Last weekend as a beaming Mitt Romney announced that House Republican Budget Committee chairman and Tea Party hero Rep. Paul Ryan would be his running mate, he also declared him the GOP's "ideological leader." Conservative Republicans, who still harbor doubts about Romney, heaved a collective sigh of relief that the ticket now includes a true standard-bearer whose record confirms he shares not only their small-government values but also an unwavering conviction to fight for them.
"Our rights come from nature and God, not government," Ryan said that day. "We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes."
Democrats also believe Ryan has a strong ideological core that sets him apart from Romney -- and it's also what scares some of them.
"He has a set of core values and an ideology that's very dangerous, especially when it comes to African-Americans," said Rep. Karen Bass (D-California). "He essentially believes in the survival of fittest with no accountability or responsibility for equal outcomes."
Democrats are hoping that Ryan's budget proposals, which they argue benefit the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the nation's most vulnerable populations, will turn off voters in November. And according to Bass, who sits on the Budget Committee, and Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore, African-Americans would be disproportionately affected by his policy prescriptions.
Under the Ryan plan, Medicare would shift to a system in which senior citizens get a fixed amount of money that is unlikely to fully cover their health care needs. Medicaid, which provides care to low-income individuals, would become a voucher program. These are bad ideas, Bass says, because Medicare recipients on fixed incomes who experience a major illness will have no safety net. And if a state experiences some sort of economic crisis and doesn't have the money to fund the program, the people who depend on them could lose their health care benefits.
Moore adds that African-Americans and women would be most vulnerable "all the way down the line."
"Ryan's plan not only eviscerates [Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Pell grants], but also cuts entitlement programs like food stamps, Head Start and low-income heating subsidies," said Moore. "It is a cruel budget and according to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, it is an immoral approach because it hurts the poor."
The two lawmakers also lambasted Ryan's tax policies, which would lower taxes for the wealthy and increase taxes for some at the bottom of the income scale.
"It guarantees tax breaks for the wealthy and Defense gets what it needs, if not more," says Bass. "We all believe in national safety but if he really believed in cutting the [federal] deficit, he wouldn't support those tax breaks because you have to pay for them somehow and he wants to pay for them on the people who are most vulnerable."
Bass and Moore both stressed their belief that Ryan is a good man and a strong leader, but urge voters to not be fooled by his "pleasant" personality.
"He has managed to be elected from a Democratic district because he's such pleasant person, but I hope people won't be shallow and will peel back the pages of the proposals he relies on, which are same old policies that got us into this mess in the first place," said Moore.
Bass agrees. "I'm also hoping [Ryan's plan] will help what we have argued all along that this is the most important election of our lifetime and about what direction we want our country to go in," she said. "[What] he proposes is so drastic and so extreme that most Americans will be able to see the difference and ultimately help the re-election of President Obama."
BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)