Since announcing Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney’s ailing campaign has received a bump in popularity among conservatives and undecided voters. The addition of Ryan to the ticket has put Wisconsin back in play, and given the Obama campaign a less decisive lead in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.
But in practice, the Romney-Ryan platform still isn’t what the majority of American people want. The discrepancy between what Americans say they want the next president to focus on and what Romney and Ryan stand is, simply put, cognitive dissonance of epic proportions.
Who Killed The Jobs Bill?
A July 30th Gallup poll showed that the two issues Americans most want the next president to focus on are jobs and corruption. Ninety-two percent of those surveyed listed “creating good jobs” as the most important issue facing the next administration. Simultaneously, 36% of Republican voters say that they are more likely to vote for Mitt Romney now that Paul Ryan is on the ticket.
Of course, a cursory glance at Ryan’s voting record shows how that makes absolutely no sense.
In 2009, Ryan voted both against the stimulus package that increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 and 3.3 million. Just today, Ryan denied and then admitted that he took money from the stimulus package to help his district create green jobs, all the while disparaging the president’s stimulus bill as “a wasteful spending spree.” It appears that voters aren’t the only ones struggling with cognitive dissonance.
In 2011, Ryan did his part to help the 112th Congress hang onto its distinction as the least popular and least effective Congress in the country’s history by voting against the American Jobs Act. Not only did Ryan vote against the bill, he also actively campaigned against it, referring to it as “class warfare.” His objection to the bill was that it raised taxes on the wealthiest citizens to pay for job creating expenditures – exactly the kind of fiscal responsibility that he was unconcerned with when voting for TARP, both wars, the Bush tax cuts, and the Medicare Modernization Act that added even more entitlement spending to the program that Ryan now wants to end.
The American people say that they are more concerned with job creation than any other issue. But a vote for Romney and Ryan is a vote for the opposite: tax cuts for the wealthy and a refusal to spend taxpayer money on literally the most important issue to taxpayers – even though Ryan knows firsthand that the stimulus created jobs.
The Education Calamity
Americans also list education as a top priority for the next few years. 83% of Americans name improving public schools as an extremely important issue, and 69% say that making college education affordable is of major importance. Mitt Romney and his VP don’t exactly agree.
On the matter of public education, Romney has called for a decrease in teachers, upholding the favorite Republican image of teacher’s unions as a powerful political boogeyman. Ryan’s budget plan calls for $5.3 trillion in cuts to education, including billions in cuts to low-income families and students and special education grants.
The conservative dream team doesn’t just want to gut primary education, either. Their “starve the beast” philosophy extends to higher education, with Romney agreeing with a major facet of Ryan’s disastrous budget plan to cut Pell grants by $170 billion. Nation student debt – which just passed $1 trillion - is finally becoming an issue with Americans, and yet Paul Ryan is pulling in a 39% approval rating.
The GOP’s Narrative: A Work of Fiction
If Americans truly believe that job creation, education, and reducing corruption are the most important issues facing the country, Mitt Romney would never have been a contender, and Paul Ryan certainly wouldn’t have been lauded as a fantastic VP choice in a fawning, week-long media cycle.
But that’s the beauty of the Republican party: the party leaders are masters of the sound byte. When Romney claims Obama wants to give money to mythical welfare moochers, people believe him. When Paul Ryan claims that not allowing millionaires to indefinitely reap the benefits of tax cuts that were never supposed to be permanent is class warfare, that becomes the new reality.
Cognitive dissonance is ruling this election, and it’s not just the fault of the average voter. Romney and his supporters are spending millions to perpetuate a narrative that has no basis in reality. But unless American voters start finally measuring their priorities with the actions of the candidates, no one will be satisfied with the government’s performance.