Commentary: Paul Ryan and Americans on the Margins

For many Americans, the choice of Ryan for vice president symbolizes the harsh agenda of the conservative far right.

Posted: 08/13/2012 08:31 AM EDT
Paul Ryan

For the last few days, the coverage of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate has been a virtually nonstop affair. There have assessments by pundits night and day about what the selection of Congressman Paul Ryan means to the Romney candidacy as well as to President Obama’s campaign.

Another perspective might be what this selection means to voters, particularly those who live at the margins of American life. If there is any clue to the political and policy leanings of the congressman from Wisconsin, it is his politically controversial budget proposal to cut federal spending and overhaul Medicare.

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is the primary author of deeply conservative tax and spending proposals that the Tea Party-infused Republican majority approved over vigorous Democratic opposition in 2011 and again in 2012.

They envision transforming Medicare into a program in which future seniors would receive government vouchers that they could use to purchase health insurance. Under the current program, the government directly pays doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. It would end Medicare — the health care safety net for millions of Americans — as it’s currently known. 

Ryan’s role is essentially that of a champion of a proposal that asks the elderly to get the best health deal they can on the open market. And, by picking Ryan, Romney has fully embraced that philosophy — and all the right-wing values that come along with Ryan.

Yet, the Ryan selection provides Romney with something his campaign has lacked: Clarity about where he stands on the political spectrum. So far, the former Massachusetts governor has changed his position on virtually every public policy issue on the horizon, from abortion and immigration to health care.

With the selection of Ryan, Romney has anchored himself in the Tea Party-fueled, red-hot conservative Republican right. This is the element of America that not only seeks to dismantle Medicare, but also to privatize social security. 

The Ryan swath of right-wing America is also the brand of Republicanism that watches their fellow party officials in state after state clamp down on the voting rights of millions of Americans, many of them Black and brown, and voice nary an objection.

Moreover, he is part of the leadership of a party that has fervently sought to restrict the rights of women to make their decisions about their own bodies and health.

Furthermore, he is the lead Republican who is resolute about the fact that wealthy Americans should not pay a nickel more in taxes, but that spending on programs for inner-city education and health care should be slashed. 

Ryan’s selection might excite President Obama’s campaign by highlighting the congressman as the bogeyman and champion of repressive policies. But for those people who live far from the world of Romney’s  wealth or, for that matter, the income or health care coverage of members of congress like Ryan, this is a disturbing, disappointing choice.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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