Editorial: The right race, the right time

The most immediate reaction to Mitt Romney???s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate was applause for the strong signal this would send to conservatives and tea party voters. Many doubts about the ???severity??? of Romney???s conservatism (to borrow a phrase he memorably employed in a speech at CPAC 2012) would be relieved by bringing Ryan onto the ticket.

But Ryan???s selection as vice presidential candidate should be a welcome signal to more than just conservatives. Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, and Democratic co-chair of the bipartisan deficit commission Barack Obama resolutely ignored, seems to have received this signal. He praised Ryan as ???amazing,??? ???honest,??? ???straightforward??? and ???sincere??? in a 2011 video clip that received wide play on the Internet after Ryan was added to the Romney ticket. Bowles stood by his praise in new interviews, even as he took heat from the left for unhelpfully complicating their ???Paul Ryan is the Devil??? narrative.

Bowles says he remains loyal to the Democrat Party and will still vote for Obama, which is not surprising, even if it???s difficult to reconcile with anything he says about the importance of avoiding fiscal ruin.

Getting to know Ryan

In the coming weeks, the general electorate will come to understand that Paul Ryan is truly the man of the hour. Few others Romney could have tapped as a running mate can match Ryan???s command of budgetary issues???or, perhaps more importantly, his understanding of the relationship between economic liberty, prosperity and morally legitimate government.

???We Americans look at one another???s success with pride, not resentment???because we know, as more Americans work hard, take risks, and succeed, more people will prosper, our communities will benefit, and individual lives will be improved and uplifted,??? Ryan said in his debut speech as vice presidential candidate.

He went on. ???But America is more than just a place. It???s an idea. It???s the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. This idea is founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination and government by consent of the governed.???

???This idea is under assault,??? Ryan warned. ???So, we have a critical decision to make as a nation.???

Reclaiming individual freedom

This is a perfect summary of the decision American voters must make in 2012. We have reached the point where it is no longer possible to pretend that the American idea can co-exist with Barack Obama???s vision of unlimited maternal government. There can be no more inalienable rights, because government must infringe upon all of them, if it is to continue its growth.

Central planning and the redistribution of wealth leave no room for private ownership and entrepreneurial risk. The pursuit of opportunity is incompatible with a government that presumes to judge our ambitions, and tell us precisely where our efforts must be ???invested.???

A shrunken private sector provides no frontiers to explore through free enterprise. Omnipresent, inescapable centralized government leaves American citizens no meaningful way to grant, or withdraw, their ???consent.???

The great crash awaiting America has moved forward with inexorable speed. Its ice-cold arithmetic continues to resolve, without concern for the emotional appeals of politicians desperately seeking to cobble interest groups into winning coalitions. The future of Obama-style government is a steel trap strung with barbed wire, which can be hidden by airy rhetoric and hollow promises, but not disarmed. Obama will be safely out of office, with secure benefits for himself and his family, when the trap springs shut.

The generation caught in that disaster will be surrounded by a maze of inescapable obligations, constructed when they were too young to vote against it. Today???s irresponsible Obama deficits will become tomorrow???s economy-crushing tax increases, combined with indisputable Obamacare rationing.

Our insolvent future was easier for politicians to hide from us when it was 30 or 40 years off. The pages of the doomsday calendar have been torn away and any number of calamities, from European market collapse to American credit downgrades, could push us over the edge. The economic and civic strength we need to confront such catastrophes has been greatly diminished. We have very little time to reclaim it.

Paul Ryan memorably informed President Obama???s Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, that ???the economy, according to the CBO, shuts down in 2027 according to this path.??? Geithner???s ultimate response, after arguing with Ryan about Medicare reform, should be studied by every American for generations to come, as a shameful example of bankrupt leadership: ???We???re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term problem. What we do know is that we don???t like yours.???

America can???t afford it any longer

America cannot afford to accept that answer, by voting Barack Obama back into office. We don???t have until 2027 to get off the path Ryan described. He is the man of the hour because he???s willing to explain to American voters, with full respect for their intelligence, that our last chance to act is now.

Americans??? growing concern, however, doesn???t guarantee victory for the Romney-Ryan ticket, because the American electorate has been known to ignore fiscal alarms. But, Republicans are running the right race at the right time.

Let us hope Paul Ryan is correct about the endurance of the American idea, which has nourished both our hearts and minds for more than two centuries, and which can lead us to heights of greatness we are fully capable of achieving again.