By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
Scary things sometimes come in pretty packages. Take Paul Ryan.
Most members of the media have a man-crush on him. When he released his 2012 budget, the New York Times raved about his “piercing blue eyes.” He’s the guy with “jet black hair and a touch of Eagle Scout to him,” gushed Time magazine. Columnist Joe Klein called Ryan’s plan “without question, an act of political courage.” The Times’ David Brooks praised it as “the most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetime.” And many outlets praised Mitt Romney’s “bold” move in naming Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate.
Oh, give me a break. Get a room. Or do your job! Did anybody bother to read what Ryan actually proposes? It’s not bold, it’s dangerous. To most Americans, generally. But, especially, to Mitt Romney.
First, the budget. For starters, it adds to the deficit by giving the wealthiest of Americans yet another tax break, cutting the top rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Ryan would also cut corporate taxes and eliminate capital gains taxes. As a result, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Ryan’s budget would not see a surplus until 2040. So much for his reputation as a deficit hawk.
Meanwhile, that loss of revenue must be made up somehow. Ryan does it by sparing the Pentagon, while slashing $6 trillion over the next 10 years out of Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, Pell grants, and every other program helping the poor or middle class, which is why his budget has been criticized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Don’t buy the big GOP lie that Ryan’s plan actually preserves Medicare, while Obama’s destroys it. True, Obama would cut $716 billion from Medicare — not by cutting benefits, but by cracking down on double billing by insurance companies and health care providers (the kind of waste and fraud Republicans used to champion). But here’s what Romney won’t tell you: the Ryan budget contains the very same $716 billion in cuts. On top of which, Ryan would indeed “end Medicare as we know it” by replacing it with a voucher program — which the CBO finds would leave older Americans on average with $6,400 in extra costs 10 years from now. If Ryan had his way, there would be no more Medicare, no more Medicaid, and no more Social Security.
And that’s what so many in the media label as “bold.” Nonsense! There’s nothing “bold” about pandering to Wall Street. There’s nothing “courageous” about tossing seniors out of Medicare so the wealthiest Americans can enjoy another tax break. There’s nothing “patriotic” about helping Mitt Romney lower his 2010 tax rate from 13.9 percent to .082 percent: the effective rate he would have paid under the Ryan plan, according to an analysis done by The Atlantic.
Clearly, there’s nobody more extreme right on fiscal issues than Paul Ryan. But here’s another big secret: There’s nobody more far right on social issues, either. Ryan is the poster boy of the extreme religious right. He’s not only anti-abortion, he co-sponsored fetal personhood legislation, which would ban most forms of contraception. He also sponsored a bill to force a woman to have an ultrasound before an abortion. And he’s not only anti-marriage equality, he’s also against gay adoption.
Given all the baggage he brings to the ticket, it’s small wonder that, in interviews with more than three dozen Republican operatives, Politico found the most common reaction to Paul Ryan’s selection ranging from “gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.” They realize that Ryan’s plan to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid will also make it more difficult for Republicans to maintain control of the House.
And small wonder that Romney’s already trying to distance himself from Ryan’s budget. Except he can’t. You can’t embrace Paul Ryan without embracing everything he stands for, including his “mahvelous” budget (Romney’s adjective, not mine). Whether Mitt realizes it yet or not, on both fiscal and social issues, this is now the Ryan/Romney ticket — and no longer the Romney/Ryan ticket.
In the end, Barack Obama himself could not have picked a better vice-presidential partner for Mitt Romney. History repeats itself. This campaign could be over before it begins. In 2008, John McCain destroyed his chances by picking Sarah Palin. In 2012, Mitt Romney just destroyed his chances by picking Paul Ryan.
© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.