Once in a generation Americans find themselves at a crossroads, with the voters faced with the task of deciding the direction the country needs to take. In 1932 the voters chose Franklin Roosevelt to leads us out of the darkness of the Great Depression. They didn’t know it at the time, but they also chose him to lead us through the most horrific war mankind has ever known. And Roosevelt implemented Social Security, so that our more vulnerable seniors need not live out their twilight years in fear of poverty. Almost 30 years later the voters chose a young John F. Kennedy to lead us through the heights of the Cold War and the challenges of the Civil Rights movement. An assassin cut short JFK’s leadership, but his successor, LBJ, signed into law the landmark legislation of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid. Thirty-two years later Americans chose Bill Clinton to lead us through the boom times of the Information Age. And boom the economy did, with nearly zero unemployment – with tax rates the Republicans now claim would lead us to disaster if we revert back to by letting the Bush tax cuts expire. And now again in 2012, America finds itself at a crossroads, and with Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, the competing visions for the future of our country could not be more different.
President Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership propose a balanced approach to reducing the deficit and spurring economic growth while maintaining the fairness and equality that defines us as Americans. They propose a reasonable balance of increased tax revenues and reduced spending by allowing tax rates revert back to those in the Clinton years for those most able to afford them, and reduce spending by ending America’s “regime change” military adventures and focused, targeted domestic spending reductions. They propose that those brought to America as young children by their parents should not have to pay for the sins of their parents, but instead should be allowed to live the American DREAM. They propose that all Americans have the equality to chose their marriage partners based on who they love, not based on discriminatory laws telling them who they can marry and who they cannot. They propose that women get to chose their own healthcare options, not the religious or moral beliefs of their employer – or state legislator.
And the Republican vision? While the Republicans claim the mantra of “smaller, limited” government, since their takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives and many state legislatures and governorships in the 2010 election, they have been busy expanding government into lives of Americans to further their religious and moral beliefs. Laws severely restricting a woman’s right to chose her healthcare options, even laws that claim to define when the moment of life itself begins. Here in Arizona the Republican legislature had the audacity – and idiocy – to claim life begins at a woman’s last menstrual period! Albert Einstein is credited with having said “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results”. The Republican U.S. House has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 32 times, and guess what? It’s still the law of the land. Republican state legislatures have voted in laws which are in search of a problem – Voter I.D. laws in several states, even though they can’t point to a single instance of in person voter fraud. Over one million voters may be disenfranchised in this election because they don’t have the required identification. Why? Because those most likely to lack I.D. – the poor & elderly living in cities and don’t drive – are most likely to vote Democratic.
But all you have to really look at is Ryan’s budget plan, which he calls the “Path to Prosperity” to see where Romney & Ryan want to take the country. Ryan’s plan would begin by cutting way back on health insurance, leaving as many as 60 million more Americans without basic health protection. According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, over the next decade Ryan’s Medicaid plan would cut funding by one-third ($810 billion) compared to current law. Ryan’s budget plan call for many other drastic cuts in domestic spending. All Americans would suffer, but millions living in poverty or close to it would face the most devastating cuts. Food Stamps, housing assistance, and college grants for needy students are among many programs that would be severely cut back. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities uses cautious estimates to conclude that at least 62% of the Ryan cuts would fall on low-income households. It doesn’t sound like much “prosperity” for them. And Ryan’s plan also attacks Medicare for the elderly. He would raise eligibility to age 67, and turn it into a voucher system. Seniors would be forced to shop for their own health insurance and the federal government would make direct, fixed payments to the insurance company. More government subsidy for private businesses. And if the fixed voucher payments don’t cover the cost of private insurance? So sorry, you’re own your own. But Republicans like to claim that “we’re broke” and don’t have the money to pay for programs assisting the disadvantaged or to pay for the Medicare that we were promised and paid into all our working lives. Well, at least the Ryan budget plan quickly ends the deficit and balances the budget, right? Guess again – even though Republicans claim we’re “broke”, the Ryan “Path to Prosperity” continues more deficit spending for almost 30 years. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects Ryan’s budget plan won’t lead to a balanced budget until 2040. Why? The Republican’s magic formula for “prosperity” is more tax cuts for the wealthy – it permanently extends the Bush tax cuts and then doubles down with even more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Republicans howled last week when Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid said he’d been told that Romney didn’t pay any taxes for a decade. Well, Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” would ensure that Romney wouldn’t pay any taxes for the next decade. The single year of tax returns Romney has releases shows he paid a tax rate of just 13.9% on income of over $21 million. That’s about half the tax rate a middle class family with both spouses working pays. Does that seem fair? Well, fasten your seat belts – Matthew O’Brien of The Atlantic estimates that under the Ryan budget plan Romney would have paid just .82% in taxes on over $21 million in income. That’s because the Ryan plans calls for an end to taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends. And since Romney doesn’t actually work and receive a salary, almost all his income is from those vehicles of income for the wealthy – capital gains, interest and dividends. A middle class family with an annual income from wages & salaries of between $35,350 to $85,650 pay a federal tax rate of 25%. The Mitt Romney family would pay less than 1% on income in the millions. The “Path to Prosperity”? For whom??
Why are these men laughing? They’re laughing at what they thought was a great joke. Unfortunately, the joke is on us.
The path Forward could not be more clear.