Who Is Paul Ryan?

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It’s strange to think that while Barack Obama is a household name and face – known all over the globe as probably the world’s most powerful man – his right-hand man would go unrecognized in a line-up. That man, of course, is Joe Biden (many of you may still be thinking ‘who?’); tasked with being the president’s sounding-board and who would step into the role of president if anything were to happen to Obama. 

Indeed, clearly Mitt Romney had such thoughts on his mind the first time he introduced his own running mate, and thus potential future vice-president, Paul Ryan; he announced him as the “next President of the United States”. Yet, no joke; if Romney wins the election, this Wisconsin Congressman is just one assassination, heart-attack or car crash away from becoming top dog. Here’s who he is, what he stands for and how he is a true Republican at heart.

Young, energetic and popular in his party; Paul Ryan is, in many ways, the antithesis of Mitt Romney. In fact, it exactly for that reason that Ryan was chosen; as a darling of the Tea Party movement, he is expected appeal to the more right-wing elements of the Republican party, a side yet to warm to Romney. Ryan is no Sarah Palin disaster however; he is man who is far cleverer, articulate and serious – though, perhaps, no less controversial.

The Economic Marvel?

Ryan currently chairs the House Budget Committee; a standing committee of the House of Representatives charged with giving oversight of the federal budget. He is therefore well positioned and versed to conclude how to cut the deficit – and has constructed his own plan on how to do so. The proposal, titled Path to Prosperity, is a counter to Obama’s own budget of 2011 and 2012 – who he accuses of favouring a European-style welfare model – and aims to reduce the deficit by around $6 trillion.

The plan would cut government spending on domestic government programmes, especially food aid, education and healthcare. Medicare  – the health programme for the poor and elderly – would be substantially hit, with Ryan believing its is unaffordable, thus he would put the medical care of these groups in the hands of individual states and replace it with a government-funded voucher system.

At the same time, Ryan would simultaneously lower taxes, halving corporate tax but closing tax avoidance loopholes at the same time. The GOP candidate believes it would create around 12 million new jobs in its first term.

Not all Americans have been so supportive of Ryan’s budget

The plan is deeply divisive with Ryan known as a budget ‘hawk’ with conservatives believing the policy is a realistic way to overcome America’s spending problems. Indeed, Ryan is a rare politician that actually has a policy in place to bring about what he believes is needed; it is not just mere rhetoric.

For Democrats – and centralists – it is a policy that is hard to stomach. Obama refers to it as “Social Darwinism” in that it rewards the strong whilst abandoning the poor and needy. Many of those in his Wisconsin have said the same policy has devastated his own district; now left with hundreds of empty factories and unemployed working-class persons.

The Ardent Catholic Conservative

Ryan, like many other members of the Republican Party, follows a strict social conservative ideal. In the past, he has voted against stricter-gun controls, opposes same sex-marriage – in fact, he supports a constitutional ban on it – and is against the Matthew Shepard act, a measure that expands the hate-crime laws into issues of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disabilities.

As pro-life as you can get

Paul Ryan
On Himself

On abortion, the GOP VP candidate is the Tea Party’s home run. He has co-sponsored over 35 Congressional measures to restrict abortion, has cast 59 votes on motions concerning reproductive rights and believes all abortions should be illegal, even in cases of rape or incest – the only exemption being when the woman’s life is at risk. Indeed, Ryan himself refers to himself as someone as “pro-life as you can get”: the National Right to life Committee has given Ryan a 100% record on such matters since 1999. (Conversely, the Human Right Campaign – a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisation – gives him 0/100).

In fact, Ryan has even gone so far as to support legislation that would criminalise abortion, including the Sanctity of Life Act which aimed to define a fertilized egg as a human life and therefore a legal person with the same rights of personhood. Abortion, therefore, would thus become ‘murder’. (He is far from alone with such beliefs)

The Bush Disciple

Ryan is also a fitness freak; and once infamously lied about his best marathon time

Throughout his two-terms of office, Ryan was a reliable believer in Bush’s foreign policy plans. He supported the Iraq War in 2002, voted for a troop surge for the region in 2007 and supported an increase in defence spending this year.

Such a military-outlook on US power has continued to this very day. He has criticised the President for being too easy on both Russia and China, merely “appeasing” these other global powers. He too refuses to cut military spending in his economic budget plan, despite removing the social security net from beneath millions of people.

The Eco-Dissent

Ryan is also known as having a poor history on environmental issues; with just a 3% score from the LCV, a major environmental group. He opposes cap-and-trade, which is were economic incentives are given for reducing pollution emission, as well as American Clean Energy & Security Act of 2009. Indeed, in a somewhat reverse of such policies, he would support a 10-year $40 billion tax break to oil companies and a cut in funding to renewable energy research.

Mitt’s running mate is also a major climate change disbeliever, and has even gone so far as to accuse scientists as “distorting their findings and intentionally misleading the public” over the issue.

With the economy the biggest issue of the election, the inclusion of Ryan has allowed a clearer choice for voters on Tuesday; a clear battle between two competing visions of big state vs. small state. Moreover, he offers a different, less liberal and more unequal society than the one proposed by Obama; in fact, even more than the one wanted by Romney. He may be a game-changer, but Ryan’s America is a scary one indeed…

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