By Perry Diaz
Finally, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, picked his vice presidential running mate – Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the golden boy of the Tea Party movement. Indeed, it’s arguably the best news for the conservative wing of the Republican Party since the GOP primary season began when several conservatives joined the selection for the party’s presidential nominee. But the victory of Romney – whom his primary rivals derisively called “that moderate from Massachusetts” – dampened the spirit of many Republican conservatives who believe that the flip-flopping Romney doesn’t represent their “core values.”
The selection of Ryan is also the best news for the Obama re-election campaign because it would make the 2012 presidential election a remake of the 2008 contest when the Republicans pitted a McCain-Palin ticket against an Obama-Biden ticket. However, Ryan is much farther to the right than Sarah Palin. Indeed, Ryan is viewed as a Libertarian extremist.
I predicted the selection of Ryan months ago because I believe that Ryan would energize the conservative base – particularly the right wing – to come out for the Republican ticket on Election Day. As proven before, if the conservatives don’t like the Republican presidential candidate, they stay home rather than vote for him. So, as in the past two decades when the GOP nominated a presidential candidate who didn’t fully possess credentials acceptable to the conservatives, Romney had to pick Ryan, the ultra-conservative and darling of the Tea Party.
Indeed, Ryan’s ascension to the coveted vice presidential slot is a repeat of the past when centrist or moderate Republican presidential candidates had to pander to the extreme right to get their support. It happened when George H.W. Bush picked an unknown, Sen. Dan Quayle, as his running mate, whose only political credential was that of a right-wing conservative. Then his son, George W. Bush – who conveniently labeled himself as a “compassionate conservative” – picked neo-conservative Dick Cheney whom the right-wingers adored. And lastly, Sen. John McCain picked Gov. Sarah Palin, the ultra right-wing creationist that energized the GOP conservatives who branded McCain as too liberal.
The selection of Ryan could unify the GOP conservative base behind him. However, Romney’s dilemma is how to attract the independents to support a Romney-Ryan ticket? Given that Obama has a lock on at least 65% of the Democratic base, Romney needs a majority of independents to win the election. But the problem is that independents are by a large number, moderate. They vote for the candidate who balances himself in the center of the political spectrum. And this is where Romney treads a dangerous course. If he veers too close to the center, the right-wingers would be disappointed and stay home. If he veers too far to the right, the independents would go for Obama.
But Romney’s problem is that Obama has already positioned himself in the center. His Democratic base is solidly behind him. He has strong support from women voters because of his stand on contraception and other women issues. He made huge inroads into the minority communities particularly the Hispanic Americans who support him with a stunning 70% acceptance to Romney’s 22%. He excited the young adults with his stand on student loans. And his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – ObamaCare – has attracted women, young adults under 25 years of age, senior citizens, and the uninsured. All in all, he appears to have achieved the 80-40 magic formula to win the election; that is, 80% of non-white voters and 40% of white voters.
That was bad enough for Romney. But teaming up with Ryan is like pouring gasoline on a burning house! It dooms his quest for the White House. With Ryan on the ticket, the election would all be about tax cuts for the wealthy, the future of Medicare, and other vital programs like Medicaid and food stamps. Indeed, Romney’s adoption of Ryan’s budget plan. “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” is indicative of what a Romney presidency would look like. The New York Times called it “the most extreme budget plan passed by a House of Congress in modern times.”
In my article, “Wisconsinizing America” (June 15, 2012), I wrote: “Romney, in trying to defend the Ryan budget plan, commented during a Wisconsin radio show that the budget plan ‘does not balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the elderly. It instead preserves Medicare and Social Security.’ But as one pundit said, ‘Paul Ryan’s budget plan is simply brutal towards the poor and working families. Romney doesn’t have to like it, but he really shouldn’t lie about it.’ Yes, it’s so brutal that Ryan would take at least $3.3 trillion — or 62% — of $5.3 trillion in non-defense budget cuts over 10 years from programs for the poor.
“According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the $3.3 trillion includes the following four categories of cuts:
- $2.4 trillion in reductions from Medicaid and other health care for people with low or moderate incomes.
- $134 billion in cuts to SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
- At least $463 billion in cuts in mandatory programs serving low-income Americans (other than Medicaid and SNAP).
- At least $291 billion in cuts in low-income discretionary programs.
“In addition, Ryan’s budget plan would also cause tens of millions to lose their health insurance. It would also make it harder for low-income students to get a college education. It would also make cuts to transportation infrastructure, which is sorely needed to rehabilitate or repair thousands of old freeways and bridges.
“But what he did would not touch defense spending. Considering that American combat forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan in 2014, the budget for defense should pare down. And lest I forget, Ryan’s ‘tax reform’ would cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires while shifting the tax burden to the middle class.
“And what Romney didn’t tell the people is that ‘preserving’ Medicare is not really preserving it in the true meaning of the word. What Ryan had planned for was to turn Medicare into a voucher program without the guaranteed benefits. It would also bring back Medicare’s Part D prescription drug ‘donut-hole,’ which would hurt the elderly who subsist on their Social Security checks.”
Ryan’s “roadmap” would hurt the middle class Americans who are struggling to survive the residual effect of the Great Recession, which was triggered by the Bush administration’s bad deregulation policies that caused the galactic meltdown of the financial institutions in 2008. By picking Ryan, many believe that Romney is taking America on a scary detour to the failed policies of the past. Is he?
With less than 90 days to election, the battle between Obama and Romney sharply contrasts where they stand. Obama projects a brighter vision of the future with his centrist policies while Romney vows to cut corporate taxes and shift the tax burden to the middle class.
The question is: Is America heading towards an oligarchic plutocracy where government is run by the few and wealthy? With the infusion of Super PAC money from big business into the Romney campaign, it seems that America has reached that time when Plato predicted a clash between democracy and oligarchy 2,300 years ago.