To give credit where credit is due, Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate is the best choice he could have made out of the field of eligibles. Ryan has proposed the least insane budget to come down the pike in many a decade... this, assuming that Job One for America is still empire-building, which it should not be, because empire-building, besides being unconstitutional, immoral, and unjust, also eats into the body politic and into our wealth and well-being more than any New Deal or Great Society program ever could. And, as has already been pointed out, Ryan is by no means a “budget conservative” -- he is, in fact, a hard-core neocon, as is Romney. But at least Romney had the sense not to choose a fanatic or a nut case, so I guess back-handed compliments are in order. What we have now is twin Mr. Cleans – both whiter than white. So yes, it's a choice, all right – but mostly an illusory one.
Even Pat Buchanan admits (in Wednesday's column) that the choice of Ryan is “gutsy” -- a way to “convert this dismal campaign into a stark choice of philosophies and policies”. Well... I don't know how “stark” the choice is, because, as I've pointed out before, when it comes down to actual cases a Romney/Ryan foreign policy would be identical to Obama's, and domestically it would amount to no more than tweaking at the margins. The problem is that nearly everything in the budget has become “non-discretionary”, which means that even the president can do little to stop, or even mildly divert, the juggernaut that is the national drive toward economic catastrophe. The Ryan budget, if ever enacted, would be akin to, as the expression goes, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Again, I say that every time someone comes along promising to “throw the rascals out”, all we wind up with is a new set of rascals. I'm not going to go so far as to say this was inevitable all along – i.e. from the very beginning – but, given the structure of our government, it was the most likely result of 200+ years of gradual erosion.
A related issue, which we have already seen discussed at length, is the preservation of “capitalism”. Obama, the Democrats, and liberals in general have been trying to do away with this dreaded monstrosity for generations now, and Republicans and conservatives have been holding the line, or so they contend, or believe. My point has always been that capitalism – the pure form, or as pure as it gets – is alive, if not well, in the small business sector (i.e., what the middle class does), whereas what big business (the ruling elite) does is more like corporate socialism, AKA fascism. So Obama and crew are at least half right on that count – although it does appear that Romney has been less guilty of this offense than most. It remains the case, however, that small business and the middle class are, and have been, punished for the sins of big business and the ruling elite; and this has been true for, again, many generations. (This is even true within the halls of government, by the way. Small and “innocent” agencies are regularly punished for the sins and offenses of large, powerful, and guilty agencies, which get off scot-free. It's good to be king, in other words – as long as there are plenty of scapegoats to go around.)
And this is not to say that capitalism, and capitalists, have not contributed greatly to the overall wealth and prosperity of society. Anything one compares this system with falls woefully short. The political issue, as always, is not one of aggregate wealth or prosperity, but of that will-o-the-wisp called “fairness”. In the name of fairness, liberal/collectivist/totalitarian regimes have, for nearly 100 years now, leveled the playing field by making everyone poor – except, of course, the ruling elite. But given a choice between a two-class system (controllers and proletariat) and a three-class system (rich, middle class, and poor), liberals and “theoreticians” will choose the two-class model every time. And in fact, it seems that now, no matter which side of the usual political divide one is on, one is working toward a two-class system – as the “Great Recession” and its aftermath demonstrate. Suddenly the middle class is everyone's enemy, not just the elite's – although Romney and his ilk will never admit it, and even Obama finds it convenient to mouth words about the middle class, which he clearly despises.
So Buchanan applauds the choice while not raining on their parade by mentioning that, as he said in a previous column, a vote for the Republicans is a vote for war -- not that a vote for the Democrats isn't – but with Romney in charge we would likely get more and bigger wars sooner. I mean... gosh, people, the guy has already as much as promised to attack Iran the first day he's in office. How much more do you need to know?
But there is another angle to all this. I heard an argument over the weekend that, given the frontal attacks Obama is making on the Catholic Church, electing Romney would at least put off disaster for a while longer, and not because Ryan is Catholic ('cause so is Joe Biden, and look at all the good that has done!). As a Mormon, Romney presumably believes in the rights of religious minorities, whereas in Obama's book religion always has to defer to government in all matters. So now we're supposed to go to the polls with the question foremost in our minds, “Is it good for the Catholic Church?” -- which reminds me of the oft-cited criterion “Is it good for the Jews?” Well, yes – this is what it's come to, when the culture wars come up to our very doorstep. No one can complain about a “sharply divided electorate” when the government itself is the aggressor.
But even the argument “other things being equal”, while valid on its face (given the lack of significant policy differences between Obama and Romney), is not good enough, and I'll tell you why. While one can debate endlessly as to the constitutionality of any given domestic program or policy, the situation with regard to foreign policy, i.e. war, is quite clear. It's contained in “just war doctrine”, and according to this, none of the wars we are fighting at this point qualify – and this holds true at least as far back as World War II. So if unjust wars are immoral, then a vote to continue unjust wars, or initiate new ones, is a vote in support of an immoral act. So even if one votes for Romney based on his supposed more tolerant attitude toward the Catholic Church, one would still be voting, and supporting, immoral acts. And we also know (or should know) that it's wrong to commit sin so that some good may come of it. So this is the answer to that argument, even if said argument is – as was pointed out – much more nuanced than the usual “lesser of two evils” argument. Catholics might not be sorry if Romney won, but a vote for him would be just as wrong as a vote for Obama.