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Richard Milhous Ryan: No Specifics, Just a "Secret Plan"

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Cross-posted from The Nation



Richard Milhous Nixon said in 1968 that the war in Vietnam was the critical concern of that year's presidential contest, the one issue that had to be addressed by the candidates. And he addressed it with a "secret plan" to end the war. No details during the campaign, the Republican nominee for president explained; voters just needed to trust him and he would cut the right deals once elected.

Paul Ryan says in 2012 that budgeting to cut taxes for the rich while at the same time doing away with deficits is the critical issue of the presidential contest, the one that has to be addressed by the candidates. And he addresses the issue with a secret plan to cut taxes and balance budgets. No details during the campaign, the Republican nominee for vice president explains; voters just need to trust him and he will cut the right deals once elected.

In the most remarkable exchange of the only vice presidential debate of 2012 came when moderator Martha Raddatz said to Ryan: "You have refused...to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics? Or are you still working on it, and that's why you won't tell voters?"

That's where Ryan borrowed a political page from "Tricky Dick":

RYAN: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements. You see, I understand the...

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That was it. No specifics. No plan. Just a plea for voters to trust Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to "fill in the details."

Vice President Biden, who was already well aware that he was winning the debate he had to win after last week's presidential debate debacle, pounced. Displaying the skills that would lead 50 percent of undecided voters to tell pollsters that Biden won the debate, while only 31 percent picked Ryan, the experienced vice president hit the inept pretender with the obligatory "I was there when Ronald Reagan tax breaks -- he gave specifics" line.

Then the vice president explained why Ryan was avoiding specifics. Under even the most basic outlines of the Romney-Ryan plan "taxes go up on the middle class, the only way you can find $5 trillion in loopholes is cut the mortgage deduction for middle-class people, cut the healthcare deduction, middle-class people, take away their ability to get a tax break to send their kids to college. That's why they arrive at it."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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