With the announcement of Governor Romney’s presumptive running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, I am beginning to wonder if this election will be 2008 all over again.
To be clear, I believe that Congressman Ryan is an intelligent man. He has clearly devoted himself to his work and commands an impressive knowledge of the U.S. fiscal policy. But Ryan’s intelligence does not blunt the impact of his extremist budget or right-wing voting record.
According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Congressman Ryan’s budget proposal “calls for radical policy changes that would result in a massive transfer of resources from the broad majority of Americans to the nation’s wealthiest individuals.” The CBPP further explains that under Congressman Ryan’s plan, those making between $20,000 and $30,000 per year would save $246 annually while those making more than one million dollars per year would save approximately $265,011. That’s fundamentally unfair.
It doesn’t end there. Congressman Ryan would like to end Medicare as we know it, turning it into a voucher system which puts the burden of payment on the backs of seniors. According to CBS News, the elderly would have to pay as much as 68 percent of their health care coverage under Congressman Ryan’s plan, compared to the 25 percent they currently pay. What’s more, according to the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, the plan would replace Medicaid with block grants, causing between 14-27 million low-income Americans to lose health insurance.
The budget hurts the worst off among us, cutting $134 billion in food stamps, taking away $170 billion in Pell Grants for student scholarships, and terminating the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program – a program developed to end veteran homelessness in five years. Robert Greenstein, CBPP President, summed it up best when he said, “[T]his budget is Robin Hood in reverse – on steroids.”
Just like Governor Palin, Congressman Ryan’s extremism is not contained to one policy area. Congressman Ryan has maintained a radically anti-choice agenda, stating that all abortions should be illegal, even in the case of rape or incest, and co-sponsored a personhood bill that would declare that life begins at fertilization, effectively outlawing most forms of birth control. He also shares Governor Palin’s intolerance for equal rights for all, voting against the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and against the Matthew Shepard and James Bryd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act – a bill that expands the 1969 U.S. federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Congressman Ryan and Governor Palin are similar in another way – they share a complete lack of real experience on foreign affairs and national security. Who could forget Governor Palin proclaiming that we need to stand with our “allies” in North Korea or stating that she hadn’t really “focused on the war in Iraq?”
While Congressman Ryan is more polished than Governor Palin, he has failed to demonstrate a basic understanding of international affairs. For example, he opposed foreign aid – which is vitally important to national security interests of the U.S. and our allies – four times and repeatedly voted against measures to strengthen sanctions against Iran. He even accused U.S. military officials and commanders of being dishonest in their budget requests.
Again, I believe Congressman Ryan is an intelligent man. I also believe he is an extremist.
A McCain-Palin ticket was a surprising but sad attempt by a respected politician. A Romney-Ryan ticket, on the other hand, shows just how far Governor Romney is willing to go to appeal to the Republican Party’s base. Before, I was dismayed by Governor Romney’s flip flopping. But this pick makes clear how remarkably radical a Romney Administration would be.
Levine served as a member of the United States Congress from 1983 until 1993.