With a single announcement, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has changed the entire complexion of the upcoming American election.


In an uncharacteristically bold move, Romney unveiled policy wonk Congressman Paul Ryan as his pick for Vice President over the weekend. He could not have gifted Barack Obama with a bigger political target.

Ryan is the author of a controversial budget plan that aims to slash government spending, cut taxes and drastically reform America’s increasingly expensive entitlement system.

The plan is politically explosive. It fares poorly in national polling, and Democrats argue that it ruthlessly targets the poor to fund tax cuts for the rich.

Last year, in one particularly colourful ad (see above), they showed a Paul Ryan lookalike tipping an elderly woman in a wheelchair over the edge of a cliff. Subtle stuff.

By selecting the Congressman as his running mate, Mitt Romney has taken ownership of the Ryan budget and made himself vulnerable to a massive scare campaign. Tony Abbott would feel more secure reviving WorkChoices as Coalition policy.

It is an uncharacteristically bold gamble from a candidate who has suffered endless criticism for being overcautious.

Romney had to do something to inject excitement into his campaign. Recent polls have shown President Obama gradually pulling away from the Republican nominee, despite an economic recovery that refuses to gather pace.

It is clearly not enough for Romney to highlight Obama’s failures. He must convince the American people that he is ready to govern, and the selection of Ryan may help. It will at least turn the national debt into a central campaign issue.

It is impossible to effectively address America’s $16 trillion debt situation without reforming entitlements, sacrosanct as they may be. President Obama’s only contribution on entitlement reform so far has been to wait for a Republican proposal and then excoriate it.

Say what you will about Ryan’s budget plan, he has at least displayed enough political courage to address the issue in a meaningful way. Romney has now signalled his willingness to take potentially unpopular proposals to the electorate and fight for them.

The man should be applauded for that boldness, whatever your opinion of his politics. We are forever complaining about politicians who refuse to lead, or to be up front with voters, for fear of the next election. Here we have someone who is doing things differently.

Romney may end up wishing that he had stuck with a small target strategy. Back in Australia, Tony Abbott is living proof of how effective that approach can be. With something concrete to attack, President Obama may coast to re-election quite comfortably.

It would be a painfully ironic victory though. Back in the heady days of “hope and change”, Obama would have wanted conservative ideas to be given a fair hearing. Four years later, with nowhere left to turn, he will make it his mission to tear those ideas down.

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    • Monty says:

      12:20pm | 13/08/12

      “With a single announcement, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has changed the entire complexion of the upcoming American election.”

      Yes, he’s ensured he went from having a very small chance of winning to having no chance at all. What a ridiculous choice, both strategically and in terms of Ryans actual policies.

    • Al says:

      12:56pm | 13/08/12

      Does Obama even have any policies yet?

    • St. Michael says:

      01:08pm | 13/08/12

      It’s probably an own goal for this election.  But for the 2016 campaign, maybe not.  Quite possibly it’s a winning strategy given the state America’s finances will be in by that point.

      Put it this way, Churchill lost against Chamberlain despite running a fierce campaign that Hitler should not be bargained with or appeased.  Next election over, after “peace in our time”, not so much.

      http://www.usdebtclock.org/current-rates.html—this projects what the US debt is going to look like in 2016 if spending continues at its present rate, which if Obama is re-elected is highly likely, particularly given Obama seems to be pulling away from the opposition despite the increasing shithole the US is in financially.

      I think it’s unlikely that real bond investors—as in, not the “ratings investors” that buy US bonds almost by default—will give the US Treasury that much slack.  Eventually, speculation on the bond markets will begin about whether the US will ever be able to pay its debts; 22 trillion is roughly a 140% debt-to-GDP ratio, which is when Greece when bust.

      I’ve seen some comment that some of the PIGS defaults were because the bond market decided to just speculate on Spain in particular defaulting, which then screwed Spain’s economy since it raised massive interest payments that Spain could not meet.  To me, that’s a case of po-tah-toe, po-tay-toe: if you have no significant debt financed on bonds, you can’t get hurt by this sort of speculation.  US bonds are now highly vulnerable to that sort of speculation because there’s so many of them right now and they can’t be paid.  Whether it’s a pack of prudent investors pulling out en masse from US bonds or a pack of bond speculators that brings the US government crashing to the ground is entirely irrelevant.

      What is more relevant is that the smart, and quiet, people in the US are putting their money into overseas currencies—like Australia’s.  Because the first thing the US will do when confronted with a bond market default is hyperinflate their currency.  The historical record proves quite clearly they’ll do nothing else.

      Putting Ryan on the card establishes the Republicans (rightly or not) as the party of fiscal prudence (not that they are, but the appearance matters).  Ryan is the only Congressman even willing to say the words “cut government spending and government entitlements” .  Probably it won’t help them in this election, but it’ll sure help them when the national debt starts to collapse the US economy.

    • YankeeDoodle says:

      01:30pm | 13/08/12

      By 2016 it may be too late to fix anything. Probably gone past the tipping point already, as depressing as that is.

    • Jason says:

      02:39pm | 13/08/12

      It’s similar to the situation in Queensland.  Labor have wracked up so much debt, even after selling off most of the states assets, that the new LNP government is having to make very tough decisions on public spending.  The irony is, a lot of people who voted the LNP in to enact changes are complaining about those very changes.  Apparently everyone wants the new government to magically pull the state out of the debt crisis, but only if it doesn’t affect them in any way.  Sounds a lot like Greece to me.

    • DOB says:

      06:46pm | 13/08/12

      uh, Jason, the debt in the USA was wracked up by the Republicans BEFORE Obama. Its Obama who has been trying to close tax loopholes to pull that back.

      Your analogy with Queensalnd is so wrong that its almost funny…

    • Andrew says:

      10:01pm | 13/08/12

      DOB you really need to do a bity of bloody research, yes the debt was massive under bush but it has got bigger and bigger under Obama despite him telling everyone he would reduce debt, he is the biggest spending president in american history and you want to blame the republicans.

    • Andrew says:

      10:04pm | 13/08/12

      Al the only policy he has is obamacare which is a dogs breakfast. He hasnt done anything he promised so why people would believe him anyway is beyond me.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      12:21pm | 13/08/12

      I have no time for Mitt Romney. He is a tax dodger who won’t release his tax returns. I like parts of the Paul Ryan budget particularly making the pensioners contribute a lump sum to their health care and welfare vouchers but I think the American economy doesn’t warrant giving tax cuts to anyone let alone the rich.

    • D says:

      01:11pm | 13/08/12

      “He is a tax dodger who won’t release his tax returns”. Well you’ve swallowed the propaganda whole.

    • Muggles says:

      01:21pm | 13/08/12

      @Shane from Melbourne.

      Can you please provide a URL where we can find copies of all of your tax returns?  Thank.

      And no weaselling please. If it’s good enough for a multi-millionaire businessman like Romeny to declare his financial positions, it’s certainly good enough for you to declare yours.

      PDF format would be nice, thanks.

      Also, please list any involvement, financial or otherwise, that you have, or have had, with any political parties, or lobbyists.

      Cheers.

    • St. Michael says:

      01:34pm | 13/08/12

      You do have to scrutinise a US leader’s moral position—not so much for their morals as such, but for a list of factors they have in their background which they could be blackmailed with.

      But on the other hand, “tax dodger” is a bland and nondescriptive term.  It includes tax evasion, which is illegal, and tax minimisation, which is not, and which every single person who pays tax in Australia does every time they fill out a tax return.

      “Tax dodger” is also a term used to disguise a more pernicious insult: “rich guy who won’t give his money to us”.  Of course, that’s an insult only in the eyes of those who would make it: Marxists, being anyone who holds to the phrase “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need.”

    • AdamC says:

      01:37pm | 13/08/12

      There seems to be a weird race to the bottom here. Romney has clearly lodged tax returns with the authorities. If there was anything wrong with those tax returns, no doubt uncle Sam would be chasing Romney for back taxes, at the very least, and we would all know about it already. Despite this obvious logic, there seem to be calls for Romney (and other political candidates) to publish more and more private tax information.

      Why?

    • Craig of North Brisbane says:

      01:39pm | 13/08/12

      @Muggles:

      The difference is that I presume Shane from Melbourne is not running for high office, nor is he promising extremely generous tax cuts for billionares.

    • james says:

      01:47pm | 13/08/12

      Muggles, Shane is not running for the presidency of the USA, Mitt Romney is.

      If he has nothing to hide then he should release them and be done with it.
      Until then…

    • St. Michael says:

      02:03pm | 13/08/12

      @ james: Interesting topic.  Particularly when you apply it to the issue of Obama’s academic transcripts, which he likewise refuses to release.

      Of course, I could be unkind and suggest the reason he does so is to avoid the accusation that he was allowed into Harvard due to affirmative action policies (read: the colour of his skin) rather than on academic merit, but then, obviously he has nothing to hide, does he?

    • Muggles says:

      02:08pm | 13/08/12

      @Craig of North Brisbane says:

      So, some politicians have to provide their otherwise private details to you, for your scrutiny. But you don’t have to provide yours?

      How nice for you.

      And you want an American politician to provide his personal details, so that you (someone in “North Brisbane”) can go through his financial dealings?  Really dude?

      Yeah, I’m sure Mitt well get right on to that.

      And after he does, I’m sure you’ll be saying “Yep, this guy is legit. I’ve run my accountants over his tax returns from the last decade, and they’ve pored over his company reports and disclosures, and they all say he has nothing to hide. He’s a stand up guy, and is worth voting for based on his financial disclosures.”.

      That’s how it’s going to go, right?  You’ll be the first to do this, right?

      It’s good to see some people are such keen privacy advocates, and upholders of civil liberties and fair dealing for all….

    • Muggles says:

      02:13pm | 13/08/12

      @James

      If he has nothing to hide, then he has nothing to prove.

      Shifting the burden of proof of once’s innocence, is usually a tactic of a political lout.

      If you have evidence of wrong-doing, then you show it.  But otherwise, Romney is entitled to the same kind of privacy and the same kind of legal protections that you do (adjusting for the details Australian laws).

      Just because you don’t think he’s entitled to that privacy, is here nor there.

      Making up special rules for special people is junk politics, and bad for liberal democracy.

      And no, I don’t care if he’s a billionaire.  We don’t strip people of fundamental rights because they’re billionaires. (Or WikiLeaks founders…)

    • james says:

      02:24pm | 13/08/12

      If it is ok for Obama to release his tax returns when asked then the same should apply for his opponent.
      Refusing to only makes him look dodgy, even if he has done nothing wrong.
      IMHO, I think it is the size of his income and not any tax avoidance which is the issue.

    • AdamC says:

      02:36pm | 13/08/12

      Muggles is right. The reality is, while it seems to have become a public expectation that American politicians release their tax returns, nobody here has provided any actual reasons why candidates should do so. Just saying “someone else was willing to do it” is ridiculous.

    • Jason says:

      02:47pm | 13/08/12

      Given the state the US is in, I have to agree that tax cuts should be the last thing on the agenda.  Government spending on entitlements need to be slashed, but they have to be careful as dramatic cuts in government spending can often tip an economy in to depression which is no good for anyone.  Some smart increases in spending on infrastructure projects combined with the cuts to entitlements would probably help.

      As for tax cuts, I don’t think they really need them at this stage, particularly for the higher income earners.  High income earners in the US have it pretty easy with regards to tax compared to Australia where the higher marginal tax rates are obscene.  Sometimes I think that lower income earners in this country have no idea how good they have it with regards to tax and minimum wages compared to other countries.

    • TimB says:

      02:50pm | 13/08/12

      ‘IMHO, I think it is the size of his income and not any tax avoidance which is the issue. ‘

      Why should the size of his income make any difference?

    • andye says:

      02:50pm | 13/08/12

      @St Michael - ““Tax dodger” is also a term used to disguise a more pernicious insult: “rich guy who won’t give his money to us”.  Of course, that’s an insult only in the eyes of those who would make it: Marxists, being anyone who holds to the phrase “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need.””

      Says the guy who is calling people marxists because they don’t support tax cuts?

      You might as well call me a Nazi because I’m not fond of bagels.

    • james says:

      03:13pm | 13/08/12

      TimB says: 02:50pm | 13/08/12

      ‘IMHO, I think it is the size of his income and not any tax avoidance which is the issue. ‘

      Why should the size of his income make any difference?

      It should not TimB, but some sort of internal polling must be informing Mitt Romney that it is better to keep the tax returns in locked box.

    • St. Michael says:

      03:15pm | 13/08/12

      @ andye: You’re not a Nazi if you dislike bagels, you’re just a pill.

      I’m couldn’t really care less about tax cuts - tax cuts aren’t the problem, it’s the fact the US has a massive debt to pay which it has to cut.  No matter what you do to the tax rate - cut the tax, increase the tax even to the point of 100% rates - the debt won’t be paid because it can’t be.  You’re accusing me of opposing the shovelling of coal into the Titanic’s boilers when I’m telling you the ship’s headed straight for an iceberg and it might be a cool idea to change the ship’s direction.

      But yes: people often find Marxist ideas attractive until they realise they in fact originated from Karl Marx - mostly because Marxism doesn’t work.  And “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need” is a Marxist idea.

    • Mr. Jordon says:

      03:47pm | 13/08/12

      In 2008, Obama released 12 years of tax returns.

      If Romney truly has nothing to hide he would do the same.

    • Mr. Jordon says:

      03:47pm | 13/08/12

      In 2008, Obama released 12 years of tax returns.

      If Romney truly has nothing to hide he would do the same.

    • the cynic says:

      04:01pm | 13/08/12

      Shane. Pretty sweeping statement there “He is a tax dodger who won’t release his tax returns” Do you know something we don’t . American pollies are not legally bound to release their tax returns full stop, it is a voluntary customary thing only. Now, if he was asked to provide a ‘financial disclosure statement’ then he must do so. He has not been asked to do this as far as I recall. Besides, earning money or having bank accounts and trusts in off shore tax havens is not illegal in the US, you are free to make your money or store your wealth wherever you like. All that the the US tax system requires is full disclosure so the tax you pay in America can be calculated. Romney is not under investigation or under any pending court case regarding his finances so he is not guilty of any wrong doing. This contrasts with Obama’s birth certificate and academic records saga that he has steadfastly refused to produce since before he became President. Does that make him guilty of some wrong doing and elicit howls of indignation from his critics also?

    • andye says:

      04:08pm | 13/08/12

      @St. Michael - “I’m couldn’t really care less about tax cuts - tax cuts aren’t the problem, it’s the fact the US has a massive debt to pay which it has to cut.”

      If you have large debts, there are very few plans under which cutting your income is a positive step.

      @St. Michael - “But yes: people often find Marxist ideas attractive until they realise they in fact originated from Karl Marx”

      That’s funny, I tend to decide ideas are bad or good based on the merits (or not) of the idea. Your way involves a lot less thinking, though! Do you have a list of people who are wrong about everything? It would save a heap of time! And thinking!

      @St. Michael -  “mostly because Marxism doesn’t work.  And “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need” is a Marxist idea.”

      Thats nice and all, but what has that to do with the price of cheese? You can wave your ideological perfection around all you want, but it isn’t a policy. Calling things Marxism isn’t a policy. Quoting Marx isn’t a policy.

    • St. Michael says:

      04:51pm | 13/08/12

      “If you have large debts, there are very few plans under which cutting your income is a positive step.”

      Which is why I said the US has to cut its debt.  Whether it cuts its tax rates or raises them is largely immaterial to that exercise because of the numbers involved.  The US debt is running at 16 trillion.  The Federal tax system brings in roughly 2.5 trillion per year, give or take.  That’s a deficit of over 12 trillion dollars.  And the US’s entire GDP is *less* than the national debt.  That is, you could remove every dollar from every American in the country and America would still have a debt to be paid.

      You could cut the tax rates.  That would make the debt position worse, but you could at least cross your fingers and hope for a Laffer Curve effect to kick in.

      But you could also impose 100% tax rates on the rich, at which point the rich would immediately relocate to other countries, and the debt would still be unpaid.  You could, of course, then impose 100% tax rates on the next tier of “rich” down, at which point they’d do the same thing or outright stop paying tax.

      You would be trying to do this all while the US bond market implodes since if you lower or raise your tax rates by disastrous levels, the market would rightly form the view you were never going to pay the money owed and head for the exits as soon as possible.

      A government in the face of a bond market revolt has only three options: print money, cut spending, or resign.  The PIGS crisis shows you what happens when you take option (1) out of the equation—and note that Greek governments, it seems, would rather resign.  In the case of the US, which controls its fiat currency, option (1) is the easiest for politicians to order—QE 1 and QE 2 were precisely that.  If Obama wins, you can take that as an endorsement that no politician in America worth his skin will consider or back the sort of cuts required to avert a bond market crash—because America’s citizens would rather keep spending and not pay for it.

    • andye says:

      06:30pm | 13/08/12

      Ok that makes a lot more sense than the other stuff you wrote.

      St. Michael - “But you could also impose 100% tax rates on the rich, at which point the rich would immediately relocate to other countries, and the debt would still be unpaid.  You could, of course, then impose 100% tax rates on the next tier of “rich” down, at which point they’d do the same thing or outright stop paying tax.”

      The plans I have read from this guy seem to involve variations on a flat tax. The recent stuff seems to be about tax cuts at higher levels. I just don’t see this as a benefit. Trickle down doesn’t. If you are making spending cuts then you are just going to have to make even more to cut the upper tax rates. It feels very much like socialising the problems from the top end of the market down to the bottom. Crying “marxism!” doesn’t change that for me.

      I am not talking tax hikes here… but if you are going to most of the country “hey we are going to have to tighten our belts” and then hand over to the upper levels a tax cut (causing even more spending cuts), how is that fair?

    • Super D says:

      08:53pm | 13/08/12

      Interestingly not many calls from progressive types for the release of never published law professor Obama’s academic records to be released….

    • Andrew says:

      10:11pm | 13/08/12

      A tax dodger, that must be why the tax department is chasing him Shane, oh shit wait a minute they arnt. Unlike that great democrat Warren Buffet who thinks all rich people should pay more tax but has been charged with tax evasion, go figure.

    • St. Michael says:

      10:47pm | 13/08/12

      @ andye: trickle down is not the same as the Laffer Curve.  Go and look it up.  As it is, flat tax is probably a lot fairer than the proportional tax system, when you bear in mind that the rich, by earning the money they do and paying the wages of their staff, are actually indirectly paying the taxes of literally thousands of Americans already.

      One thing needs to be borne in mind: even Ryan’s proposals to fix the problem, over 20 years, are blue-sky stuff.  It would take a stock market untouched by a crash for 20 years and no major economic upheavals over those 20 years to work - those are the assumptions of the Ryan model.  They’re failed assumptions when you look at the financial disasters we’ve seen over just the past 30 years or so: subprime, dotcom, 1987.  Markets and economies do not work that way - not to mention it would take an exceptional band of politicians holding their ground for 20 years, refusing the temptation to buy votes with spending, to make this happen.

      But they are also the only proposals that could even possibly get a foot in the door Congressionally.  People love their Federal government money too much.  As it is, when you do the calculations, the truth is a lot more stark: it’s going to take a 50% cut in US Federal government spending to bring the debt under control or even possible to be paid off in the lifetimes of our grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

      That means a 50% cut across the board: in defence, education, parks, Social Security, TARP, bailouts, everything.  (Note here that a 50% cut in defence need not mean a 50% cut in the active military.  US spending on VA—Veterans’ Affairs, i.e. Army retirement pensions—per their own numbers actually equals the total spend on the active US military itself.  The United States is quite literally spending enough money to run two armies: one active, one retired.)

      Bear in mind the 50% cut is what’s needed right now.  As the debt increases, the depth of the needed cut gets bigger, mostly because you can’t tax as fast or increase taxation as fast as the debt is rising.  Ryan’s plans go nowhere near this model, but he’s the only Congressman in Washington saying that the spending has to be drastically reduced - apart from Ron Paul, who recognised these numbers long ago and to his credit has been courageously saying these things even though he probably knew it was suicide for his campaign to do so and in the face of idiots who said he was wrong.  He wasn’t.  Too bad it’s now too late to recognise it.

    • Al B says:

      11:35am | 14/08/12

      St michael i agree ... paul ryan doesnt go far enough, barely makes a dent in the long term US budgetary picture… romney picked the wrong paul ...they should at least make Ron their treasury secretary.

      It seems unfortunately that ‘cool guy’ barry is set to win, despite all economic logic.

    • James1 says:

      12:21pm | 13/08/12

      The US has been funding its tax cuts, military adventures, and entitlements with borrowed money for far too long.  Now that they have realised this, all segments of American society seem to be lobbying for someone else to suffer the pain that is necessary to get the country back on track.

      What they need to do is take a leaf out of Ireland and Britain’s respective books.  Americans need to realise that everyone needs to take their fair share of the blame, and cop their fair share of the economic pain.

    • AdamC says:

      01:01pm | 13/08/12

      I am a Reagan Republican, but even I have to admit that both sides in America are equally to blame for America’s strained finances.

      The Democrats are in complete denial about the fiscal sustainability of the US. (I can even remember a Nancy Pelosi speech that basically implied the deficit was a Republican conspiracy to cut back social security.) On the other hand, the Republicans, while claiming to be the custodians of fiscal rigour, seem to think cutting rich people’s taxes while simultaneously slashing spending on all sorts of things is both politically saleable and desirable. It is neither.

      No wonder they cannot find a budget solution! In my view, the whole circus is an advertisement for Westminster government.

    • Deb says:

      02:16pm | 13/08/12

      Both sides ARE equally to blame. The Republicans in power have been just as irresponsible fiscally.

    • Jason says:

      02:52pm | 13/08/12

      They need to cut welfare spending (which Obama won’t do) as well as shelve tax cuts (which the republicans won’t do), so basically the US is stuffed.

      It’s the old Little Red Hen story.  Everyone wants to eat the bread (get out of debt), but no-one wants to help make it (pay for it).

    • James1 says:

      03:03pm | 13/08/12

      Indeed Jason.  My bet is that the US will inflate its way out of this one.

    • Mahhrat says:

      12:25pm | 13/08/12

      Well, they say it’s the “Home of the Brave”, so I guess kudos for that much at least.

      I’m not sure how popular Obama is right now, but I get the impression he’s at least a little more competent than our own ALP - at least at selling the message.  For that reason, I think Obama will win; not because he’s “better”, but because he’s not worse and at least he can sell it.

    • Michael says:

      01:05pm | 13/08/12

      Or at least you like his supporters and are not ashamed to be counted as one of them.

    • John says:

      12:34pm | 13/08/12

      America’s only hope is Ron Paul, the others are nothing but puppets servings the international banking cartel and all their wars. There is no United States of America, there is no free press it’s nothing but hijacked nation being terrorized by financial terrorists. Their military are nothing but tax funded mercenary’s. The US constitution wasn’t enough to keep these pirates out of US, they were so good, that undermined the entire system with in the space of 150 years. Now their own the media, political system and financial system. Keeping society weak and divided is now their ultimate goal so that the mass’s don’t topple them from power.

    • Isle says:

      01:01pm | 13/08/12

      The Ron Paul fan club is never far away!

    • Muggles says:

      01:27pm | 13/08/12

      @John

      Ron Paul speaks considerable sense on some issues. But he’s not consistent.

      His American Isolationism is great for insular, non-travelling, non-passport-holding Americans, but it’s not very good for the world at large.

      We need an engaging America. An American culture that travels, one that reads, one that welcomes other cultures. One that takes a genuine interest in the rest of the world. Particularly when the alternatives (e.g. China, Russia, militant and theocratic Islam, despots from North Korea to Syria) are so dire.

      America has a lot to offer the world, particularly in regard to social and political freedoms, pluralism and innovation. But it can also learn a lot from others.

      And, history shows that Fortress America does not work.  See: the beginning of WWII.

    • Al B says:

      06:44pm | 13/08/12

      Muggles ...Ron Paul is non-interventionist ...not the same as isolationist ...an isolationist is more what happens when the US meddles too much in other countries. They isolate themselves.

      RP would be a president to engage the world, not dictate to it. Hardly isolationist…

    • John says:

      03:08pm | 14/08/12

      Muggles says:

      Internationalism has caused more death and destruction in the space of 10 years then all deaths since Islam’s birth. Islam shouldn’t even register on the threat meter. The west should be more worried about the internationalists, from them comes terrorism, then war and then their conquering on basis of duped mass’s believing in their fictional enemy’s which they created.

    • the moor says:

      12:57pm | 13/08/12

      The fact that US voters are even contemplating returning the party that gave them the GFC to the presidency is simply amazing.  Are their memories really that short, and do they really think that Romney will act for the vast majority?  The days of real democracy in the USA are well and truly gone.

    • St. Michael says:

      01:12pm | 13/08/12

      On the other hand, they have actually elected the party that gave them the Great Depression.  Neither of the majors is competent or gives a crap about anything other than power and the holding of it.

    • Cad says:

      01:18pm | 13/08/12

      Clinton was responsible for the sub-prime dramas mate.

    • Muggles says:

      01:39pm | 13/08/12

      @the moor

      It’s amusing, in a slightly sad way, how “democracy” has deserted us when the polity swings against the desired direction.

      How amazing that democracy “works”, only as long as it tilts leftward.

      And when it does, well that’s the voice of the people, the people have spoken, democracy has been served, etc. 

      Oh, and if you think the “GFC” was a product solely of the GOP, I suggest you read some books.  Lots of them, by the looks of it.

    • Mikey says:

      01:51pm | 13/08/12

      The days of real democracy in the USA were gone a long time ago. Banks get bailed out for making losses on risky investments while ordinary people have their homes go into foreclosure. Corporate regulations are removed in the name of “productivity”, while ordinary people see their local environment trashed. Tax cuts are given to the rich, so that they might create jobs, yet unemployment has hardly dropped. Education and healthcare now cost so much that an entire generations economic activity will be depressed. The USA is a basket case, a nation led by a government which has failed the people it supposedly represents.

    • james says:

      02:53pm | 13/08/12

      @Cad, bush had control of both houses for some time, but he didnt want to fix it right? Bankers making too much money i guess.

      Clinton was last financially responsible president. Reagan and both the Bush’s were a financial disaster.
      http://zfacts.com/p/318.html

    • Jason says:

      02:56pm | 13/08/12

      The democrats laid the foundation for the GFC with the sub-prime loans.  Bush then went and put the country in a situation where it was unable to respond to it when it when they fell apart.  Both sides share the blame.

    • andye says:

      03:04pm | 13/08/12

      @Cad - “Clinton was responsible for the sub-prime dramas mate.”

      Only in Republican bedtime stories. Loans to the poor did not cause the GFC. Speculation on Credit Default Swaps and a resulting bubble caused the GFC.

      The regulation that is often used to blame Clinton for the GFC was in actual fact having the opposite effect and holding back the regulated institutions during the final rush. At that time the lenders were getting as many loans as they could together to package for the CDS market -  and the majority of loans during that period were NOT covered by Clinton’s legislation.

      Its an easy lie to sell to conservatives, though. Blah blah clinton blah blah left, blah blah bleeding hearts, blah blah forced to loan to the poor, blah blah default, blah blah socialism. The actual facts are much more complicated and hard to understand.

      They also don’t justify tax cuts to the rich and spending cuts to the poor. In fact, if you understand anything about this whole Credit Default Swap thing you will realise it is the poor and not the rich who have been paying the most for the problem since then, over which they had no control. The wealthy appear to be quite happy to socialise the risk of their investments while keeping any returns.

    • andye says:

      03:09pm | 13/08/12

      @mikey - “Tax cuts are given to the rich, so that they might create jobs, yet unemployment has hardly dropped.”

      That is because it is bull***. Trickle down is a lie. If you want to create jobs personal tax cuts arent particularly useful. Yet I never seem to hear much about company tax cuts?

      The push for personal tax cuts is about personal tax cuts. I still find it amazing that people will actually defend the personal interests of the wealthy, go along with the brainless lies like “trickle down” and even join in on the name calling (socialist! marxist!) against any differing argument.

      I’ll just be over here holding my breath waiting for the wealthy to return the favour.

    • St. Michael says:

      03:19pm | 13/08/12

      “The actual facts are much more complicated and hard to understand.”

      Quite right.  Clinton didn’t start the snowball heading downhill.  That was his fellow Democratic President, Jimmy Carter.

    • Tubesteak says:

      04:31pm | 13/08/12

      “Loans to the poor did not cause the GFC. Speculation on Credit Default Swaps and a resulting bubble caused the GFC”

      Not really.

      Loans to the poor through the CRA, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae laid the foundation for a weak market and a housing bubble. Dubya added fuel to the fire by pouring more money into these institutions and encouraging more loans back in 2002 (go find the youtube clip where he says not only that he believes everyone should be able to participate in the American dream and that the US government would back the loans). He then turned around and said that the government would guarantee the loans. This caused greater loans and a more distorted market. CDSs were just the banks response as they usually do to get low-return loans off their balance sheets.

      Add to this an extended period of artifically low interest rates after the tech wreck and 9/11 as well as increasingly lax fiscal policies for decades and you had the perfect conditions for a bubble. One which was inevitably going to pop once the balloon payments had to be paid by the people that couldn’t afford them and a government forced to back the loans banks made based on government policy.

      Blaming speculation on CDSs is like blaming a cold on a runny nose. The runny nose isn’t the fault of the cold. It’s the conditions created by both sides of government since the 70s.

    • iansand says:

      07:00pm | 13/08/12

      Does anyone want to throw non-recourse mortgages into the blame mix for the GFC?  I don’t know how long that scam has been going on.

    • Thea says:

      01:05pm | 13/08/12

      Conservative America is getting a fair hearing. Doesn’t the very fact that there is an election with such conservative candidates as Romney and Ryan running show that? Saying nothing of the Republican primary season. The views expressed by Ryan especially are not majority views. Polling on his budget is evidence enough. The views expressed in the Republican primaries by candidates such as Rick Santorum were not majority views either. Especially in regard to social issues like birth control. The problem is not that these voices are not getting heard. It is that they are getting heard too much. The Republican party has shifted so much to the Right in order to placate its base that it is the centrist independent voices that are not getting heard. Romney choosing Ryan is a nod to the tea party and the Republican base. It may result in a more ideologically interesting election. But it will also result in a more partisan election. America’s problem is the tendency of its political parties to deviate to extremes. That is what Obama was trying to move away from in the 2010 election. It is unfortunate that he has been unsuccessful. Both him and Congress are to blame for that. The whole American political system needs changing but there is no real will for that to happen.

    • Fred says:

      01:06pm | 13/08/12

      That ad is freaking hilarious. Kinda dispicable. But still.

    • Cad says:

      02:13pm | 13/08/12

      The old lady isn’t even an old lady!

    • Al says:

      02:28pm | 13/08/12

      Little bit over the top. Just a little.

    • Omgwat says:

      02:36pm | 13/08/12

      The Paul Ryan isn’t even a Paul Ryan! :O

    • Dave says:

      01:18pm | 13/08/12

      It’s notclear to me why this is “brave.” It shows Romney is committed to real action.

      It is more accurate to say that this is shameless demagoguery from the Democratic Party, who has failed to pass a budget for several years now.

      The Democratic Party has no plan to deal with trillion dollar deficits occurring year-after-year (including the ‘stimulus,’ which was built into the budget baseline), or for consistently high unemployment. The only solutions appear to be waging class warfare against “the rich” and making unsubstantiated claims about tax dodging. It is curious that no liberals seem to have problems with Warren Buffet’s company not paying a billion dollars in tax, or the Treasury of the Secretary, Tim Geithner, being a tax cheat.

      If people engaged with Paul Ryan’s proposals, they would find that the Path to Prosperity did not advocate “tax cuts for the rich,” to borrow a Marxist phrase, nor did it seek to push Granny over the cliff. No, it was a gentle reform package to bring the US deficit under control over a period of 20 years.

      It is simply staggering that a proposal this timid is met with such outrage and hysteria. It shows what little economic sense people have these days that they cannot even accept that running up trillions of dollars in debt needs to be addressed, or even discussed without engaging in irresponsible character assassination.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      01:59pm | 13/08/12

      Actually I have a problem with anyone or any corporation who dodges taxes whether it be Warren Buffet’s company, Mitt Romney, General Electric, Tim Geithner or anyone else. Tax cheats should be savagely punished

    • Dan says:

      02:22pm | 13/08/12

      There’s a difference between being a tax cheat and using perfectly legal loopholes or deductions.

    • andye says:

      03:43pm | 13/08/12

      @Dave - Yes it is terrible that people don’t blindly support a policy that involves tax cuts to the rich and poorly defined spending cuts for everyone else.

      If anyone disagrees, just call them marxists and accuse them of class war.

      “It is curious that no liberals seem to have problems with Warren Buffet’s company not paying a billion dollars in tax”

      His company, or him? Warren Buffet has been pushing for increases in taxes to the super wealthy, but that is about personal taxes not company taxes. Lower company taxes might actually lead to more jobs.

    • mikem says:

      04:08pm | 13/08/12

      Dan many of the ‘legal loopholes’ as you call them are at best highly immoral.  When its only a few using the loopholes it is not a big problem but when many do it is a big problem.  How much better off would America’s bottom line be if its most profitable companies paid a fair tax on their profits?  Instead companies like Apple, Google and Facebook pay next to nothing in tax anywhere in the world on their vast profits.  And they are not alone in structuring their affairs in that way.

    • St. Michael says:

      04:39pm | 13/08/12

      “highly immoral”, “fair tax”, and “next to nothing”.

      These are what we call weasel words.  They are so because they have no objective meaning except to the person who’s speaking, and they are highly capable of perversion.

      What matters more are the actual numbers and an actual understanding of how accounting works: http://www.forbes.com/2011/04/13/ge-exxon-walmart-apple-business-washington-corporate-taxes.html

      Exxon pays 45% of its profits in tax.  Is that a fair enough tax for you?

      And you can’t argue about taxes unless you also argue about the efficacy of how those taxes are used.  Almost uniformly, they are badly misused—by government.  And it’s spending, not low tax rates, that got the US into the mess it’s presently in.

    • Tubesteak says:

      04:48pm | 13/08/12

      “How much better off would America’s bottom line be if its most profitable companies paid a fair tax on their profits?”

      Pretty much exactly where it is now.

      What people don’t understand when it comes to tax is that what I save in not giving to the taxman I end up going to spend it in a business (that pays tax on the income they earn when I purchase one of their products or services) or I put in a bank which then has a slightly better lending ratio which then goes out and lends more money which further stimulates the economy (especially when people do it en masse).

      It’s the circulkar flow of money that you are taught in year 11 economics.

      It never ceases to amuse me that people simply don’t get this. So what if the government doesn’t get their greasy mits on my money just so they can waste it on dole bludgers or families. I’d rather determine where I spend my money.

    • andye says:

      05:36pm | 13/08/12

      @Tubesteak - Haha. Conservatives have been explaining to us for a while how that whole thing doesnt work (re: stimulus package) and now it does work and we are ignorant for not understanding it?

      Modern “conservatives” are very confused.

    • Andy says:

      10:20pm | 13/08/12

      Were the hell your evidence that rommey is a tax cheat, deadset some people are idiots, minimising taxes through legal means is not cheating on taxes, romney has obviously put his tax returns in every year, he has never being charged or been suspected of cheating on his taxes so how the F&^& is he a tax cheat.

    • St. Michael says:

      11:22am | 14/08/12

      @ andye: there’s a big difference between money that’s actually generated from a sustainable source—i.e. a new business that actually has a market and something to sell—and money generated from an unsustainable source—i.e. a stimulus.

      The difference comes down to this: stimuli stop.  They do not generate a continuing revenue source which sustains or is capable of improving a business.  They are a quick adrenalin hit to the economy followed by another slump.  I’d wager there are zero to none businesses that were founded on the back of, and are continuing due to, Wayne Swan’s cash giveaway in 2008.  Any fool who decided to open a small business because everyone in Australia was given $900 rightly deserves to go out of business because he’s been a pillock.

      A lower tax rate, by contrast, *is* a continuing cash stream which makes the economy grow.

      Conservatives have been trying to explain this for some time.  It’s only people who take no entrepreneurial risk—which is to say, the overwhelming majority of employees—that don’t understand it, because they don’t understand the difference between a lump sum and a revenue stream.  It’s as basic a misunderstanding as the difference between a deficit and a debt, and governments milk this ignorance for all it’s worth.

    • CarbonDogg says:

      01:18pm | 13/08/12

      So we’re taking political commentary from some kid doing his degree at UTS, whose interest is sport, and who has what connection or interest in American politics?

      The Ryan pick is a great move. It focuses attention on the appalling economics of Obama and the trillions of dollars wasted on bogus stimulus and crony capitalism.

    • Sam says:

      02:09pm | 13/08/12

      I like your style CarbonDogg.

    • Muggles says:

      01:35pm | 13/08/12

      For those people of a leftist disposition inclined to summarily dismiss Romney and the entire GOP on grounds of ideological distaste…

      Unless you have real* solution to America’s financial problems, and a way out of its spiralling debt and social security time bomb, it’d be best if, just for once, you could give the Romney/Republican bashing a rest.

      (And no, I’m not a fan of most of Romney’s policies, let alone those of the more conservative elements of the GOP, and its lunatic-evangelical-fringe. But I’m even less of a fan of leftists who think nothing of throwing good money after bad in the name of some cause, only to leave their descendants with huge debts and social problems.)

      * a real solution is one that doesn’t involve throwing a trillion dollars of non-existant money at the problem, expanding the role of government (yet again), or telling people that they really can have a welfare state without paying for it, or blaming all of life’s economic problems on “the rich” or bankers or evil corporations. A real solution is one that tackles the core problems of living within one’s means while providing for a just and sustainable society.

    • Mitch says:

      02:04pm | 13/08/12

      A real plan? How about creating a few more tax brackets for higher income levels? How about increasing capital gains tax? How about actually addressing the problems created by the vast income inequality that is present in the USA? Austerity can only do so much and raising taxes on the bottom 90% of income earners will only bring in a laughably small increase in government revenue.

    • Muggles says:

      02:33pm | 13/08/12

      @Mitch

      Maybe.  Some of those things are worthwhile.  But the typical attack on higher incomes will result in the same results as always.

      You’ve nominated increasing taxes as a solution, but you haven’t addressed the basic issue.

      Namely… expenses > revenue.  By a vast margin.

      No amount of tax fiddling will address that discrepancy. Though it may make some people feel better, knowing billionaires are now paying 5 cents more in the dollar. (Offset of course by the flight of funds, and thus production and jobs and taxes from the country.)

      (This is basic economics, by the way. It is not controversial.  Try to stick it to the rich, and the rich simply use their considerable resources to bypass your sticks, leaving you worse off. This has happened many times throughout history, as nationalist leaders/demagogues have found.)

      Tea Party politics aside for a second, taxation is not a key part of America’s problems right now.  It is a problem yes, but not an important one.

      America can’t pay its way. It is simply spending, and is projected to spend, far more than it earns.  Worse, many of the things that it is buying, are not long term assets.  But the debts ARE long term.

      The list of overspending is long.  Defence, health, social welfare, government programs, protectionist policies of all stripes, you name it.

      Finally, you speak of “vast income inequality”.  Well, yeah, but ... so what?

      There has ALWAYS been vast income inequality in any developed society.  And less developed ones for that matter.  Even in communist societies, you have a stark division between the privileged upper classes, and those who toil in the dark satanic mills.

      Trying to reduce income inequality is pointless, and probably counter-productive.  Sure, it may give you warm fuzzies to attempt it, and will score some political points, but even if you somehow, magically manage to reduce income inequality by a massive 50%, that merely means the top earners in society will have to slum it in a Porsche or Ferrari, instead of a Lamborghini or McClaren.

      (And even that won’t happen. See: capital flight.)

      Put it another way: how do you propose that we redistribute Gina Rinehart’s wealth, to reduce income inequality, without destroying her business, and thus losing the benefits of her wealth and future business?

      (Real proposals only, please.  And please remember she is at least as cunning as anyone here, and her lawyers and accountants are legion.  She can move billions around the world in minutes, as required.  And she can make or break developments that provide billions in taxes to our society, on a whim.So you need to think carefully about any plans for her wealth…)

      The problem is not income inequality. It’s about power inequality. It’s about ensuring that some people in society, whether billionaires or captains of industry or union heavies or party apparatchiks or high court judges, don’t have an excessive amount of political and social power.  That does not mean we strip people of their wealth, or “redistribute” their wealth. It means we have a civil society based around the needs of people, rather than what money can buy in that civil society.

      i.e. calling for more taxes is mostly pointless, given (a) America’s debt levels, and (b) the nature of that debt.

    • james says:

      02:39pm | 13/08/12

      Where were you during the bush years? Clinton was the last president to deliver a budget surplus…

      I agree with Mitch, but would add closing tax loop holes, be it the cayman islands or other forms of tax avoidance.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:56pm | 13/08/12

      “How about creating a few more tax brackets for higher income levels?”

      It’s been tried before.  In particular, during the Great Depression.  Franklin Roosevelt, the US President, went for a 100% tax rate at one stage and his own US Supreme Court knocked it back.  So let’s look at the highest individual marginal tax rates that did apply in the US during the Great Depression:
      1928 - 25%
      1932 - 63%
      1936 - 79%

      Bear in mind these are the top marginal rates applied to individuals—i.e. the rich.

      The Great Depression lasted from 1929 right through until World War 2, i.e. 1939.

      Get the point yet?

    • andye says:

      05:00pm | 13/08/12

      @Miuggles - “For those people of a leftist disposition inclined to summarily dismiss Romney and the entire GOP on grounds of ideological distaste…”

      **muggles then proceeds to list all the policies he dislikes on grounds of ideological distaste**

      Thanks, muggles. I needed a good laugh today.

      @Miuggles - “But I’m even less of a fan of leftists who think nothing of throwing good money after bad in the name of some cause, only to leave their descendants with huge debts and social problems.”

      But I thought it was the republicans who started those wars?


      @Miuggles - “Put it another way: how do you propose that we redistribute Gina Rinehart’s wealth, to reduce income inequality, without destroying her business, and thus losing the benefits of her wealth and future business?”

      How is increased tax on her personal income going to affect the businesses? If you want to help her businesses, propose a business tax cut. You seem to be quite vague and ambiguous here around the difference between an individual and some companies.

    • Mick says:

      03:29pm | 15/08/12

      @andye Interesting point about business tax v income tax. In the states many small businesses pay income tax in the top bracket. So when you tax “the wealthy” more, you actually tax small businesses more.

    • Cad says:

      02:33pm | 13/08/12

      Who is proposing higher taxes on the bottom 90%? No one, that’s who.

    • Bree says:

      03:41pm | 13/08/12

      Obama is raising taxes on the middle class. Obamacare is a tax remember!

    • Ged says:

      02:40pm | 13/08/12

      Romney’s “caution” was always just another invention of the mainstream media.

    • Ellis says:

      07:57pm | 13/08/12

      I was laughing my arse off reading that rubbish about releasing his tax returns - or not releasing them as the case may be in the minds of a few.

      he has released all that is required of him. Everything.

      Just to fill in the uninformed, of which there are legion, the hole “he isn’t releasing his tax returns” is one of the most despicable and disgusting things I have ever seen in US politics. And to digress for a moment this is why the whole “picking Ryan is a risk”  thought line is just wrong. He could have picked a new born baby and Obama and his machine would have gone nuts with negativity.

      It is all Obama has left. He has no record and zero credibility. To quote Ioawhawk Ryan represents Obama’s greatest fear: math. This is a President that promised to slash dent and instead borrowed $5 trillion dollars which has more than doubled the debt of ALL the previous administrations before him. He managed to do this while playing more rounds of golf than any other President and while hosting more fundraisers than the previous 4 presidents combined. Plenty more fun facts like that to come.

      $5 trillion and for that cash name ANYTHING he has built or accomplished. Anything.

      Anyway back to the tax return thing.

      The whole issue and what has people like Shane and his uninformed mates all excited is this. The Senate leader Harry Reid came out a few weeks ago now and stated he was told by a Bain investor on the phone that Romney did not pay tax for 10 years and thus he should release his returns to prove otherwise.

      So let us recap.

      The Senate leader, to put in Australian terms one of the most senior government people like Swan for example, says that Romney paid no tax for 10 years. not some shcmuck back bencher, not a staffer - a serious player.

      His proof. Some guy who he will not name that was simply an investor with Bain said so.

      I bet plenty of you have shares you bought and things like Superfunds you invest in. Tell me - how much did you know about the tax return details of the principals of those broking houses?

      So after tossing out an unfounded allegation Reid calls on Romney to disprove it by saying he release his tax returns.

      HA!!

      Why should he.

      Reid doubled down on this allegation since and has generally made a fool of himself but the meme is out there and weak minded people like Shane pick up on it. And of course it provides distraction to the Obama “record”. They really cannot talk about it. It doesn’t exist so expect more of this.

      Which is why Ryan is so good a choice. Ryan will simply stand there and show how broke America is. he is quite brilliant at doing it too, a very impressive speaker.

      The best thing about the Reid smear is the fun that grew out of it. I love the Harry Reid is a pederast line. He is you know. Some guy who knew a person that once had a conversation with someone that lived in the same state as Reid said so. Harry Reid has to disprove this of course - becuase it is not up to me to prove it…....such is the Reid logic about Romneys returns.

      This will be a corker of a campaign. it will be just like the Queensland election. As Obama gets more desperate he will say something enormously dumb, like what’s her name did in Queensland that he will not be able to walk back from. the really dumb ones always do. “You didn’t build that” writ large. What a poor speaker and intellectual coward he is away from the teleprompter. A real dunce.

      Oh and be careful of what poll you watch. The ones being quoted are biased. Hunt the reputable ones. There is about 1-2 points between the 2 nationally. Some of the polls you see now are skewed to certain types of voters that give weird results. It is not like Australian polls and compulsory voting. This will be close and for the sake of the US and the world let us hope it goes Romneys way or the place will be a smoking ruin after 4 more years of borrow and smile and tax.

    • Interloper says:

      03:05pm | 14/08/12

      You have an odd idea of what constitutes ‘despicable and disgusting’.

      Sure, Harry Reid was over the top. But the truth remains that candidates since George Romney have always issued many years’ tax returns, and Mitt Romney’s choice not to suggests strongly that he has something to hide. It may be that he doesn’t want his true wealth known, or that his accountants have been doing their jobs by minimising his tax in a way the would play badly. But there must be some reason.

      Why should he release them? Well, because it’s expected, and when you don’t do something expected then people start to question your motives.

      It’s even more puzzling given the Harry Reid business, where it’s within Romney’s power to destroy Reid’s credibility (and by extension perhaps senate democrats) - with congressional elections on the way too.

      On the plus side, it’s turned the election into a clear ideological fight. I hope both sides rise to the challenge

    • Cyril Connolly says:

      10:42am | 14/08/12

      It seems absurd to praise Ryan for having a plan that isn’t very good (under the plan in a few years time the US government would have no room for discretionary spending on anything but defence), merely because it’s a plan. Is that the yardstick for praising politicians nowadays? Depressing. The right are making him out as a tough-but-fair deficit hawk. Well, he’s also a social policy extremist:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/amyodell/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-paul-ryans-stance

    • Al says:

      03:41pm | 14/08/12

      Ryan should be praised for having a plan. He is risking his political skin with a series of detailed, potentially unpopular proposals. That is called leadership. The current ‘leader’ of the USA doesn’t even have the guts to propose anything.

 

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