The soon-to-be nominated Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney, today announced his selection of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate for November’s election. A seven-term Congressman from Wisconsin, Ryan has become a celebrity figure in GOP politics, mainly due to the alternative budget plans he has proposed in the last three years. Now the question is what impact the choice of Paul Ryan as Vice-President will have on the race for the White House.
Romney’s VP selection will energize the Republican base, who have not been overly excited about their nominee thus far. However, the same group of electorates that Ryan appeals to and will motivate to get out and vote, were already going to turn up on November 6th to attempt to remove President Obama from the White House. Moderates, on the other hand, are highly unlikely to be persuaded to cast their vote for Romney because of the presence of Ryan on the bottom half of the ticket.
Paul Ryan’s presence on the ticket will provide a boost to the campaign and doubtlessly will increase his fundraising potential – both of which could provide Governor Romney with momentum and give him a boost in the polls that he desperately needs. Nevertheless, a similar hike was achieved by Senator McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin in 2008, but it only lasted a month and the election was ultimately won on the issues. Now Ryan is no Palin, he is able to argue his viewpoints effectively and back them up with his own brand of reasoning – plus, at school, he was a member of the International Geographic Society, so he should be able to display some knowledge of the wider world beyond being a neighbour of Russia. He may not be kryponite to Romney’s election bid, but up until now Mitt has been running without any specific policy plans or taking any viewpoints other than being opposed to President Obama. From now on, Paul Ryan’s budget and beliefs will become the de facto policy of the campaign and thus they will receive greater scrutiny from both the media and voters alike. This should prove to be the downfall of Romney’s Presidential run.
The cliff notes on the Ryan budget are such: decrease spending on everything except defense; reduce the deficit; balance the budget; and lower tax rates on the highest earners. Many Republicans running for office have been afraid to go after some of the bigger entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, since they benefit senior citizens – a group of voters who have a huge impact on the outcome of elections. Ryan, however, believes that Medicare should be replaced by a voucher system for senior citizens to purchase their own healthcare from private insurers, and that Social Security should be privatised – a plan he lobbied the Bush administration to adopt, but they ultimately moved away from it as they considered it too extreme (it is not in the latest version of his budget, but only because he received so little support from members of his own party, including Speaker Boehner, when it was included).
Neither of these ideas is likely to be popular among the majority of the population: the 2008 financial crisis decimated many people’s retirement funds and moving Social Security into the hands of the same private companies whose greed caused the collapse, is not going to be an easy sell; and figures from the Congressional Budget Office show that, despite Ryan’s claims, the voucher system would actually increase the burden on the Government – not beneficiaries of Medicare – as the use of Private Health insurance companies would augment the inefficiencies in the system. If Governor Romney embraces these policies, it will make Florida and North Carolina – both of which have large turnout of voters over the age of 60 – states which President Obama will likely win in November.
Ryan also wants to slash the Medicaid budget, including the de-funding of Planned Parenthood – an organization that serves 3 million Americans who are unable to afford healthcare and gives women access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, and birth control, even if they are uninsured. This desire to cut the Medicaid safety net, one small protection that the most vulnerable Americans have – in particular impoverished children – may be popular among the far-right of the Republican party, but independents and moderates in the GOP will see it as being immoral and unfair. It is one of the anomalies of politics in the United States that Republicans – who often claim to be the most devout Christians – do not believe in helping those most in need. Instead, what does Congressman Ryan think is a more effective use of the money that is currently being spent on Medicaid? Tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. His budget would reduce the rate of taxation on the highest earners to 25%, down 10% from its current, ridiculously low, level of 35%. On top of this, the plan also would eliminate taxation on profits made overseas by American companies, a measure that would increase the trend of outsourcing and reduce employment opportunities in the United States.
The theory that lower rates would increase revenue because of increased investment has been proven not to work from the Bush-era tax cuts. Over and over you will hear in the next three months that it is the Government’s discretionary spending that has caused such a large deficit in the budget, but this is mis-information. President George W. Bush inherited a surplus from President Clinton, but his administration’s tax cuts, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the global recession – caused by the de-regulation of the markets (which began with Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall act) – are the true causes of the current deficit. Romney/Ryan 2012 will try to convince you that if we eliminate funding for NPR and let the wealthiest keep more of their money, the economy will be stronger. Wait, wait, don’t tell me…that’s not even close to being accurate.
In his budget, Ryan also argues for the end to cronyism and “corporate welfare” – declaring that the Government should not be subsidising energy companies or farmers. Yet his plans talk about only renewable energy sources and the elimination of investment in companies like Solyndra (which, admittedly was a failure of the Obama administration), but says nothing about the massive tax breaks enjoyed by oil companies. Another example of contradiction: Ryan criticises both TARP and the bailout of GM and Chrysler, yet he voted for both measures in the House.
Representative Paul Ryan has been one of the most recognisable faces of the current Congress – a group that has an approval rating that currently sits at 17.2%. His presence on the GOP ticket is likely to (finally) make this an election about issues – rather than personal attacks from both sides without any real substance. There are 87 days to go before November 6th – the more of them that are spent associating Romney with the Ryan budget and analysing the impact it would have on the American economy, the better the chances President Obama has of securing a second-term.