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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.
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