Saturday, August 11th, 2012
Today, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan, a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, as his vice presidential running mate. The 42-year-old Ryan was first elected to the House in 1998. Today he is one of the most influential leaders of the Republican Party.
Congressman Ryan has a long and very public record to examine. Much of that record touches on health care issues including Medicare. While we don’t know that a President Romney would adopt Paul Ryan’s ideas, it’s important to understand that Congressman Ryan and Gov. Romney share a nearly identical governing philosophy that involves cutting or privatizing government programs and services that many people depend on.
We don’t know for certain these are policies that a Romney Administration will put Ryan’s ideas into effect. But they certainly are policies a Romney Administration might put into effect. And Gov. Romney has praised Rep. Ryan’s ideas often in the past. Voters should pay close attention to what these candidates say in the next few weeks and make an informed decision when they vote.
Paul Ryan is especially associated with a plan to make radical changes to the Medicare program. Anyone who may ever depend on Medicare, whether they are in good health or suffer a life-threatening illness such as mesothelioma, should pay close attention to this issue.
Regarding Medicare, Ryan proposes phasing out the current Medicare program and replacing it with what he calls a “premium support system.” The Medicare program would no longer pay for seniors’ health care. Instead, Medicare would provide seniors with subsidies to purchase a health insurance plan from private insurance companies.
Critics point out that the only way this plan would save the government money is by shifting more cost onto the backs of seniors. Some analysts predict it would do exactly that, by keeping the subsidies from increasing as much as health care costs increase. Over time, the gap between what the subsidies cover and what seniors actually have to pay would grow larger and larger.
Proponents of the plan agree that seniors would have to spend more of their own money on health care, but they think that’s a good thing. When people have to spend more of their own money they will be smarter health care consumers, and this will reduce cost. However, critics say this will cause people to put their health at risk by postponing medical treatment.
Congressman Ryan also favors cutting federal aid to states by at least 20 percent; cutting grants to help low-income students pay for college; cutting Medicaid, cutting food programs for the poor and job training programs for the unemployed. He has voted to partially privatize Social Security and favors changing medical malpractice law to cap damages and protect doctors from lawsuits.
At the same time, he favors reducing taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations. The theory is that this will encourage investment and business growth, which will lead to more jobs and prosperity for most Americans.
Critics point out that corporations are enjoying record profits and wealthy investors have plenty of cash to invest without more tax cuts. Businesses are failing to expand and add jobs not because they lack capital, but because there is a lack of demand for their products. The real way to grow the economy, they say, is by expanding government services and hiring to get more cash in circulation among low- and middle-income people, who will use it to buy consumer products. Once demand for products is increased, businesses will increase production and add jobs.
Mr. Ryan has said that all such government spending erodes business confidence by increasing the federal deficit. And government programs just make people dependent on government, he believes.
The coming election gives us a stark choice between very different ideas about how the country should be governed. Voters should understand what those differences are before they vote.