Early this morning, The Huffington Post broke the story that Mitt Romney had selected Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential running mate. In his article, Jon Ward commented that "Ryan is a bold pick who will energize the Republican Party, but putting him on the ticket is fraught with risk and instantly puts Ryan's budget plan front and center in the 2012 campaign."
That's quite the understatement. In the end, history may remember Romney's choice of Ryan as the moment when he became too transparent in his declaration of war against the working class.
Let us remember that Romney has already proposed a tax plan which the non-partisan Tax Policy Center points out will support tax cuts for the rich by increasing taxes on all Americans who make less than $250,000. By choosing Ryan, however, Romney presumably adds to his economic package a plan that would massively cut Medicare as well. As the Congressional Budget Office noted in its report, possible consequences of the Ryan plan include "reduced access to health care; diminished quality of care; increased efficiency of health care delivery; less investment in new, high-cost technologies; or some combination of those outcomes. In addition, beneficiaries might face higher costs, which could in turn reinforce some of the other effects.
The same is true of Medicaid and CHIP:
"Even with significant efficiency gains, the magnitude of the reduction in spending relative to such spending in the other scenarios means that states would need to increase their spending on these programs, make considerable cutbacks in them, or both. Cutbacks might involve reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased costsharing by beneficiaries—all of which would reduce access to care."
The Ryan plan would even repeal aspects of Obama's major health care bills (viz., the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, and the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act) that help mostly working class Americans. These include the establishment of health insurance exchanges, the offering of subsidies to low income families to help them purchase care, tax credits for small employers that offer health insurance, and the creation of an Independent Payment Advisory Board to make sure reductions in the growth of Medicare don't negatively impact coverage or quality.
Most important of all, however, is the fact that Ryan's budget plan, like Romney's tax plan, expects the working class to make sacrifices while not asking the same of the wealthy. As James Fallows of The Atlantic pointed out, it will grant "big tax reductions to the highest-income Americans." Indeed, "at a time when their tax rates are very low by historic standards and and their share of the national income is extremely high, and when middle-class job creation is our main economic challenge, is neither brave nor serious."
Regardless of whether one agrees with the theoretical implications of reducing taxes on the rich at any cost, the reality is that even working class voters who support supply-side economic theories are unlikely to believe they should be implemented at their literal expense. With data streaming out from unbiased groups like the Tax Policy Center and the Congressional Budget Office about the blatant favoritism being shown to the affluent by both Romney and Ryan, it will be impossible for the Republican national ticket to characterize its policies as even fair, much less concerned with the welfare of ordinary Americans. The only chance it will have is if Obama decides not to focus on their economic proposals. Given that his campaign has already created an online calculator that uses the Tax Policy Center's findings to help voters calculate the tax increases they'll endure under a Romney administration, that doesn't seem likely to happen.
I am reminded of a quote from one of my political heroes, former Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver, during the 1956 presidential campaign. When describing the mentality of Republican politicians at that time, he observed that "the Democraitc attitude has always been to consider the need as the paramount thing and then find means of meeting that need. The Republican attitude is that need is a thing to be relieved only if important private enterprises can do it at a profit." Now the GOP hopes to elect politicians who propose to worsen the hardships of the needy in the name of putting money in the pockets of their wealthy backers.