Mitt Rommey's selection of Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) confirms that the center piece of the Republican agenda is to repeal the Progressive reforms of the 20th century. The conservative wing of the GOP has opposed Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid since the inception of these programs. Just who is Paul Ryan? What exactly does he stand for?
Paul Ryan has represented a suburban district of Milwaukee since 1998. Interestingly enough, Ryan has never held a job in the private sector - his entire career has been in Congress either as an aide or a member of the House of Representatives. In 2005, Ryan said that the radical fiction author Ayn Rand was the reason he entered politics and he requires all staff and interns to read her books. A recent analysis of Ryan's voting record by Nate Silver of the New York times indicates that he is roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann, the controversial congresswoman from Minnesota.
Ryan's radical background is certainly reflected by the extreme agenda that he supports and that has been adopted by the Republican Party. Ryan's "claim to fame" so to speak is his plan that would convert Medicare into a voucher program and would require senior citizens to purchase private health insurance. This plan would also bring back pre-existing conditions clauses. The vouchers wouldn't keep up with medical costs and the average senior citizen would incur an additional $6,000 to $8,000 in annual out of pocket medical expenses. Thus far, none of the Ryan plan's supporters have explained how seniors will be able to buy affordable, comprehensive health insurance from the private insurance industry after pre-existing condition clauses are back.
This regressive plan would impose huge cuts in domestic spending. Approximately 62% of the spending cuts in the Ryan budget would come from government programs that help those with low incomes. Moreover, the Ryan plan would repeal Obama Care and that would strip health insurance coverage from millions of Americans. Passage of the Ryan plan would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times.
And it gets even worse. The Ryan plan would cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans by $1 trillion by reducing the top marginal tax rate and top corporate rate from 35% to 25%. This plan would also establish a territorial tax system that would allow corporations to shift their profits overseas and avoid U.S. taxes altogether.
The Republicans tout the Ryan plan as a deficit reduction and balance budget plan. However, the Ryan plan wouldn't balance the budget until 2040. Instead, the Ryan plan is more of a blueprint for the implementation of the Republican party's radical and regressive agenda of slashing the safety net and redistributing money upwards.
The Ryan plan is so extreme that when a Democratic Super PAC informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan - while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans - the respondentssimply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing. Moreover, the Ryan plan was described as "radical" by none other than Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. (Newt Gingrich calling the Ryan plan "radical" is like Charlie Sheen saying, "That party is too wild for me.")
Ryan's plan to transform Social Security is as extreme as his plan to privatize Medicare. Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan support George W. Bush's ill fated scheme to partially privatize Social Security. This plan would divert trillions of dollars in Social Security taxes that are financing benefits for senior citizens and give them to Wall Street to invest in the stock market. As recently as 2011, Ryan described Social Security as a "Ponzi Scheme."
This debate over the future of our social safety net will play out here in Nebraska this fall. Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry and Adrian Smith have all voted two times in favor of the Ryan plan in the House of Representatives. (Mr. Terry also supports the Bush Social Security privatization scheme.) Thus far, State Senator Deb Fischer hasn't taken a position on the Ryan plan. (No surprise there.) However, I fully expect Ms. Fischer to vote in favor of the Ryan plan if she is elected since she is running as a hard core GOP partisan.
Romney's selection of Ryan has raised the stakes in this fall's elections. The very existence of the Progressive Reforms of the 20th century that saved the middle class are on the line this fall. What this means is that we Nebraska Democrats have to warn our moderate friends about the GOP's truly radical and frightening agenda. It also means that we have to work extra hard to elect our slate of Democratic candidates. We can count on President Obama, Senator Kerrey, Korey Reiman, John Ewing and Mark Sullivan to protect our senior citizens and the middle class from the agenda of the radical right.