Back to previous page


If Romney’s policies come from business, where do Ryan’s come from?

By Ezra Klein,

“Having been in the private sector for 25 years gives me a perspective on how jobs are created that someone who’s never spent a day in the private sector, like President Obama, simply doesn’t understand,” Mitt Romney told Time.

M. Spencer Green

Associated Press

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., introduces Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney

But then how does Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who has spent his entire career in politics, understand job creation so well? Ryan and Romney, after all, have proposed essentially the exact same economic policies. And Ryan proposed most of them first. If Romney’s ideas are informed by knowledge you can only collect in the private sector, how come they don’t differ more from the ideas of career Republican politicians?

Politicians of different parties tend to have very different ideas. But politicians of different backgrounds differ less in their policy preferences than you might think. Opening a small business, working as a community organizer, and running a private-equity firm are all valuable life experiences, but they don’t tell you how fast to bring down the deficit, or whether the mix should tilt toward taxes or spending cuts, or what sort of reforms could improve Medicaid, or what Congress will accept, or what sort of fiscal policy is appropriate given the risks from Europe, or how to weigh the long-term risks of climate change.

Anyone who walked into the Oval Office and really thought they had some special insight as to what to do because they had been an early investor in Staples would be a disaster. Luckily, there’s no evidence that Romney, who ran a perfectly successful, conventional administration in Massachusetts, actually believes that nonsense.

His past suggests he governs pragmatically, and his current policy proposals — not to mention the fact that, if elected, he’ll almost certainly be working with a Republican House and Senate — suggest he thinks governing pragmatically would mean governing as something of a generic Republican. There’s literally no unusual or out-of-the-box policies that he’s proposed and that you can best explain by reaching back to his work at Bain.

© The Washington Post Company