Though there was no explicit discussion of the crisis in black and brown communities nor the record joblessness amongst youth, last night’s debate drew a clear contrast between the candidates on these issues for voters to consider. This is especially true of Paul Ryan. Whatever one says about the Janesville, Wisc., congressman, no one can ever accuse him of lacking the courage of his convictions.
For an hour and half in his first and only exchange with Vice President Joe Biden, Ryan stuck by his and Mitt Romney’s most controversial views. From the economy to jobs to healthcare to abortion, the GOP vice presidential candidate didn’t give an inch. Unlike Romney’s Houdini act last week of appearing to exit his most controversial positions and besting Obama in public opinion, Ryan stood his ground.
But in not budging he constantly tied himself up in knots.
Despite his bold economic assertions that slashing taxes, voucherizing Medicare, and gutting Medicaid were necessary and right for America, the facts constantly betrayed him. He stumbled time and again as a result. Not surprisingly, a CBS snap poll of undecided voters taken taken after the debate concluded that Biden had won it.
Like last week’s encounter between Romney and Obama, the discussion last night turned on the things that matter most to Americans: the economy and healthcare. Ryan started right off the bat with claims that never really added up. On the essential rationale for their campaign, turning the economy around, there was little that made sense.
Ryan declared that he and Romney would produce “12 million jobs” by 2016, 7 million of which would be created by their $5 trillion tax cut aimed at the wealthiest 3 percent.
The 12 million number is exactly what the private sector accounting firm Moody’s says will be created regardless of who is elected president. It is within striking distance of the White House’s own 11-12 million jobs estimate, which concludes the same. Though their pledge sounds initially enticing, Romney and Ryan’s promise essentially won’t create any more new jobs than is otherwise already forecast.
Additionally, Ryan’s conviction that his tax plan would create most of those non-new, “new” jobs is hollow. The Congressional Research Service, the policy analysis arm of the legislative branch, released a report three weeks ago that said that there is no evidence that tax cuts have produced any new jobs since 1945. On jobs, his arithmetic doesn’t figure.
On healthcare, Ryan stated that without dramatic efforts Medicare would go bankrupt. “We’re going to stop that from happening,” he said defiantly and unnecessarily.
According to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ryan’s effort to “save” Medicare would demand $2 trillion in cuts. Medicare is the way that almost all seniors receive healthcare. Romney’s plan would also demand $1.4 trillion in cuts to Medicaid. As the Kaiser Family Foundation has concluded, “Medicaid enables Black and Hispanic Americans to access health care.”
Further, these programs are not going bankrupt. Medicare’s independent Board of Trustees declares that the program is solvent for 12 years until 2024. Ryan also stated that Social Security is in trouble and reiterated his desire to partially privatize the program for younger Americans as a result. But the Board of Trustees estimates that Social Security is safe until 2035, a generation from now.
So cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are only necessary if Romney and Ryan implement their trickle down-inspired $9.6 trillion budget for America. Their budget not only includes a $5 trillion tax cut for the rich, but $2 trillion in additional defense spending that the defense department doesn’t even want.
Ryan acknowledged that his mom is enrolled in Medicare, just like her mother before her, and that he received Social Security benefits after his father passed. But these real life experiences haven’t persuaded him to leave his errant number crunching behind.
Ryan stated his belief that their eye popping tax giveaway to the wealthy would not add to the deficit. That’s “not mathematically possible,” Biden retorted. Biden’s right. Not realizing it, Ryan admitted precisely this point when he laid out his tax numbers earlier in the debate. In response to a question about the $2 trillion defense spending spree, Ryan replied, “We’re saying ‘don’t cut the military by $2 trillion.’ “
Throughout last night’s debate, neither Ryan’s comments nor his math added up. His performance on the facts, contradictory statements and Biden’s aggressiveness cheered Democrats. It was less likely to effect Republicans. “They don’t care about facts,” MSNBC host, Ed Sullivan grimly surmised.
That leaves independent voters with the choice they’ve had all along: Either go along with the Romney/Ryan ticket’s $5 trillion assertion that tax cuts for the 3 percent will right America’s economy—despite hard evidence to the contrary—or stick with the anemic return to economic health promised by President Obama and Biden.
It may may not be the choice that many want, but after Ryan’s star turn under the klieg lights in Kentucky, it is a clear one.