In the presidential race, count me as still undecided. But Romney's choice of a running mate has moved the needle in his direction. Paul Ryan is a thoughtful congressman who is young enough to have a brilliant future in politics. Assuming that the Republicans lose this election, you will probably see him at the top of the ticket next time around. The pundits have weighed in on Ryan. The New York Times was predictably hysterical in opposition, but I thought the most intelligent appraisal of Ryan was in today's Financial Times, under the byline of Christopher Caldwell. I couldn't have said it better myself, so I will just quote his last paragraph.
"The dynamic of modern liberal democracies is to grow. It is hard to put a welfare state into reverse without ripping the whole gear-works apart. Mr. Ryan is right that the US system of benefits is unsustainable. He must now win that argument against Mr. Obama. If he does, the Republicans will deserve to win. If he doesn't, they won't. Either way, the US election has suddenly turned into exactly what it should be: a decision about which of the two parties that colluded to get Americans into such a fiscal mess can best be trusted to get them out."
To that excellent precis I will add only this: Paul Ryan will tell the American electorate that the time has come to take some castor oil. Many, maybe most Americans won't like that message, and the Republicans may lose the election. President Obama will have a cheerier message: Just raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" and everything will be all right. But one way or another, we are all going to swallow castor oil - no matter who is elected.