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“Not Just A One Trick Pony”: Paul Ryan Is More Than Just A Guy Who Wants To End Medicare

Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s new vice-presidential pick, is best known as the author of and lead cheerleader for a budget plan that would decimate the social contract and require the middle class to pay for massive tax breaks for the wealthy. But it would be a mistake to focus just on his horrible economic ideas. Paul Ryan is not just a one-trick pony.

For instance, while Ryan preaches Ayn Rand’s gospel of economic greed and personal freedoms, he isn’t so fond of individual freedom when it comes to gay people or women. In fact, when it comes to reproductive choice, Ryan is nostalgic for the 1950s. He co-sponsored a so-called “Personhood bill,” which would classify abortion as first-degree murder and outlaw some of the most common types of birth control. A similar bill in Mississippi was rejected last year by 55 percent of voters. That’s right: on reproductive freedom and birth control, Paul Ryan is to the right of Mississippi.

That’s not even to mention Ryan’s support for last year’s “Let Women Die” bill, which would have allowed hospitals to refuse abortions to women, even if their lives were at risk. He also voted, along with most of his Republican House colleagues, to completely eliminate Title X, the program that provides family-planning services, including affordable contraception, to low-income women.

In a rambling essay in 2010, Ryan asserted that Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court error “virtually identical” to the Dred Scott decision, in which the court ruled that African Americans had no rights as citizens. If Romney’s pick of Robert Bork to head his judicial advisory committee wasn’t clue enough, we now know exactly what would happen to reproductive rights under a Romney-Ryan administration.

Ryan had one brush with support for gay rights back in 2007, when he voted for an early version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a few minutes after voting to kill the bill. But since then, he’s fallen in line with the Right, opposing future versions of ENDA, hate crimes protections, adoption by gay couples, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military and of course anything resembling marriage equality. Now he feigns indifference to the whole issue, saying, “I don’t know why we are spending all this time talking about this.” He should ask a few LGBT people why we’re spending time “talking about this”: they might be able to explain why the issue of equal rights is more than a distraction from his plan to gut Medicare.

And then there are the other issues where the Corporate Right and the Religious Right have conveniently found themselves in agreement. Ryan is in the distressingly large “if it’s snowing out, global warming can’t be real” camp, or what the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer calls a “biblical view of the environment.” He speaks the language of the Religious Right’s pick-and-choose approach to the Constitution, saying in his nomination acceptance speech, “Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes” — code for a Christianist government and the destruction of the social safety net, the twin goals of today’s unified Corporate and Christian Right.

Ryan not only speaks the language of the Religious Right, he is one of them. Ryan is a confirmed speaker at the upcoming Values Voter Summit, a yearly confab hosted by the anti-gay, anti-choice Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel and American Family Association. There, he’ll join right-wing luminaries including anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist Jerry Boykin, anti-Planned Parenthood prankster Lila Rose, and Kamal Saleem, who bills himself as a reformed ex-terrorist… and who is widely considered to be a fraud. The event is a must-attend for candidates who want to appeal to the farthest extremes of the Religious Right, which clearly Romney and Ryan are more than happy to do.

Paul Ryan has a friendly demeanor and an earnest desire to make his case about his terrible economic policy. But we shouldn’t let his focus on turning Medicare into a coupon distract us from the fact that he also wants to bring women’s rights and gay rights back decades and cater to those who think the government should be run exclusively by and for evangelical Christians.

Paul Ryan is the whole package: massive tax cuts for billionaires on the backs of the middle class, plus the Religious Right’s wish list of regressive social policies. In his choice of Paul Ryan, Massachusetts Mitt has sent a rare unambiguous signal about where he wants to take this country. And it’s nowhere we should want to go.


By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, August 14, 2012

August 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Ryan’s Party”: Movement Conservatives Openly Control GOP At Last

I’m not sure I believe in Freudian slips, and Barack Obama made a similar mistake when he introduced Joe Biden four years ago, but what the hell: When Mitt Romney slipped up this morning and introduced Paul Ryan as “the next president of the United States,” he spoke the truth. The premise of my April profile was that Ryan had become the leader of the Republican Party, with the president himself relegated to a kind of head-of-state role, at least in domestic affairs. As Grover Norquist put it, the only requirement for a nominee was enough working digits to sign Ryan’s plan. Ryan’s prestige within the party is unassailable. If he doesn’t want something to happen, it won’t happen (say, several bipartisan deals to reduce the deficit that he squashed.) If he wants something to happen, however foolhardy (like putting the entire House GOP caucus on record for his radical budget plan despite a certain veto) it will happen. It is Ryan’s party.

The only real question left was how to handle the optics of this reality. The original operating plan of the Romney campaign was to run against the bad economy, and then implement the Ryan Plan, which of course is a long-term vision of government unrelated to the current state of the labor market. Romney’s campaign had been bravely insisting for weeks that the plan was working, or that it was due for a 1980-like October leap in the polls, but clearly Romney did not believe, or had come to disbelieve, its own spin.

So Romney is conceding that the current track of the campaign is headed for a narrow defeat and has decided to alter its course. Obama has successfully defined Romney as an agent of his own economic class, a ploy that was clearly designed to make the attacks on Romney’s policy agenda hit home. (Focus groups had previously found that undecided voters found literal descriptions of Romney’s plan so radical they didn’t believe them.)

Romney has made the risky but defensible calculation that, if he is to concur with most of his party’s ideological baggage, he might as well bring aboard its best salesman. And Ryan is that. During his rise to power he has displayed an awesome political talent. He is ambitious but constantly described by others as foreswearing ambition. He comes from a wealthy background but has defined himself as “blue collar,” because he comes from a place that is predominantly blue collar. He spent the entire Bush administration either supporting the administration’s deficit-increasing policies, or proposing alternative policies that would have created much higher deficits than even Bush could stomach, but came away from it with a reputation as the ultimate champion of fiscal responsibility.

What makes Ryan so extraordinary is that he is not just a handsome slickster skilled at conveying sincerity with a winsome heartland affect. Pols like that come along every year. He is also (as Rich Yeselson put it) the chief party theoretician. Far more than even Ronald Reagan, he is deeply grounded is the ideological precepts of the conservative movement — a longtime Ayn Rand devotee who imbibed deeply from the lunatic supply-side tracts of Jude Wanniski and George Gilder. He has not merely formed an alliance with the movement, he is a product of it.

In this sense, Ryan’s nomination represents an important historical marker and the completion of a 50-year struggle. Starting in the early sixties, conservative activists set out to seize control of the Republican Party. At the time the party was firmly in the hands of Establishmentarians who had made their peace with the New Deal, but the activists regarded the entire development of the modern regulatory and welfare states as a horrific assault on freedom bound to lead to imminent societal collapse. In fits and starts, the conservatives slowly advanced – nominating Goldwater, retreating under Nixon, nominating Reagan, retreating as Reagan sought to govern, and on and on through Gingrich, Bush, and his successors.

Over time the movement and the party have grown synonymous, and Ryan’s nominations represents a moment when the conservative movement ceased to control the politicians from behind the scenes and openly assumed the mantle of power.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Beast, August 11, 2012

August 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Weakness In Romney’s Boldness”: Confident Candidates Don’t Go For Boldness, They Make A Choice For Balance

By making Rep. Paul Ryan his running mate, Mitt Romney guaranteed that this will be a big election. The Ryan budget plan will be front and center. Romney now owns its every number, policy and semicolon — unless he specifically says otherwise.

For that reason, the choice was bold. The 2012 election is now about whether the country believes that cuts in Medicare, deep reductions in programs for the poor and steep cuts in taxes for the wealthy are necessary for growth and prosperity. President Obama’s campaign is already running a sober advertisement framing the election as a referendum on this formula. For all the negative ads we will see, a great deal of substance — indeed, a fundamental choice — will underlie the rest of the campaign.

But Romney’s need to make such a bold choice is also a sign of weakness. Candidates confident in their position don’t go for boldness. They make a choice for balance, or to carry a state, or that reinforces their own persona.

Thus did Ronald Reagan pick George H.W. Bush in 1980 to appeal to GOP moderates. In 1992, Bill Clinton picked Al Gore to reinforce his own strengths: young, Southern, New Democrat.

But Romney picked Ryan because he was under intense pressure from right-wing elements of the Republican Party to prove, yet again, that he is truly a conservative. Romney has been trying to prove this ever since he announced his candidacy. Because he has been lagging in the polls, the right felt free to pressure him some more. Now, the right will back the ticket with enthusiasm. This really is the go-for-broke choice that conservatives were looking for. But the cost is that Romney will be unable to make a new appeal to the political center. And by passing on Sen. Rob Portman, Romney gives up an opportunity to strengthen himself in Ohio, a state that he absolutely needs to win and where he has been running behind.

The outcome of this election is now hugely consequential. If the Romney-Ryan ticket wins, conservatives will claim a mandate for Ryan’s radical budget ideas. But if Obama wins, conservatives will no longer be able to argue that the public was given a tepid choice by a philosophically inconstant Romney. A rejection of Romney-Ryan would be a huge blow to the conservative agenda. It will settle the argument over the role of government that we have been having since Barack Obama took the oath of office. This election really and truly matters.

UPDATE, 1:40 p.m.

The Romney campaign is clearly very sensitive about the argument that I made above — and that others, of course, are also making: that Romney now owns the Ryan budget. Here, courtesy of CNN, is a Q-and-A being distributed as part of the campaign’s talking points:

 1.) Does this mean Mitt Romney is adopting the Paul Ryan plan?

Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.

Romney’s administration will go through the budget line by line and ask two questions: Can we afford it? And, if not, should we borrow money from China to pay for it?

Note that the campaign doesn’t actually give a direct answer to the question it asked itself.

And then there was this:

 2) Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have different views on some policy areas — like Medicare spending, entitlement reform, labor, etc. — do you think those differences are going to hurt or help?

Of course they aren’t going to have the same view on every issue. But they both share the view that this election is a choice about two fundamentally different paths for this country. President Obama has taken America down a path of debt and decline. Romney and Ryan believe in a path for America that leads to more jobs, less debt and smaller government. So, while you might find an issue or two where they might not agree, they are in complete agreement on the direction that they want to lead America.

Again, the Romney camp does not specify in its answer exactly where Romney disagrees with Ryan. It just mentions general areas of disagreement in its question.

If Romney really wants to separate himself from Ryan’s views and his budget, he will have to get a lot more specific than this. And journalists, one would expect, will be pressing Romney hard to offer specifics on the very questions the campaign itself posed.

And thanks to my colleague Greg Sargent for pointing out the existence of these talking points in his own thoughtful take on the Ryan pick.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 11, 2012

August 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“After The Third Time, The Rooster Crowed”: Five Times Mitt Romney Has Embraced The Ryan Budget

Just minutes after Mitt Romney announced Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his vice presidential choice, his campaign was working to distancing itself from Ryan’s signature piece of legislation — his “Path to Prosperity” budget, which would massively overhaul Medicare, Social Security, and other social programs.

In internal talking points that are sure to disappoint conservatives, Romney’s campaign weaseled around fully embracing Ryan’s plan, writing, “Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.”

But Mitt Romney has been a full-throttle endorser of the Ryan budget on several occasions since its launch. Here are five quotes from Romney himself, endorsing the Ryan plan:

1. “Very supportive.” “I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier. I think it’s amazing that we have a president who three and a half years in still hasn’t put a proposal out that deals with entitlements. This president’s dealing with entitlement reform — excuse me — this budget deals with entitlement reform, tax policy, which as you know is very similar to the one that I put out and efforts to reign in excessive spending. I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.

2.”The right tone.” Romney told Talking Points Memo, “He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. …Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page.’”

3. “Marvelous.” “I think it’d be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan’s budgetand to adopt it and pass it along to the president,” Romney once professed while in Wisconsin. Obama mocked him for this one:

4. “An important step.” “I spent a good deal of time with Congressman Ryan. When his plan came out, I applauded it, as an important step. … We’re going to have to make changes like the ones Paul Ryan proposed.”

5. “The same page.” In March, on a local Wisconsin radio show called the Vicki McKenna Show, Romney told the host “Paul Ryan and I have been working together over some months to talk about our mutual plans and we’re on the same page.”

The Romney campaign’s attempt to distance itself from Ryan’s budget is particularly striking, given that one of Romney’s surrogates attacked Newt Gingrich’s campaign for doing the same thing during the GOP presidential primary. Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu said on a call with reporters, “Mitt Romney supports what Paul Ryan did. He endorsed what Paul Ryan did. Mitt Romney had his own package of entitlement reform, which Paul Ryan has praised. They both meshed together.”

Now that Romney is distancing himself from the proposal, it will be interesting to know which parts of Ryan’s budget he disagrees with.


By: Annie-Rose Strasser, Think Progress, August 11, 2012

August 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Attack And Distract Strategy”: Mitt Romney’s Empty ObamaCare-Repeal Rhetoric

Mitt Romney strode out to respond to the Supreme Court ruling behind a podium that read “Repeal and Replace.” His response focused on the first verb and ignored the second.

Right off the top, Romney delivered one of the tightest lines of his campaign: “What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is, I will act to repeal Obamacare.”

It went downhill from there. Careful to repeat the word “Obamacare” some 18 times throughout his brief remarks, Romney was careless with the facts in his rebuttal.

Maybe it is the inherent awkwardness of the fact that Romney’s major governmental accomplishment is an individual mandate-driven health-care plan, but his response was fear- rather than fact-based. This is consistent with the “attack and distract” strategy he has deployed when it comes to policy during his general-election campaign.

At least three claims Romney made in his speech deserve particular scrutiny:

First, Medi-scare: “Obamacare cuts Medicare—cuts Medicare by approximately $500 billion.” Medi-scare is a classic fear-mongering technique usually deployed by Democrats against Republicans, most vividly by the television ad depicting Paul Ryan pushing grandma off a cliff. The Affordable Care Act does try to rein in Medicare costs by slowing the rate of growth and ending the Medicare Advantage program, but that should be consistent with Republican values of increasing efficiency and reducing waste, fraud, and abuse. Moreover, the Ryan plan, which Romney endorses, would cut at least that amount but redirect the savings to reducing the deficit. Playing the Medi-scare card is low and discredited, but hearing it from a Republican nominee is more than a bit surreal.

Second, the deficit-bomb card: “Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.” Deficit and debt make up one of the Obama administration’s greatest weaknesses among independents. It is ultimately a form of generational theft. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office scored the ACA and determined that it actually would reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion in the next 10 years. I agree that government estimates almost always lowball the eventual costs, especially in the realm of entitlements, but the CBO scoring can’t just be ignored in favor of a partisan narrative. And of course, one of the arguments for health-care reform in general is that it will reduce costs in the long run with our aging population and improve American industry competitiveness.

Third, “Obamacare puts the federal government between you and your doctor.” This is always the emotional kicker, directly connected to the oft-repeated talking point that the ACA is a “government takeover of health care.” That would be scary indeed, but keep in mind the liberal critique of the Obama health-care reform is that it is too insurance-industry-friendly. After all, there was never even a public option, let alone the single-payer fantasy. The current system is far from perfect and far from free market. I happen to believe that third-party-payer problem is a big part of what drives up costs. But the Big Brother dystopian fantasy captured by this instant classic in the paranoid style typed by Ben Shapiro—“This is the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott. This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration.”—is just that. A paranoid exaggeration.

Other specters offered up by Romney include the estimate that an unspecified 20 million Americans will lose health insurance under the ACA and that the law represents a $500 million tax increase. (Keep in mind that the penalty/tax would only be paid by people who refuse to buy health insurance and therefore continue to freeload off the rest of us when they go to the emergency room for urgent care.)

Of course, this law will not solve all the problems in American medicine, and it almost certainly will create some new ones. But aspects of the bill—like coverage of children up to age 26 and stopping insurance companies from denying people insurance due to preexisting conditions—are justly popular and improvements over the status quo.

Republicans beyond Romney were also quick to hoist the “repeal” banner—calling a vote in the House on July 9. They believe this ruling could be a political benefit in terms of getting out the vote in November. The Romney campaign claimed that they raised more than a million dollars online in the hours after the decision. This could be the boost the Romney camp needs for the Tea Party to overlook the ironic inconsistency of the GOP nominee on this core issue. Republicans may very well get a base boost from this decision, reflected in both dollars and votes.

But if you’re actually interested in governing as well as in winning, the impulse to scream “repeal” has to be followed by a plan to “replace.” There are plenty of good Republican policy proposals on how to reduce costs and increase individual choice in health care, but Mitt Romney still needs to decide which specific policy plan he would enact. Unclaimed ideas range from medical-malpractice reform to expanding health savings accounts to allowing insurance purchases across state lines to generic-drug importation. There might even be some degree of bipartisan support for a few these reforms. Then again, the individual mandate once had bipartisan support as well.

Bottom line: simply making up stats for the sake of soundbites is beneath a serious nominee. There is an obligation to propose as well as oppose if you are running for president.


By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, June 29, 2012

June 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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