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The Impact of Paul Ryan

With the unveiling of the Republican candidate for vice president, Romney supporters on the Right have a reason to be excited about their newly minted ticket, while Obama supporters on the Left have reason to be concerned. Both camps have been energized by the choice of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate. Both campaigns will try to appeal to independent voters in the center while energizing the base supporters of their respective parties.

Image by George Cassutto
Copyright 2012
Used with permission

For months, since the last Republican primary, the nation has awaited the selection of Mitt Romney’s running mate. Last week, we learned that Wisconsin Congressman and chair of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan will join Mitt Romney on the Republican ticket. Heads burst into flame and tongues wagged, but all the hoopla has simmered down and the news media is beginning to get down to some real analysis regarding the impact of Romney’s selection. While it is still too early to determine how the American voters will respond to the conclusion of the Republican Veepstakes, it is clear that the Ryan selection has energized the base of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Comparisons with the 2008 selection of Sarah Palin by then Republican nominee John McCain have been prevalent among talking heads on cable news outlets. Like Ryan, Palin also energized the Republican base as she brought to the ticket a fresh face and a vivacious style. But Palin’s weakness regarding historical and political facts became evident, and it appeared she wasn’t ready for prime time with the vice presidency just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. Ryan presents no such problem. As Budget Committee chair, he is an economics policy wonk who expresses himself very eloquently when espousing the Tea Party ideology of shifting the burden of the debt onto the middle class while giving the wealthy greater means by which to fulfill its presumed role as “job creator” in the American economy.

The Ryan Budget, as it is called on and off Capitol Hill, is aligned with the Romney vision of large tax breaks for the rich and for corporations. A rosy projection of GDP growth in the future is the only explanation for how these Bush-like tax cuts are financed. The Ryan Budget also makes massive changes in the Medicare system, virtually making it a private investment among the nation’s seniors. The Obama campaign has wasted no time portraying the Romney-Ryan plan as a “radical departure” that would “gut Medicare as we know it.” Tea Party supporters like the plan as the federal government would bend its spending curve toward European levels of austerity, while Progressives, Liberals and Democratic allies use the Romney-Ryan proposals as the basis for generating concern among senior voters, a constituency they failed to capture in 2008 and 2010.

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