This morning as Mitt Romney emerged from the USS Wisconsin, docked in Norfolk among the waving stars, stripes, bunting and trumpets to announce his running mate, I couldn’t help getting choked up.
Not so much because a Mormon with no military experience was taking a starboard stand in announcing his first mate in battle against a sea of entitlements. It was more because his announcement of the “next President of the United States would be Paul Ryan,” a Catholic from Wisconsin and Chairman of the House Budget Committee aiming to put more armed boats in the tub like the Wisconsin while drowning the government in that same tub. And was he replacing Romney at the top of the ticket? Now that’s talent.
Before Ryan could get into the standard “why we live in the greatest country in the world” sound bytes, Willard cut him off, saying the title “President” was a mistake but the choice of Ryan himself as Vice Presidential running mate was not. Depends on who’s asking.
But regardless of one’s perspective, the canonization of St. Paul of Janesville, Wisconsin had been consummated among the secular cannons of a storied warship on this Saturday morning in Virginia where Mr. Jobs Creator-Personal Freedom-Governor Bob McDonnell had recently signed a controversial mandatory ultrasound bill into law in March, preempting the freedom of individual choice in women’s reproductive health and apparently the primacy of job creation.
Budget Chairman Paul Davis (no relation) Ryan is certainly an engaging 42 year old self-proclaimed fiscal conservative and patron saint of the right. After all, Governor Romney introduced him as exemplifying the clean, straightforward virtues of the (parched) Midwest, having integrity and the ability to increase our prosperity.
That, of course will be a tall order for this Wisconsin wonk whom 54 percent of Americans polled have said “Paul who”?
Not to worry. We were reassured with the typical Romnian “veracity” that Mr. Ryan will “appeal to the better angels of our nature”. Without betraying his trustworthy teleprompter, Mitt ceremoniously checked off a list of accolades about his junior acolyte that would have made even the stalwart Dick Cheney cry for the ground that Paul walks on.
The doubters asking for “Signs” were told that the Catholic Ryan will “increase the worth and dignity of every human being.”
When Ryan finally spoke, he said that “America is more than just a place – it’s an idea. Rights are from nature and God, not from governments”. The comment was followed immediately by a chant from the crowd, “USA, USA, USA”. The connection was unclear. I thought that our rights come “from God, not the USA”.
By the way, would that be the same USA where seven states including Virginia have decided that big government should usurp women’s God-given reproductive health rights? Or would it be that same USA that grants the right to bear arms against our would-be aggressors at mosques in Wisconsin under the Second Amendment. And speaking of mosques, would that be the same USA where the result of the debate over the “Ground Zero Mosque” apparently betrayed our cherished right of religious freedom to build a mosque (which wasn’t really a mosque)?
If rights are derived (and denied) directly from God and not government, then guns, gynecology and local property rights will apparently need to be rethought under an R & R administration because in either case, the laws of the land have no place. They’re just ideas.
And let me be clear: When it comes to women’s health I’m not talking about killing a fetus. I’m talking about a profound respect for the full spectrum of life. That includes birth, as well as an opposition to capital punishment, war, caring for the poor and sufficient human dignity to be able to make health related decisions directly impacting that dignity.
Back aboard the USS Wisconsin.
While standing in front of a floating war machine, Romney tells us that his choice for Vice President believes in the “worth and dignity of every human life.”
Would that “human life” also happen to include the Americans under the age of 55 who will need Medicare in its current form to get by but will be denied by Ryan’s vouchers?
This morning’s announcement comes on the heels of a recent multistate tour and declaration by Sister Simone Campbell, a fellow Catholic of Ryan and Director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization:
Recent advertisements and statements from the campaign of Governor Romney demonize families in poverty and reflect woeful ignorance about the challenges faced by tens of millions of American families in these tough economic times….We are all God’s children and equal in God’s eyes. Efforts to divide us by class or score political points at the expense of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters reveal the worst side of our country’s politics.
Similar condemnation from Network and well as the U.S. Conference of Bishops has been directed toward Ryan, the architect of the GOP's budget plan, Path to Prosperity. The chief complaint has been based on a characterization of the budget as immoral because of its cuts to safety net programs.
In addition to its moral implications, the Ryan budget would impose some very harmful empirical impacts as well. It proposes to make extraordinary cuts in programs that serve the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. Because of certain phased in elements of the plan, tens of millions of Americans will lose their health insurance or become underinsured. Severe cuts in nondefense discretionary programs would begin in January, ending core government functions.
Ryan would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $134 billion over 10 years, hurting low-income Americans. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “By 2080, the initial benefit of a medium earner (someone earning $43,000 in today’s terms) would be 39 percent below the currently scheduled amount, the benefit of a higher earner (earning $69,000) would be 51 percent lower, and the benefit of someone who earns the maximum taxable amount (currently $106,800) would be 58 percent lower”.
One of the most notorious aspects of the Ryan plan would be to convert Medicare to a voucher system. As the first step, Ryan would support the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. When fully implemented, the ACA will bring new health insurance coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, new consumer protections for millions of insured Americans, and slow the growth of health care costs. Ryan would replace Medicare’s current guarantee of coverage with a premium-support voucher, raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, and bring back the gap in Medicare’s coverage of prescription drugs, otherwise known as the donut hole. These proposed changes will shift the costs of coverage back to beneficiaries, leaving many 65- and 66-year olds without any health coverage at all.
Although Ryan would actually increase the size of government by increasing the defense budget by $228 billion, he would end most of the rest of government, including veterans’ programs, highway maintenance and repair, education, nearly all programs for low-income families and individuals, our national parks, border patrols, protection of food safety and the water supply, and law enforcement similar to the 5th Century B.C.
In the 5th Century B.C. the legend of two twins, Romulus and Remus captured in narrative form the “moral” values of Rome. The city is widely believed to be the namesake of Romulus. The myth was apparently intended trace the chronology of the Late Republican and early Imperial era, dating the city's foundation to between 758 and 728 BC, and the age of Plutarch.
The term “plutocracy” is commonly defined as “government by the wealthy.” In one version of the myth Romulus was given the direct ancestor of Rome's first Imperial dynasty. Together, these twins became icons of an empire on the hill similar to today’s pair of Republicans standing in front of the battleship, proclaiming the moral virtues of freedom and liberty to our better angels.
Today’s announcement will either confirm our future in the direction of a plutocracy or toward its broader origins based on a republic with democratic rule, restoring voting rights, health rights, and democratic rule without the constant threat of filibuster.
Sister Simone explains that “The Ryan budget is just about protecting rich individuals and devastating the community. This is a fight for the soul of our nation.” In addition, she goes on to say that “the Ryan budget undermines our Constitution. Our Constitution was based on the premise of individual rights in community”.
They do have communities in Wisconsin don’t they Mr. Ryan? Make no mistake about it.