For progressives and people of color, it’s hard to imagine a worse choice than Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee.

Ryan’s budget — or “A Roadmap for America's Future,” as it is formally known — would effectively end Social Security for those under 55; do the same for Medicare and Medicaid; strike the last bit of fairness in our tax code, by eradicating the principle that if you earn more you pay more; drastically reduce food stamps, and slash government education assistance, scientific research and infrastructure spending.

As a result, America would be without a retirement plan for seniors, and 47 million Americans would lose health insurance. The rich would receive a massive tax break. Approximately 50 million Americans would be deprived of reliable food sources, and the investments we need to grow fairly and sustainably would be undermined.

The most radical and reckless idea embedded in the Ryan cuts is that America is at its best only when millionaires prosper.

Almost 70 percent of the savings from Ryan’s spending cuts go to fund tax cuts for the rich. Analysis of the Ryan plan by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center concludes that “those making $1 million or more would enjoy an average tax cut of $265,000 and see their after-tax income increase by 12.5 percent. By contrast, half of those making between $20,000 and $30,000 would get no tax cut at all.”

Because of these tax cuts, Ryan’s plan can’t achieve its stated goal of deficit reduction. Ryan reduces spending by huge amounts, but his millionaire giveaways reduce revenue dramatically. Under his proposal, the United States would still have deficits for as far as the eye can see.

Underlying Ryan’s plan is not an economic argument but a social one. He argues that a “culture of dependency” fueled by “progressivism” and “The Great Society” is the cause for America’s economic crisis. To his mind, policies that promote fairness are the problem. Implicit in this is the suggestion that black and brown Americans are to blame.

Romney chose Ryan just a week after falsely claiming that President Obama wanted to let people on welfare off easy. This, too, was a veiled signal to many white Americans that the president is catering to people of color.

These racial undertones come in a historical context. Midcentury America unleashed a wave of changes that have made this country a fairer place. As a result of the civil rights movement, black and brown Americans were able to participate fully in public life like never before. This, in turn, enabled a person of African descent to become our president.

Demographic changes have also continued apace, with births among people of color now outnumbering those of whites.

Many conservatives resent these changes, and they are doing whatever is in their power to roll them back.

Ryan is right in step with that move. He and Romney are attempting to turn the clock back legally, socially and culturally to a less just, less equitable place.

Imara Jones writes about economic justice for He can be reached at

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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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