As the presidential campaigns heat up in these last few months before the election, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick Paul Ryan does not come without controversy. However, Romney’s VP pick reiterates the issue at the top of voters’ lists: the economy. Ryan, who is the chairman of the House Budget Committee and best known for his controversial budget proposal, forces the campaign discussion toward economic policy, a direction President Barack Obama’s campaign should avoid given the current unemployment numbers and mounting U.S. debt. Ryan’s budget lays out a detailed blueprint of a plan that can return our country to economic growth, demonstrating that even though Romney has stated the duo will be running on his own budget proposal, Ryan understands how the economy works and can formulate clear, viable solutions to the sad state it is in today.
Of course, shots at Ryan were fired as soon as he was announced as the candidate for vice president, ranging from claims that he wants to “end Medicare as we know it” — and kill our grandparents in the process — to assertions that he wants to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy, the latter coming from the Obama campaign itself.
Ryan has been attacked extensively for his Medicare ideas, a hot topic considering Medicare eats up a large portion of the federal budget, more and more health care providers are not accepting it and it’s going bankrupt. However, Ryan proposed leaving it as-is for anyone currently above age 55 until 2023, when it would be raised to 65 under his plan. For those of us under 55, we would have the option between keeping the plan as it stands now and what is called a premium support system, under which seniors would receive subsidies each year to either pay their health care providers directly or purchase private insurance plans. Romney shares similar ideas on Medicare, especially on the point that seniors would receive at least the coverage that Medicare currently offers.
On the issue of taxes, Ryan supports across-the-board tax cuts. Yes, this includes tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, but he in no way suggests raising taxes on the middle class to give anyone else a break. In fact, Romney is running on strengthening the middle class. Ryan did suggest slashing corporate tax rates as well — from the current rate of 35 percent (the highest in the world) to the international average of 25 percent, an idea also supported by Romney. Making America internationally competitive once again would be a huge source of job creation.
With a strong conservative voting record on topics such as abortion and gay marriage, Ryan is open to attack from the left with accusations that he wants to ban some forms of birth control and make abortion in any case illegal — another hit from the Obama campaign. However, this is unlikely to hurt him with most voters, whose main concerns will be the economy. Attacking his strong stance highlights this, and could serve to energize conservative voters who do not see Romney as a real conservative. Knowing that they would have someone in the White House fighting for the convictions they are passionate about could give them more incentive to head to the polls on Election Day.
Another characteristic of Ryan that makes him an excellent pick, and possibly the one that will be most vital in the election, is his ability to work with the Democratic Party. The Medicare portion of his budget, which is the most controversial part, was co-authored by Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. In addition, he was elected to the House in Wisconsin, a traditionally blue state, proving him capable of attracting some democratic voters, a trait he shares with Romney. Having Republican candidates who can secure the support of voters who usually vote the other way will go far in helping them to win the election.
Ryan’s deep understanding of the economy complements Romney’s strong business sense well. The two make a strong team, one that is capable of convincing voters that they have the motivation and ability to do what it takes to get the American economy back to its former glory. Obama said in a campaign speech that “more than anything else, this election presents a choice between two fundamentally different visions of how to create strong, sustained growth; how to pay down our long-term debt; and most of all, how to generate good, middle-class jobs …” Ryan’s addition to the ticket underscores the difference between the two choices. Romney and Ryan together make a cohesive case for their side, giving them more than a fighting chance this November.