point.
It’s not as though Ryan had to mention tax shelters. The question was about capital gains tax rates. Here let me be a conservative hack for 5 seconds: “Sure, capital gains rates may be low for some wealthy Americans, but to build an economy we need investment, and that requires a tax code that tells the wealthy that they are better off investing their money than stuffing it under their mattress because investing that money helps other businesses grow and create jobs — and I’ll tell you something else Bob, if the wealthy were encouraged to sit on the money they already have, their tax rate would be ZERO (because their existing fortunes are not new income) and that’s a lot worse for the country.” Now that’s an incredibly naive, fourth-grade economics level response, but see how it sounds vaguely reassuring without ever mentioning “tax shelters uniquely enjoyed by people in the top tax bracket?”
And Ryan couples “take away” with “tax shelters,” which subtly reinforces that these are “bad” — you “take away” a child’s toy when he or she misbehaves. This is why Republicans generally say “simplifying the tax code” rather than “take away.”
So Mitt Romney is already running at a full sprint away from Paul Ryan. Unfortunately, I think Ryan’s budget gives him Usain Bolt speed.