Election 2012: Who is Paul Ryan?

“It’s a Trojan Horse. Disguised as [a] deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly-veiled Social Darwinism. It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it — a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training; research and development — it’s a prescription for decline.” – President Barack Obama on the Paul Ryan Budget

In the second major event of the 2012 election, the first being the Supreme Court decision on Health Care, Presumptive Republican Nominee Willard “Mitt” Romney chose Representative Paul Romney as his running mate. So, who is Paul Ryan, what is the Ryan Budget, and why did Romney choose Ryan?

Sean Sullivan who writes for “The Fix” at the Washington Post wrote a solid piece on Paul Ryan. His article can be found here (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/who-is-paul-ryan/2012/08/11/becee270-e376-11e1-ae7f-d2a13e249eb2_blog.html), but here is an excerpt of that article:

“Ryan is a native of Janesville, Wis., where he was born in 1970. Ryan, the son of Paul Ryan. Sr. and Betty Ryan, is the youngest of four children. According to the Almanac of American Politics, Ryan’s father and former Democratic senator Russ Feingold’s father had law offices in the same building. Ryan’s father died of a heart attack when he was just a teenager.

After graduating from high school, Ryan attended Miami University in Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science. Ryan had once planned to be a physician, but he told CNN in 2011 that chemistry, physics and biology “really wasn’t his aptitude.”

Ryan worked in politics in his 20s. In 1996, he was a speechwriter for Jack Kemp — a man Ryan has called his “mentor” — during his vice presidential campaign.

In 1998, Wisconsin’s 1st District seat opened up when then-Republican congressman Mark Neumann decided to challenge Feingold for the Senate seat. Ryan made a bid for the open House seat and, at just 28 years of age, he was elected to Congress to represent a district which included his hometown of Janesville.

Ryan is a Catholic and along with his wife Janna, has two sons and a daughter. When Ryan is not in Washington, he resides in Janesville with his family.”

In 2011, when the Republicans took control of The House of Representatives, Congressman Ryan became Chairman of the House Budget Committee. In 2011 and 2012, Ryan proposed the Ryan Budget which would go on to become the blueprint for the Republican’s House agenda. Mark Murray of NBC News recently wrote an article discussing what the Ryan Budget is:

“It [The Ryan Budget] substantially restructures Medicare; cuts Medicaid, food stamps, and transportation infrastructure; and it reduces the top tax rate from 35% to 25%. Regarding Medicare, the 2011 version of the Ryan budget would transform it from a government-run program to one where future seniors receive a voucher or premium support to purchase health insurance from private insurers. The Congressional Budget Office said the plan would force most seniors to pay more for their health care than under the current Medicare system. The latest version, however, would give future seniors the choice of purchasing private insurance or through Medicare’s traditional fee-for-service model, and it received the backing of at least one Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Ryan and his allies say a bold plan – reforming entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid – and slashing discretionary spending is needed to reduce the deficit and debt. But critics argue that the pain comes primarily from the poor and middle class. An analysis from the liberal-leaning Center on Budget Policies and Priorities says that 62% of the spending cuts in the Ryan budget would come from low-income programs, while 37% of its tax benefits would go to those making more than $1 million per year.”

Now, the conventional wisdom was that Romney, a cautious businessman, would choose a safe choice for his Vice President. Former Governor Tim Pawlenty and current U.S. Senator Rob Portman were seen as the safe choices. So, why did Romney ultimately choose Ryan?

Prior to the Olympics, Romney and President Obama were essentially tied in the polling, but after a summer of aggressive attacks on Romney’s tax plan, taxes, and career at Bain Capitol along with mishaps on his oversees trip Romney’s favorables and poll numbers began to slide. Romney continues to have high unfavorables in all of the major polls and is behind President Obama 49% to 40% in the most recent Fox News Poll, 52% to 45% in the new CNN/ORC International Poll, and 49% to 42% in the Reuters/Ipsos poll.  Romney needed to change the narrative of his campaign and choosing Ryan helps him change the narrative in the short-run.

In picking Ryan, Romney also showed that he will govern in the manner of the Radical House Republicans. In the early 2000s Romney was a Massachusetts moderate who raised taxes as the Governor of Massachusetts, signed an assault Rifle Ban into law, believed in Global Warming, supported women reproductive rights, and implemented Universal Health Care. Since running for President, Romney has completely disavowed his former views and beliefs to appease the Radical Republicans in the House of Representatives who wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program, privatize Social Security, and cut the taxes of millionaires and billionaires while raising the taxes and eliminating programs for poor and working class Americans. He has embraced their language by referring to the President’s views as “foreign”, and has now given into the Radical Right of his party again by selecting one of those Radical House Republicans as his running mate.

Lyndon Johnson was the last Vice President to make a major (positive) difference on a national ticket when he helped deliver the State of Texas for President Kennedy. Vice Presidential selections can either help a campaign by re-enforcing the ideas of the candidates or they can hurt a campaign, circa Sarah Palin in 2008. It is too early to know if Ryan will ultimately help or hurt Romney, but what is clear is the choice that now lay before the American people.

 UPDATE – 8/14/2012

Sahil Kapur, writer for Talking Points Memo, recently wrote of the 5 Most Radical Ideas in Paul Ryan’s Roadmap which can be found here http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/08/paul-ryan-roadmap-most-radical-ideas.php?ref=fpnewsfeed :Here is an excerpt:

Privatize Social Security

Starting in 2020, Social Security benefits for new retirees would be cut, the eligibility age would gradually be raised and the program would be partially privatized. Workers would be permitted to invest more than one-third of their Social Security taxes in private retirement accounts, a huge boon for the financial sector. The plan guarantees a minimum payout and seeks to protect benefits against the whims of the market by shifting funds for near-retirees’ from stocks to government bonds.

The Congressional Budget Office found that the program’s solvency could grow unstable over time and payouts would “be more uncertain, despite the guarantee, because returns on stocks and corporate bonds are risky.”

The Social Security reforms were excluded from Ryan’s 2011 and 2012 budgets.

Upend Employer-Based Health Care

The Roadmap would eliminate the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance, a core foundation upon which which the modern system is built. It would be replaced with a refundable tax credit of $2,300 per adult and $5,700 per family to buy insurance on the market.

More than half of all American workers are on employer-based plans, according to 2010 Census data, and rolling back the tax break would ratchet up business costs and jeopardize coverage for those workers. On the flipside, the tax treatment of employer-based plans has been criticized across ideologies as unfair to individuals who don’t receive coverage via their job and a cause of runaway medical cost inflation.

This part of the plan did not make it into his subsequent 2011 and 2012 budgets.

Convert Medicare Into A Voucher System

For Americans turning 65 in 2020, Medicare would no longer exist as an insurance plan that directly pays medical bills for the elderly. The eligibility age would be incrementally raised, and the program would be converted into a voucher system which seniors could use to shop for policies from a menu of private insurance plans. The value of the voucher would adjust for age and health status of beneficiaries.

The reforms would resolve the program’s long-term finances, but by ending the coverage guarantee for seniors and hiking their out-of-pocket costs.

This part of the Roadmap was altered in the 2011 and 2012 budgets. The 2012 version introduces a government option among the insurance options that seniors may buy into, among other changes.

Unwind Medicaid And The Children’s Health Insurance Program

Medicaid would be converted into a block grant for states, which would not keep up with the growth of medical costs. With some exceptions for people with disabilities, many low-income individuals and families who rely on the program to provided needed care would no longer be able to afford adequate coverage.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program would be abolished and replaced with family health insurance tax credits and some low-income assistance.

Reforms unwinding Medicaid and CHIP were included in Ryan’s subsequent budgets.

Massively Cut Taxes For The Rich

The tax rate on high incomes would be cut nearly to 25 percent, by nearly 15 percent from current law. The capital gains tax, dividends tax, estate tax and corporate tax — all of which are enjoyed by mostly wealthy people — would be repealed.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the annual tax burden would be cut by over a quarter-million dollars for the top 1 percent; by half a million dollars for people earning over $1 million, and by $1.7 million for the top 0.1 percent.



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