The Washington Post

Romney-Ryan radicalism

Let’s play connect the dots.

* Recently, Paul Ryan introduced a budget that constitutes the GOP’s main offering in the great ideological argument over the country’s future. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it would “likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history.” It would give the rich a huge tax cut, even as 62 percent of its spending cuts target low-income programs.

* Yesterday, John Boehner described Ryan’s budget as a blueprint for the larger agenda that Republicans would enact if they seized more power in Washington.

* Today, Paul Ryan endorsed Mitt Romney for president, arguing that he’s the best candidate to defeat Obama, which would give Republicans the power they need, as Boehner says, to enact the Ryan agenda writ large. And indeed, Romney has endorsed Ryan’s proposals, and his own plans are, in broad strokes, similar to Ryan’s.

Romney and Ryan hold similarly radical economic worldviews. But neither of these two men is generally described as radical. The ideological makeup of politicians is often ascribed to them based on their tone and positions on social, not economic, issues. Jamelle Bouie:

Romney wears a nice suit, doesn’t yell at people, and seems comfortable around liberals — but that doesn’t make him a moderate. If elected president, Romney would (along with every other Republican in Congress) make an unprecedented push to roll back the welfare state and transform government into a money train for the rich.

Romney is likely to be granted the presumption of moderation by many national reporters and commentators the second he becomes the nominee. This will be partly because he will moderate his tone on contentious topics, and partly because Romney really doesn’t seem extreme on social issues. He plainly doesn’t see them as anything worth going to war about.

But Romney really does seem to believe — sincerely and strongly — in a radical vision when it comes to the proper distribution of wealth, the priorites we should embrace in solving the country’s fiscal problems, and the rightful role of government and the safety net in guarding against the exesses of unfettered free market capitalism. Romney and Ryan share similar visions on these matters. And yet, because views on these issues rarely set the “radical” alarm bell off in reporters and commentators the way extreme social views or crazy Bachmannesque rants do, Romney will very likely escape that label, much as Ayn Rand admirer Ryan has been able to do.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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