Like Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, I grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin. Like Ryan, my beliefs -- to quote Mitt Romney when he announced his running mate -- are "rooted in Janesville, Wisconsin."
Unlike Paul Ryan, I apply those beliefs differently, at least when it comes to protecting and fostering a strong American middle class.
It was in Janesville where I grew up along with my two brothers, was confirmed and graduated from Craig H.S. -- the same school attended by Ryan. My father taught in the public schools system, my mother was a stay-at-home mom and Janesville is where they are buried. We were a proud, hardworking Midwestern middle-class family.
What I can't understand is why some middle-class folks -- and their supporters -- might think Romney and Ryan have their best interests at heart. Isn't it painfully obvious that they do not?
The surfacing of a video showing Romney at a $50,000-a-plate Boca Raton fundraising dinner where he dismisses 47 percent of Americans as "dependent on government" was shocking, but no revelation.
"My job is not to worry about those people," Romney says in the video. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Sadly, these "moochers" Romney refers to are senior citizens, veterans, students and the poor.
Further troublesome, is Romney and Ryan's lack of honesty especially as it relates to the concerns of the middle class.
Even Fox News commented of Ryan's speech at the Republican National convention, that it "set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations into a single political speech." Of all the misrepresentations in that speech, two are particularly noteworthy. Ryan attacked President Obama for the very cost cuts in Medicare spending that he included in his own budget plan passed by the House of Representatives in 2011 and 2012. And, he blamed the President for the Janesville GM plant closing when the plant effectively closed December 23, 2008, during President George W. Bush's administration. As Vice President Biden has pointed out "all those GM plants would have been closed" had President Obama not lead the bail out of the American auto industry.
And of the first presidential debate, from Romney we saw a great deal of style, but a great deal of dishonesty that went with it. The New York Times commented: "Virtually every time Mr. Romney spoke, he misrepresented the platform on which he and Paul Ryan are actually running. The most prominent example, taking up the first half-hour of the debate, was on taxes. Mr. Romney claimed, against considerable evidence, that he had no intention of cutting taxes on the rich or enacting a tax cut that would increase the deficit. That simply isn't true."
Such dishonesty and disregard for average Americans is something that wouldn't wash in the Janesville that shaped by beliefs.
Beyond these videos, speeches and debates, nothing speaks more clearly to Romney/Ryan's indifference to the middle class than the very budget plans they advance and their effect on America's middle class and poor.
Ryan gained notoriety with conservatives for his aggressive, albeit unpopular, proposals to balance the Federal budget and cut Medicare costs. It was this very "slash & burn" fiscal fanaticism that the Bush White House rejected as too extreme when Ryan sponsored a 2004 bill to privatize Social Security.
Romney/Ryan's budget plan axes and guts programs with little regard to their effect on the middle class, yet they often benefit America's most wealthy. He advocates cutting the top income tax rate to 25 percent from 39.6 percent while maintaining a total tax revenue goal of 19 percent of GDP. To cover the shortfall, he in turn will eliminate tax breaks, chief among them the mortgage interest deduction, a principle tool for many middle class Americans that helps them realize the dream of owning their own home. My parents -- and I'm certain every one of our friends and neighbors in Janesville -- would never have owned a home of their own if it weren't for the mortgage interest deduction.
Romney/Ryan targets program cuts in Medicare and Medicaid that will place the financial burden on average Americans. Their plan is to transfer more of the funding burden to states -- many of which are already in fiscal struggles of their own -- which will have to limit both enrollment to and benefits to stem the fiscal shortfall. Medicare sustained our family through my father's stroke and death at 83 and my mother's fight with cancer that claimed her at age 72. I can't imagine what future families might do in similar circumstances should Medicare not be available to them in the way it was for our family.
Education and infrastructure will also suffer under Romney/Ryan's fiscal strategy, including emergency first-responders, law enforcement, highways and bridges, clean water and air, and more. Strapped states will receive less funding from the Federal government for these services and jobs in the Romney/Ryan plan. Most states receive a substantial part of their budgets from the Federal government. For example, 40 percent of Tennessee's $30 billion budget comes from the federal government, according to the non-profit, non-partisan State Budget Solutions Project.
Transferring such important social programs for our nation's middle class and poor to cash strapped states that are already eliminating school arts and athletic programs and laying off teachers is tantamount to gutting them. The Federal government has long been the guardian of such programs and with good reason for states that favor lower taxes at any cost, their middle class and poor residents will truly suffer.
I now live in Los Angeles and according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, financially I've left the middle class and am now "Upper Income." My beliefs and character were forged in Janesville and because of that -- and my hard work, talents and good fortune -- have done well. I'm from the middle class and remain for the middle class.
President Obama has been clear on his position on how to fund these critical programs that support and stimulate the middle class in allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making more than $250,000 - people such as myself - and preserving them for the middle class.
Under President Obama's plan, my husband and I will pay more taxes and we are willing to do so to protect the middle class. I believe that my success is because I came from the middle class of Janesville, Wisconsin, because I came from that background, that community, that education. It forged my character and my mind. So you see, I believe the President's economic proposal is the correct course: to make strong the middle class in order to grow our economy and make America stronger.
This is clearly "a choice between two different paths," as President Obama has framed it.
Romney/Ryan are beholden to the wealthy and are no protectors of those who are not. Their economic plan would give to wealthy Americans a tax cut and take away from middle-class Americans such programs that provide assistance in education, healthcare, banking and more. Programs that sustain support and stimulate the heart of our country.
Whether it's their "slash & burn" budget proposals, unwillingness to provide more than 2 years disclosure of their personal income taxes, or their public distain and dishonesty for and about the middle class, the pretense that Romney/Ryan will be a President/Vice-president for all Americans not only ceases, but seizes.
I hope middle class folks and their supporters understand the distinction between these two different paths. In recent polls in my native Wisconsin -- Paul Ryan's native Wisconsin -- only 10 percent of voters said that Romney's policies would favor the middle class. The poll had President Obama leading Mr. Romney by some 17 points.
Arguably the greatest champion of America's middle class during the 20th century was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was FDR who, in the depths of the Great Depression, created the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, aid to dependent children, Social Security, and banking and stock market regulation to name but a few of the New Deal programs that still exist today.
In sharp contrast to Romney & Ryan's perception of "moochers" was FDR's vision to foster and protect the middle class. President Roosevelt said in his 137th press conference on August 24, 1937, "For people who want to keep themselves free from starvation, keep a roof over their heads, lead decent lives, have proper educational standards, those are the concerns of government... and another thing... is the protection of the life and the liberty of the individual against elements in the community that seek to enrich and advance themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens."
I believe in FDR's vision. I suspect the many folks in Janesville believe in it, too. They deserve better than what Romney/Ryan offer. Certainly, their fellow Americans deserve better.
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