TAMPA–Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan gave a terrific acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention here Wednesday night.
It was well-written by speechwriters John McConnell and Matthew Scully (who also wrote Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech four years ago) and well-delivered by the usually wonkish Ryan, to the delight of the crowd that reveres him as a conservative hero.
The speech was full of nasty zingers (“He said his job is to, quote, ‘tell a story to the American people’–as if that is the whole problem here? He needs to talk more and we need to be better listeners?”) and eloquent phrasing (“Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at the moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.”) You can read the transcript here.
It also was riddled with misleading statements—about whether Obamacare diverted funds from Medicare; about a GM plant whose closure Ryan depicted as a broken Obama promise but which actually shut before the president’s inauguration; about whether the public got anything from the stimulus package (it did through tax cuts and other benefits), and others.
But though I disagree with Ryan and the other speakers’ wholesale condemnation of the stimulus bill—it did some good, but not enough—I think he had a pretty good account of where the administration went wrong on the economy:
The first troubling sign came with the stimulus, President Obama’s first and best shot at fixing the economy. At a time when he got everything he wanted under one-party rule. It cost $831 billion. … The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst.
What did taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus? More debt. That money wasn’t just spent and wasted, it was borrowed, spent and wasted….Maybe the greatest waste of all, was time.
Then he went on to link the president’s health care plan to the sluggish economic recovery:
You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation and nothing else his first order of economic business, but this president didn’t do that. Instead, we got a long, divisive, all or nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care.
This is a standard Republican talking point, but Ryan said it well and succinctly. It has more than a grain of truth in it.
As I’ve written many times, I thought the entire stimulus should have been focused on building infrastructure, which leaves something of lasting and visible value. The tax cuts were useless and the one-time bailouts of state and local governments to save public workers’ jobs for a year only postponed the agony.
And of course Republican in Congress blocked the president every step of the way, making a bipartisan compromse impossible at that point.
But I think the president made a big mistake by not pushing for a more stripped-down form of health care reform, like, say, catastrophic health insurance for everyone.
By going for such a big transformation at a time of economic and fiscal distress, he may wind up in the history books or the dustbin of history—something this election will decide.