On Paul Ryan’s vice presidential candidacy

Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan for his vice president. The office of the vice president is almost entirely irrelevant; so it’s not clear why this really matters. Paul Ryan’s most notable “achievement” is his proposed budget. The budget is an absolute train wreck that doubtlessly owes its provenance to Ryan’s comical affection for Ayn Rand. It increases taxes on the poor, decreases taxes on the rich, ends Medicare, and shifts health care costs onto the elderly, among other things. Romney has come out in support of the Ryan plan, even as he has advocated against certain pieces of it at times (for example, eliminating the capital gains tax).

You might think choosing a vice presidential candidate whose only real fame comes from an absolutely heinous budget proposal would be a problem for Romney. However, most people hardly pay attention to politics and certainly not policy minutiae. More than that, when focus groups are actually confronted with the content of Paul Ryan’s plan, they simply refuse to believe it is real.

For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.

If voters refuse to believe what Democrats will truthfully say about Paul Ryan’s budget, then it cannot be a political liability. If the above-mentioned focus group is any indication, voters will indeed refuse to believe Ryan’s proposal says what it says. As bizarre as it sounds, Ryan’s budget may be so bad and unconscionable that truthful representations of it will just be shrugged off as political rhetoric.

h/t Jonathan Chait