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"An Extreme Choice" -- What Two of Wisconsin's Leading Progressive Journalists Think About Mitt Romney's Pick of Paul Ryan

"He’s to the right of both President Bushes. I think he’s to the right of Dick Cheney," says Matthew Rothschild of the Progressive Magazine.

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AMY GOODMAN: Pentagon? His view on the Pentagon?

JOHN NICHOLS: Oh, military-industrial complex love him.

AMY GOODMAN: More than the Pentagon asks for?

JOHN NICHOLS: Oh, yeah, absolutely. That’s what I’m saying. This is a guy who’s saying to America, "I want to balance your budget. I want to take care of your grandkids, make sure they don’t have debt." In fact, what he really seems to want to do is make sure that the federal government keeps collecting taxes but shifts it over to very wealthy people and to Wall Street.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet, Matt Rothschild, during the weekend, as they campaigned together and separately, an almost mantra, clearly a talking point, of the Republican candidates, of Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, was that President Obama would cut $700 billion from Medicare and that they would save Medicare. Matt?

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Yeah, well, they’re—you know, they’re trying to cover their backsides here, because they know they are vulnerable on Medicare, because the Ryan plan would have seniors paying $6,000 more a year, $6,000 more a year for health insurance with that voucher plan. And, you know, there are not many seniors in this country who want to pay $6,000 more or who could afford paying $6,000 more.

AMY GOODMAN: But explain how what—explain how what Paul Ryan has put forward—and it is unusual that he has put forward a very clear budget, head of the House Budget Committee—what it means to talk about Medicare as vouchers, giving seniors the chance to choose.

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: So, he would give—he would give people on Medicare, people who are over 65, a voucher to go into the private insurance market and, as John says, help the private insurance companies out by buying insurance there. But it would be a fixed amount at about $5,600. That’s how much they would get. But there’s no limit on the insurance premiums that the insurance companies can raise them to, so, you know, the sky is the limit. And as the insurance companies raise their rates, that voucher is going to be worth less and less over time. And so, elderly people are going to have to shell out more from their own pocket than they would be certainly under the traditional Medicare system that, you know, 90, 95 percent of seniors enjoy and appreciate and are in favor of.

AMY GOODMAN: Last fall at one of Ryan’s town hall meetings, he spoke about cutting Social Security and Medicare as a means of debt reduction. Let’s turn to a clip of a senior citizen who spoke out during the meeting. He was promptly escorted out of the room.

REP. PAUL RYAN: Most of our debt in the future comes from our entitlement programs—

SENIOR CITIZEN: Hey! Why [inaudible]—

REP. PAUL RYAN: —mainly Medicare and Medicaid. So—

SENIOR CITIZEN: I paid into that for 50 years, my unemployment and my Social Security and my Medicare. And now you’re gonna—

SECURITY GUARD: On the ground! On the ground!

REP. PAUL RYAN: I hope he’s taken his blood pressure medication.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Paul Ryan being questioned by a senior citizen. Then the senior citizen was escorted out. John Nichols?

JOHN NICHOLS: And that was at a town hall meeting. You know, the interesting thing is that Paul Ryan flew under radar in Wisconsin for a long time. His congressional district is small towns and small cities—Racine, Kenosha, Janesville being the largest. There aren’t any big TV stations there. And so, for a long time Paul Ryan was able to create this image at home as nice guy, always in the Fourth of July parade, pretty good constituent service. And a lot of people weren’t fully aware of what his agenda was. When they became aware, he started coming back for these town hall meetings, they were packed with angry, angry people. I was at one in Kenosha where I don’t think there was more than a handful of people out of the hundreds there who weren’t opposed to what he was proposing. And this is one of the complexities with Paul Ryan. A lot of the national folks say, "Well, he won in a Democratic-leaning district, or a district that voted for Obama." But he won at a time when most people weren’t fully aware of exactly where he was going.

 
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