The Presidential Election has been fairly quiet overall. The Republicans have gone back to their birther strategy, while trying to portray Mr. Romney, who supports a dancing horse, as somehow more American than Mr. Obama, who is into basketball.
In 2008, Mr. Obama was a wonderfully exciting candidate, and his optimism affected many of us – but his hopes were misplaced. He spent the first three years of his presidency learning to be cynical about Washington politics, while many of his supporters learned to be cynical about him. That’s bad.
The Republicans are offering a great deal to get excited about. Like Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, which nobody bothered to read, the Republicans have offered, and Mitt Romney has endorsed, the Paul Ryan budget which nobody seems to have read either. Mr. Romney has promised to balance the budget, reduce entitlements, restore employment, all without cuts to the defense budget, all without raising taxes on anybody, and lowering taxes on the wealthy even beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts. James Surowiecki in The New Yorker wrote, “Because Ryan presents himself as a reasonable technocrat who’s just making the tough choices that other politicians shirk, that may sound like an exaggeration. But the simple truth is that his plan is not an evenhanded attempt to solve America’s long-term budget problems. It’s a profoundly radical document, its proposals skewed by ideological biases.”
The impact of the Ryan budget has been analyzed and ignored in an election that is too focused on 30-second commercials and imitation outrage, but even a cursory examination shows that a Republican win this November, which requires nothing more than Democratic indifference, would destroy the social safety net and cause serious damage to American society. All it takes is a quick look at the two most basic programs, Social Security and Medicare, to get an idea of where the Republicans would take us. Keep in mind that the Ryan/Romney plan would essentially eviscerate Pell grants, Medicaid, SNAP and every other program designed to help people in need. Mr. Ryan has said that his social proposals are inspired by his faith: “... there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this. The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it.” Mr. Ryan is afraid that, left unchecked, government “... will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.”
Mr. Ryan’s proposals include discarding Medicare in favor of grants which the elderly can use to buy private insurance. There would be no regulation of the insurers and no research into standards of care which are the best hope of controlling the rise in healthcare costs. Anyone who has looked at the market for auto insurance with every company offering to beat the price of every other company, can imagine what the health insurance market would become under Mr. Ryan’s plan – except that many people show signs of cognitive decline with age. Somewhere along the line they become too old to drive, but would still have to shop for health insurance.
Mr. Ryan also proposed privatization of Social Security. The figures on retirement savings today are dismal. In a New York Times op-ed, Teresa Ghilarducci, professor of economics at the New School for Social Research, wrote, “Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. ... Almost half of middle-class workers, 49%, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day.” With figures like this, Romney and Ryan would drop Social Security and place our trust in Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers.
There are other reasons to be concerned about the effects of a Republican win. President Obama’s attempt at economic stimulus was inadequate, but still produced weak growth, which is better than the economic decline of the European nations that focused on Republican-like budget balancing and austerity and drove unemployment to 25% in Spain, 22% in Greece and 15% in Ireland and Portugal. The Affordable Care Act was a disappointment – but with all its faults, ACA cuts costs and brings health coverage millions who would lose this protection under a Romney administration.
Also note: Romney/Ryan has been passed twice by the House of Representatives.
It’s disappointing that we can’t go out as we did in 2008 and vote our hopes, but it’s important that we get out this November to vote our fears.
Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email email@example.com.
From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2012
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