It’s all about size
Americans now have real choices about the future direction of the country, and the choices are unkind. Romney’s selection of U.S. Representative and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his Vice President sends a blunt message to voters: Romney cannot only rely on a bad economy to win. Now, it’s about genuine political ideology too.
And size matters. Whether it is the size of the Federal Government, the size of affordable healthcare, the size of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, the size of the Federal debt or the size of tax bills for the super-rich, the middle class and the poor, in sixty plus days we will know how much size matters to Americans.
Young, blue-eyed handsome, articulate, charming, easily likeable with his enveloping and disarming smile, with an affection for bow hunting, fitness and the music of Led Zeppelin, Ryan’s public character comfortably balances Romney’s shallow persona. Described by many as the ‘intellectual voice of the Republican party,’ Ryan has authored the Ryan Budget. It would restructure Medicare, cut transportation infrastructure, food stamp programs, Medicaid, lower the tax rate from 35% to 25% for high earners, and 25% to 10% for low earners and, by 2040, balance the budget. In short say Republicans, Ryan is bold enough to tackle the size and cost of government programs that most politicians ignore.
For conservative Republicans, the choice of Ryan is nearly perfect. He possesses those affable and marketable qualities of a Sarah Palin – with brains. Ryan eases many fears among conservative Republicans that Romney isn’t a ‘true’ conservative. And while the 65 year old Romney is the ‘present’ of the Republican party, there is little doubt that Ryan, 42, represents the future.
Moderate Republicans are more worried. Restructuring Medicare could alienate senior citizens in important states like Florida, despite the Ryan Budget not changing Medicare benefits for anyone over 55. And Ryan’s tax cut plans for the wealthy are even more generous than Romney’s.
What about women? Ryan steadfastly opposes abortion, including instances of rape and incest. He also says ObamaCare must be repealed, eliminating the benefits to women’s healthcare that took effect on 1 August, 2012. Yet Ryan and Romney’s ‘family-men’ image has popularity among women. There are at least two ‘Moms for Mitt’ blog sites in action.
Democrats, described as ‘giddy’ about the selection of Ryan, have launched their attacks, calling Ryan a dangerous ‘right-wing ideologue.’ An analysis from the liberal-leaning Center on Budget Policies and Priorities says that 62% of the spending cuts in the Ryan budget would come from low-income programs, while 37% of its tax benefits would go to those making more than $1 million per year Even David Stockman, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan administration, calls the Ryan budget a “fairy tale,” saying it will “do nothing to reverse the nation’s economic decline.” He decries the dismantling of the safety net provided by $100 billion in food stamps and $300 billion in Medicaid spending. All of this whilst the size of poverty in America rises. Census data released in September 2011 revealed that 46.2 million people are now considered living in poverty, 2.6 million more than the previous year. Obama’s detractors point out that this rise in poverty has occurred during the Obama presidency, and is another example of his failed economic policies.
Thus far, the Republican argument has been a referendum on the success or failure of four years of Obama. The selection of Ryan adds a new breadth to the battle; a choice over the size and influence of government. The question this election will answer is whether Republican policies and ideology match where Americans want to go next.
The October debate will be crucial. Considering Ryan’s ideology, youth, charisma and popularity, the Vice Presidential debate may be more revealing than the Presidential debates.
The matter of size extends beyond the obvious political issues. The size and extent of voter turnout could very well decide this election. Obama needs a huge turnout of minority, women and young voters, without which he will surely lose. Romney needs white, middle-class working males to turn out en masse, and both parties need the still undecided to decide.