What the Ryan VP Pick Means to Blacks
When presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced last weekend that the man he felt best suited to be his vice presidential running mate was Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the political world literally stopped on its axis.
“This election is about values, and today Romney doubled down on his commitment to take our country back to the failed policies of the past,” said Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign manager.
“Paul Ryan is the largest step the GOP has taken towards solving the USA’s problems since Reagan and Kemp,” tweeted Newt Gingrich, former rival to Romney for the GOP nomination.
With the African-American vote crucial in a battleground state like North Carolina – a swing state that every political expert who knows anything about the Electoral College says Romney has to win in order to reach the 270 he needs to claim the White House – how the Romney-Ryan ticket’s policies will affect the black community is key.
Right now, Romney and Pres. Obama are in a tight race in the Tar Heel state, just three weeks out from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, with the GOP Convention in Tampa, Fla. the week before.
The Romney-Ryan message to North Carolina and the nation – Obama’s big government is destroying America. Jobs will come back, they add, when government is cut to the bone.
Enter Paul Ryan.
When it comes to fiscal matters, Rep. Ryan, now in his seventh term in Congress and chairman of the House Budget Committee, is considered to be an impressive master of the numbers. It’s what he wants to do to those federal numbers that has made him a darling conservative of the ultra-right Tea Party movement, and a villain in the minds of Democrats who see Ryan’s penchant for government austerity as extremist at best, and an absolute threat to the social safety net for the poor and elderly, at the least.
“Congressman Ryan has developed a spending plan should shock the conscience of every American,” Congressman G. K. Butterfield [D-NC-1] told The Carolinian last November.
Ryan’s well-known plans for chopping billions from the Medicare and Medicaid programs to help the needy confirm his calling card, and his joining the Romney ticket as the man who would be a “heartbeat away” if elected, signals to the extreme right-wing conservative base that Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and longtime GOP moderate, has heard both their cries and their doubts, and is willing to give them a place at the table if they fully commit to defeating Barack Obama.
So what does the Ryan choice mean to African-Americans, many of whom are unemployed; are elderly and need Medicare and Medicaid; and whose children are trapped in failing public school systems?
If the book on Paul Ryan is accurate, then combined with Mitt Romney’s plan to cut taxes for the rich and raise them on the middle-class, it means the African-American community and the poor will see an abrupt negative reversal in public policy that could set them back even further if the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected in the fall.
“He doesn’t just want to trim America’s insurance program for the poor,” said The Atlantic magazine in its latest online edition. “He wants to bulldoze the whole thing and replace it with something more modest.”
Rep. Butterfield called it a “radical approach.”
According to the so-called “Ryan Plan,” first introduced in 2011 and passed twice in the GOP-led House, the federal government would be getting out of the social safety net business, while giving big tax cuts to the rich.
Currently, an estimated 62 million Americans – nearly 20 percent of the nation’s population, many of whom are elderly, the disabled, children and parents – receive Medicaid services. In 2010, the federal government spent $263 billion – roughly 60 percent – to cover Medicaid recipients, while the states collectively spent $125 billion.
Estimates are if a “President” Romney adopted a “Vice President” Paul Ryan’s radical reform of Medicaid – meaning drastic cuts and sending limited block grants to states that couldn’t possibly cover all of their recipients, approximately, “… 44 million additional Americans [would be] without health insurance, in a worst case scenario,” says The Atlantic, adding that under Ryan’s plan, Medicaid spending alone would be cut by $810 billion over ten years.
Experts say those block grants would soon become insufficient because they would not be designed to grow with the rate of health care costs, thus forcing the states, after a while, to cover less of the poor and disabled once they see the federal government has slowly turned off the spicket.
“Medicaid is already a very lean program,” Edwin Park of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income people, told the Associated Press this week. “It is not a program where you can magically glean huge efficiencies by just devolving it to the states. The only way to compensate for funding reductions of this magnitude would be to institute deep, damaging cuts to beneficiaries and the health care providers who serve them.”
Under Ryan’s block grant phase out, poor and disabled recipients would not have what they have now – a legal right to coverage under federal law. Indeed, many of the protections currently in force would be lost, experts say.
On Medicare, the Ryan plan would have future elderly recipients to move over to private health insurance by giving them a stipend for part of the premium costs. They would have to come up the balance of those costs, which would be expected to go up over time.
“We don’t want to privatize Medicare,” Rep. Butterfield said. “We think it’s an awful plan.”
And what about Obamacare?
Romney promised he would have it repealed as soon as he took office as president. Even if he left it alone, if Ryan’s government reform plans were enacted, Pres. Obama’s Affordable Care Act to provide healthcare coverage and access for 30 million more Americans currently without it, would be crippled.
The end result is more people would find themselves uninsured in case of medical emergency, experts say.
For Paul Ryan, when it comes to education, the same rule applies. Cut federal education spending by the billions, eliminate the US Dept. of Education, and farm out as much as possible to the private sector.
The $38 billion Pell Grant program, which helps poor students attend college, many of whom are African-American, would be drastically slashed, limiting participation of the neediest.
There would also be a dramatic slash to the $14.5 billion in Title I funding, and $11.6 billion in Special Education funding.
So there’s little question that a Romney-Ryan presidency, with a GOP majority in the both houses of Congress (a remote idea given that Ryan’s austerity threat to Medicare and Medicaid does not play well in local Republican congressional districts), would hurt the very social safety net programs many African-Americans and the poor depend on.
“If any of this went into effect, “ Rep. Butterfield said of the Ryan Plan last year, “working families [and the poor] in America would be devastated. They would not have the safety they are now entitled to.”
But some blacks don’t think that’s a bad thing.
“I do recognize plenty in Rep. Ryan’s record that will serve as legitimate red meat for Democratic Party activists, and Get-Out-The-Vote advertising scripts,” writes economist/author Cedric Muhammad in an August 14th op-ed on Forbes.com. “But I don’t think on balance, that the obvious anti-Left positions of a Republican vice-presidential nominee is the most strategically intriguing fact, where Black Americans are concerned.”
Muhammad continued, “While Rep. Ryan is probably unacceptable to 80% of the likely-to-vote Black electorate automatically, I believe that he and Gov. Romney will receive a hearing from a remaining percentage who do not automatically believe their interests align with the Democratic Party. This 15% which I refer to as ‘free-agents’ – are comprised of Blacks more concerned with cultural issues, self-help, and asset ownership.”
While some in the African-American community may agree with Muhammad, given an over 14 percent unemployment rate, it’s likely that most won’t.
“[Mitt Romney] said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules — unchain Wall Street,” bellowed Vice President Joe Biden to a Danville, Virginia crowd Tuesday, a day after he spoke in Durham. “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”