Reporters: Who is going to ask Ryan the $30 Million Question?

by Michael Lund

Brandon Rittiman’s six-and-a-half minute interview with Paul Ryan on 9news’ Your Show last week raised more questions than it answered.  Not that Rittiman didn’t try his hardest.   But reporters who encounter Ryan further on down the campaign trail should press him for more details.

With help from viewers’ submissions, Rittiman posed timely, topical, and well-constructed questions to Ryan.  But the GOP vice-presidential nominee’s responses were scripted and predictable (on Obama’s record), broad (on taxes), simplistic (on limited government), evasive and misleading (on women’s health issues) and even humble (backpedaling on his previously reported extraordinary marathon time).

Ryan began by debunking President Clinton’s assertion during his speech at the Democratic National Convention that in a single term, no president could fix the mess that President Obama inherited.  Ryan called that argument an excuse, and then recited oft-repeated numbers on unemployment and growing poverty.

He finished his statement with,

 “We want growth, we want prosperity, and we have a very specific plan to get jobs created, to get higher take-home pay, to get people back on a path to prosperity – out of poverty.”

Wanting growth, jobs and prosperity doesn’t distinguish Ryan from anyone else in America, including every Democrat.  Thankfully, Rittiman deftly followed up with the obvious question – he asked for specifics on the Romney/Ryan plan on taxes and spending.

Ryan barely complied.  He advocated across-the-board tax cuts of 20%, (paid for by “getting rid of loopholes”) and then proposed a transparent, democratic process (no “backroom deals like they did with Obamacare”) to determine which loopholes to close and who should benefit from write-offs.

“… and who should get the write-offs?  Should we be giving write-offs to specific businesses?  Should Washington – which Republicans and Democrats have both done, pick winners and losers?  Or should high income individuals be able to shelter their money from taxation?  We don’t think so.  By closing these tax shelters, by plugging loopholes that go to specific industries and businesses, that go to higher income people who shelter their money from taxation, you can lower tax rates for everybody.”

Hold the phone.

Was Ryan talking about rich people with tax shelters?  What was that he said about Swiss bank accounts, Bermuda shadow corporations, and $30 million of Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands?

As Newt Gingrich has pointed out, and Vanity Fair has investigated, and American voters like me have observed, the Romney/Ryan plan might cause some consternation for people like Romney.

And what about that call for a transparent process?  If it’s going to be transparent, we may need to know about which presidential candidates have which assets tucked away in which off-shore accounts.   Hmmm.  Releasing tax returns could help in that regard.  Just sayin’…

Rittiman persisted in asking for details, and Ryan reiterated, with no satisfaction to my inquiring mind.

“We’re actually saying, “Don’t lose tax revenue, but don’t have a massive tax increase and restructure the tax code so that it is fairer, simpler, and more internationally competitive to create jobs.”

Does that mean that Ryan and Romney might be down with “a moderate tax increase”?

Rittiman didn’t ask, but the “numbers guy” Ryan did offer that he would not support “higher tax rates on successful small businesses which is where most of our jobs come from.”

But, if we close loopholes, couldn’t some businesses and Republicans spin that as a tax hike?  After all, many take issue with the idea of repealing the Bush tax cuts, saying that restoring previous tax rates would actually amount to a tax hike.

And another question:  does a “fairer, simpler, and internationally competitive” system include sheltering assets in strawman corporations in sunny Caribbean locales?

Ryan insists in the Your Show interview that there is Democratic support for the Romney/Ryan plan.

“The Simpson-Bowles Commission proposed a similar process of lowering tax rates and plugging loopholes even more that what the Romney/Ryan plan does.”

One might wonder, how did House Budget Committee member Ryan vote on the Simpson-Bowles recommendation?  I’ll save future interviewers some trouble here.

He voted against it.



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