Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's new vice-presidential pick, is best known as the author of and lead cheerleader for a budget plan that would decimate the social contract and require the middle class to pay for massive tax breaks for the wealthy. But it would be a mistake to focus just on his horrible economic ideas. Paul Ryan is not just a one-trick pony.
For instance, while Ryan preaches Ayn Rand's gospel of economic greed and personal freedoms, he isn't so fond of individual freedom when it comes to gay people or women. In fact, when it comes to reproductive choice, Ryan is nostalgic for the 1950s. He co-sponsored a so-called "Personhood bill," which would classify abortion as first-degree murder and outlaw some of the most common types of birth control. A similar bill in Mississippi was rejected last year by 55 percent of voters. That's right: on reproductive freedom and birth control, Paul Ryan is to the right of Mississippi.
That's not even to mention Ryan's support for last year's "Let Women Die" bill, which would have allowed hospitals to refuse abortions to women, even if their lives were at risk. He also voted, along with most of his Republican House colleagues, to completely eliminate Title X, the program that provides family-planning services, including affordable contraception, to low-income women.
In a rambling essay in 2010, Ryan asserted that Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court error "virtually identical" to the Dred Scott decision, in which the court ruled that African Americans had no rights as citizens. If Romney's pick of Robert Bork to head his judicial advisory committee wasn't clue enough, we now know exactly what would happen to reproductive rights under a Romney-Ryan administration.
Ryan had one brush with support for gay rights back in 2007, when he voted for an early version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a few minutes after voting to kill the bill. But since then, he's fallen in line with the Right, opposing future versions of ENDA, hate crimes protections, adoption by gay couples, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military and of course anything resembling marriage equality. Now he feigns indifference to the whole issue, saying, "I don't know why we are spending all this time talking about this." He should ask a few LGBT people why we're spending time "talking about this": they might be able to explain why the issue of equal rights is more than a distraction from his plan to gut Medicare.
And then there are the other issues where the Corporate Right and the Religious Right have conveniently found themselves in agreement. Ryan is in the distressingly large "if it's snowing out, global warming can't be real" camp, or what the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer calls a "biblical view of the environment." He speaks the language of the Religious Right's pick-and-choose approach to the Constitution, saying in his nomination acceptance speech, "Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes" -- code for a Christianist government and the destruction of the social safety net, the twin goals of today's unified Corporate and Christian Right.
Ryan not only speaks the language of the Religious Right, he is one of them. Ryan is a confirmed speaker at the upcoming Values Voter Summit, a yearly confab hosted by the anti-gay, anti-choice Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel and American Family Association. There, he'll join right-wing luminaries including anti-Muslim activist and conspiracy theorist Jerry Boykin, anti-Planned Parenthood prankster Lila Rose, and Kamal Saleem, who bills himself as a reformed ex-terrorist... and who is widely considered to be a fraud. The event is a must-attend for candidates who want to appeal to the farthest extremes of the Religious Right, which clearly Romney and Ryan are more than happy to do.
Paul Ryan has a friendly demeanor and an earnest desire to make his case about his terrible economic policy. But we shouldn't let his focus on turning Medicare into a coupon distract us from the fact that he also wants to bring women's rights and gay rights back decades and cater to those who think the government should be run exclusively by and for evangelical Christians.
Paul Ryan is the whole package: massive tax cuts for billionaires on the backs of the middle class, plus the Religious Right's wish list of regressive social policies. In his choice of Paul Ryan, Massachusetts Mitt has sent a rare unambiguous signal about where he wants to take this country. And it's nowhere we should want to go.
Follow Michael B. Keegan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MBKeegan