You have to wonder about the level of Mitt Romney's desperation to select Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate. By all accounts, Mr. Ryan seems like a nice all-American guy: former McDonald's employee, waiter, and personal fitness trainer. But all of these ordinary working class jobs Ryan held in his youth do not cover the fact that he is aiding and abetting the most extraordinary financial heist in U.S. history.
The author of the Ryan Budget, a scheme that House Republicans have voted for, Paul Ryan seeks to close the national debt by dismantling New Deal and Great Society systems like Social Security and Medicare that help the aged, disabled and infirm; cutting funding for education and other programs that help build the middle class; and reducing services for the children and the poor. In other words, tearing these systems apart brick by brick in the name of "fiscal responsibility." At the same time, the Ryan Budget gives more tax privileges to wealthy individuals and corporations. In short, his plan shifts public resources, including systems that workers have self-funded, from main street to Wall Street.
This is outright fiscal fraud that, coming on the heels of twin housing and financial crises that ripped off ordinary citizens, would amount to grand theft of the public treasure on behalf of oligarchs like Mitt Romney, hedge fund billionaires, and Wall Street millionaires.
The tragedy of this fraudulent scheme is that so called "public servants" like Paul Ryan claim to be offering solutions on behalf of the entire country when they are only serving the interests of the wealthy. Needless to say this approach will only prove to make the rich richer while leaving middle and working class Americans mired in the wreckage of a nation that once cared about the economic and health security of its children and families.
So voters will have a clear, if not unsatisfying, choice in this election season. They can elect Republicans who want to take away New Deal and Great Society systems like Medicare, Social Security and public education to cover the costs of ill-conceived Bush era policies while at the same serving up new customers for for-profit health, financial, and education companies who stand ready to gain from desperate Americans forced to purchase private services previously provided through the public sector.
Or they can elect Democrats, led by President Obama, who have expressed a commitment to protecting middle and working class Americans even as some leading members seem willing to tarnish their party's important legacy by tinkering with cuts to New Deal and Great Society programs in exchange for modest revenue increases like closing corporate tax loopholes.
Whatever your choice, one thing is clear: the U.S. is in dangerous and uncertain territory. The nation has a moribund economy with high unemployment and growing poverty rates, short-term deficits and long term debt, and a populace that needs financial and health security perhaps more so now than ever before. This is a toxic political, economic, and social mix that requires solutions-oriented leadership that is willing to get our economy back on track, address wealth and income disparities, defend the appropriate role of government in providing important health and income security services, and implement fair fiscal reforms that avoid making middle class Americans and their children suffer to advance the interests of for-profit corporations and the wealthy.
There are progressive leaders, like Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who have developed workable plans that meet these criteria. But you haven't heard about them or their plans from leading politicians or in the mainstream media, which has been all too willing to ignore progressive fiscal alternatives in favor of reinforcing conservative plans. Media coverage of alternative fiscal options has been so lopsided that it's worth launching an investigation of our media investigators to determine the ideological makeup of those who get the most access to newspaper editorial board members on these issues.
Despite campaign rhetoric to the contrary, there seem to be few truly progressive options on the national ticket in the upcoming November elections. However, there is a chance to pressure Democrats to uphold the traditional values of their party, which polls show have become the ethos of our nation. It is a fact that Americans from all backgrounds -- red and blue states, conservatives and liberals -- believe in the promise of Social Security, Medicare, and quality public education. And, most importantly, Americans have shown that they are willing to pay for these systems because of their importance for individuals, families, and our society.
Republicans like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and Trojan Horse Democrats would be wise to heed the words of one Tea Party sage who held up a sign at a rally in 2009 saying, "Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare!" Although mocked as an ignoramus at the time, the Tea Partier's sign conveyed an enduring truth: those who hold public office should be bound to uphold the public trust. In the eyes of Americans, these systems, which they pay for and are codified in U.S. law, are sacred no matter who's in office.
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore is President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, board chair of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and co-chair of the Commission to Modernize Social Security.
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