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Paul Ryan: A VP With a Mandate

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza rightly called Mitt Romney's bold selection of Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) as his running mate, "the most daring decision of his political career."

Until this weekend, most observers expected Romney to proceed cautiously by selecting a vice-presidential nominee who would neither shake up the race nor introduce new risk into the campaign.

Mitt Romney, we hardly knew ya'.

This is the most consequential presidential election in a generation. It deserves a campaign on big ideas and contrasting visions, not petty personal attacks, small ball and obfuscation.

To date, the Obama-Biden campaign has said embarrassingly little about what a second term would entail. Republicans expect that it would include an effort to legalize millions of undocumented workers, fully implement Obamacare, raise taxes, expand government and push climate change legislation. But President Obama hasn't had the courage to say it. And so if, in a war of attrition, Obama ekes out a narrow victory in November, it will be hollow, as no mandate for these legislative goals will be granted.

Likewise, until now Romney's argument that Obama deserves firing was not enough to provide a legislative mandate, even if he were to win.

But now, with the addition of Ryan to the ticket, Romney has a golden opportunity to define his platform by offering a bold, honest, direct set of solutions to the voters. And he now has exactly the right partner to do it.

Romney and Ryan should frame the 2012 election in terms of growth vs. dependence.

The last three and a half years have witnessed greater American dependence on government than at any time since the Great Depression: expanded welfare access, record delivery of food stamps, seemingly unending federal unemployment insurance, and a massive new entitlement with Obamacare. And private industry now massively relies on government: bank bailouts, auto bailouts, wasted investments in "alternative energy," nationalization of the student loan industry and the government takeover of one-sixth of the economy with healthcare. Where does it end?

Republicans should stress that America was not made great because Americans were dependent on government. The greatness of America has always been human initiative, entrepreneurial spirit and inventiveness. The American Dream is not food stamps, welfare and unemployment insurance.

This theme ties in directly with the "You Didn't Build That" controversy, a stunning moment of honesty from President Obama in which he requires that every private-sector achievement is directly attributable to the public sector.

This dependence on government is a cancer, which grows uncontrollably and decreases human initiative. It cannot, by its very nature, lead to economic growth.

With our national debt now reaching 100 percent of our gross domestic product, Republicans are right to speak the truth: We cannot afford the government we have.

President Obama, who promised to halve the deficit in his first term, is the owner of the four largest deficits in American history, each over $1 trillion. And 40 percent of our federal spending is borrowed.

Hard choices must be made to save America.

Raising taxes on the wealthy, a strategic canard created by the Obama campaign to attack Romney's personal wealth and shamelessly employ class warfare to divide Americans is not a serious solution. If you taxed millionaires at 100 percent you would do little to balance the budget and much to destroy job creation and investment.

The only solution that will save America requires four parts: reducing spending to our historical average (to around 18 percent of GDP from 25 percent today), reforming entitlements for future generations (Medicare runs out of money by 2024, Social Security will go bankrupt by 2033 and we now have over $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities), reforming our individual and corporate tax code (broadening the base, lowering all rates, ending nearly all market-distorting tax breaks), and enabling rapid economic growth (at least 3 percent annually).

Without growth, the other three requirements are not enough.

Only by honestly describing the current danger and offering a bold case to the voters, which both Romney and Ryan are well equipped to do, can a Romney administration win the political mandate that this solution will require.

For this reason, Ryan is the right choice for vice-president. Now it's time for Romney and Ryan to win the argument.

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