It was over in all but name for Mitt Romney the minute word leaked he had chosen (or was told to choose?) Paul Ryan as his running mate. The media flock to Ryan and his budget plan because however unserious and abhorrent the plan is, Ryan – unlike Romney – actually has a plan.
Whether or not he is committed to it is different question I will get to below, but first:
Reporters and pundits who require something to talk about, and those voters who are still naïve enough to believe any of this kabuki campaigning matters, knew who would drive the Republican side of this election cycle the minute Ryan trotted up to the microphone on that navy ship on August 11.
At that moment Ryan, a dynamic speaker who projects an easy camaraderie on the hustings, became the star attraction and it has proved to be more than the usually short-lived nomination bump.
Romney’s position as presidential nominee is now no more than a formality. This photo (snitched from TalkingPointsMemo), says all you need to know about who matters on the Republican ticket and to Republicans in general.
Oh, sure, if the team is elected, it’s Romney who will move into the White House and he will do the bidding of the Koch brothers et al. But it is Ryan who will set the policy because Romney has none – and depending on the party division in Congress, it is Ryan who will accomplish whatever can be done to further the conservative agenda there. (Not that I’m eager to be proved right about this.)
Meanwhile, for the next 11 weeks, we will see Romney trying to assert himself as Ryan and his policies take center stage, becoming the Republican policies.
Currently, it is Medicare that Ryan has usurped. For months, the only thing anyone has known about Romney’s healthcare plan is that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act his first day in office.
Yeah, right. As if Congress isn’t needed for that. Could it be Romney doesn’t know that and thinks, as president, he can act by fiat as when he was a CEO?
And you almost (but not really) feel sorry for Romney when he meekly tells an interviewer that he too – not just Ryan – has a health plan, or when his campaign asserts in a blog post that his plan is different from Ryan’s because it wipes out $716 billion in Medicare cuts that Ryan’s budget keeps.
Since no one is listening to Romney about this, let’s just stipulate that the Ryan healthcare plan is now the Republican healthcare plan and move on.
SPEND A LITTLE TO GROW A LITTLE
There is something much bigger you absolutely need to know about Ryan’s bedrock political beliefs.
Before that, let’s list a few of Ryan’s bona fides as a long-time, right-wing extremist on some social issues:
Abortion: Life begins at fertilization. Period. He is a co-sponsor of a bill (with now-notorious Todd Akin – let’s discuss that another day) that would define fetuses as people with all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood which would, obviously, outlaw all abortion and many forms of birth control.
Family Planning: Throughout his career in the House, he has voted against funding Planned Parenthood, against the Title X family planning program, has criticized President Barack Obama’s effort to guarantee free contraception for women and just for good measure, he would defund NPR.
Marriage: In 2006, he voted for an amendment to ban same-sex marriage, believes marriage should be only between a man and a woman and supported 2009 legislation in Wisconsin to not recognize other states’ same-sex-marriages.
Guns: An avid hunter, Ryan voted in 2011 for a gun-rights bill under which a permit to carry a concealed weapon in one state would be valid in most other states.
As important as those issues are, for most people it’s still the economy, stupid. Ryan’s budget, particularly in our trying times, is as cruel as his social issue policies.
Generally, he opposes use of government money to help any American people who are not rich – not with food assistance, mortgage aid, education grants, infrastructure, food safety and much more.
There is also the now well-known provision to turn Medicaid into a block grant to states that would drastically cut the number of disabled and elder poor who could be helped, along with the coupon program for Medicare that would cost beneficiaries anywhere from $2400 to $6500 more than they pay now. And he wants to privatize Social Security.
All that with big cuts to the top tax brackets and corporations.
Ryan has vehemently attacked the 2009 stimulus calling it a “monstrosity” and “wasteful spending spree,” has aggressively labeled it a failure and opposes all forms of deficit spending.
Now, I want you keep all these points about Ryan in mind while you watch this extraordinary piece of video that Chris Hayes and his staff at his MSNBC program Up aired this weekend. It is Paul Ryan speaking on the floor of Congress during the 2002 recession.
Note carefully at the end when he explains that deficit spending will get the economy moving again and that would solve the shortfalls straining Medicare and Social Security; he’s pretty close to correct even for today.
So which is the real Paul Ryan? The reasonable man of 2002 who passionately urged his fellow Congress members to extend unemployment benefits, health coverage and other means to get the nation back to work via deficit spending?
Or the 2012 extremist ideologue who would coldly consign millions of the poorest Americans to what would likely be an early death while pushing the middle class toward a similar catastrophe?
What do you think could have happened to Paul Ryan over a decade to reverse his economic positions as dramatically as his selection as vice presidential candidate as turned the Republican ticket upside down?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Clean Saddle Oxfords