Is Paul Ryan a worse VP pick than Sarah Palin?

OK, to even ask this question is to already concede the answer. Palin came into the 2008 campaign as a complete unknown, and part of the fun of that campaign was uncovering the surprising and unexpected depths of her ignorance. But she persevered, and she remains admired by large swaths of the American public. Admittedly, it’s for the wrong things entirely—her ignorance, her self-absorption, her self-proclaimed victimhood—but still, you can’t deny she’s got spunk.

But she’s also clever in a certain carnal way—she’s figured out how to make some dough on the side. Why else leave that springboard to political power, the governorship of Alaska? And her career has certainly been peripatetic—she’s worked in public service (well, yes, she has), but she’s also bounced around in the private sector. Not in a particularly distinguished way, to be sure, but still, she worked for media companies as a broadcaster and reporter, and helped run her husband’s fishing business. In the scheme of things, this might not be much, but it’s at least something. At the end of the day, I bet Sarah Palin knows what you need to do to meet a payroll.

Paul Ryan, on the other hand, appears to have never worked a day in the private sector in his life, except for some summer jobs working as a salesman for Oscar Meyer.

Like much of the younger contingent that seems to have taken over the Republican party, he’s got an idealized views of markets, and how they work, without ever having spent any meaningful time in an activity actually governed by markets. He left university and headed directly into a bunch of political jobs working for US congressmen and senators, eventually getting himself elected to Congress in 1998, where he has been ever since. I don’t think Ryan has a clue about what’s involved in meeting a payroll.

When I grew up, and up until the last two decades, the Republican party was dominated by businessmen. Whatever their faults, and these were legion, they at least understood how business worked, and what was actually involved in market behavior. Which is one reason why many of them became politicians in the first place—to try to influence and indeed control markets. These days, though, to make it in the Republican party, outright experience in dealing with markets seems to be a disadvantage. All you need is some mystical Randian belief in markets.

So aside from the obvious baggage that Ryan brings—the fact that he doesn’t know arithmetic, for example, or that budget, which will now, along with Mitt’s tax issue, become the centerpiece of the campaign if the Obama people know what they’re doing, which they seem to—there’s this fact that the guy who could be a heartbeat away has never done anything in his life except work for the federal government. If the Obama people can’t do anything with that, they deserve to lose.

5 replies »

  1. Sorry to interrupt the flow, but I read that he had worked in the construction industry too.

    However, it was long ago and waaay before the construction industry of today.

  2. His family was–they built interstates under the Eisenhower administration. Not clear that he ever spent a day in it.

  3. Naturally! Obama of course doesn’t have a whole lot either–a year at an outfit called Business International (later acquired by The Economist), a couple of years at a law firm, that’s pretty much it. But it’s still more than what Ryan’s got, and Obama isn’t the one with the Ayn Rand belief system.