Election 2014  
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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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And you saw in that incident that joke about the older gentleman, saying, "I hope he’s taken his blood pressure medicine." That older gentleman didn’t need blood pressure medicine. He was mad about a policy. There’s a similar scene from a parade last Labor Day in Janesville. Paul Ryan’s going down the street handing out candy. A guy runs up and says, "Look, I’m really concerned about the fact that our GM plant has closed, that our pen plant has closed. This town is de-industrializing. We’re losing jobs." Ryan gave him a piece of candy, said, "Here, have some candy," and walked away.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about Ryan and where he comes from, Janesville, and his family, his rise to Congress.

JOHN NICHOLS: Well, Paul Ryan lives on the same street where he grew up. And again, there will be this attempt to portray him as sort of a blue-collar guy from a working-class town. It happens to be the best street in town. He now lives in 5,400-square-foot mansion formerly owned by the head of the Parker Pen Company. Now, the interesting thing about that is that the mansion is still there. Paul Ryan owns it and lives in it. But the Parker Pen plant isn’t. It got shut. The General Motors plant, which at one time employed thousands and thousands of people, it was shut, as well.

And Janesville is a wonderful town, a good working-class Wisconsin town, where Russ Feingold was born and raised. In fact, Feingold and Ryan came up from the same neighborhoods, same schools—obviously different teachers. And the thing about Janesville is it has suffered dramatically from de-industrialization. It has been hard, hard hit by our trade policies. And yet, throughout his career, Paul Ryan has voted for free trade policies pretty much across the board and is, to my mind—and I say this as somebody who grew up just a few miles away from Janesville—really out of sync with what was best for that district. He is not a blue-collar Republican. He is not a Republican with deep roots in working-class communities. He’s a Republican who’s gotten a lot of money from Wall Street, used it to win a congressional seat, maintain that seat. Now he’s taking these policies national. And it will be disappointing to me if the national media goes down that line, that spin of portrayment as somehow a blue-collar or a working-class Republican.

AMY GOODMAN: Analysts suggest Paul Ryan’s budget would raise taxes on the middle class, cut them for millionaires. I want to turn to a clip of Paul Ryan speaking at a town hall meeting in which he’s booed for claiming he does tax the top. He then shifts gears and says small businesses create most jobs, so they shouldn’t be burdened by high taxes.

REP. PAUL RYAN: We do tax the top.


REP. PAUL RYAN: Let’s remember—let’s remember—let’s remember—let’s remember, most of our jobs come from successful small businesses. Two-thirds of our jobs—you’ve got to remember, these businesses pay tax as individuals, so when you raise their tax rate to a 44.8 percent, which is what the president is proposing, I would fundamentally disagree. That is going to hurt job creation.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Paul Ryan at another town hall meeting. Matt Rothschild, if you could respond to that but also set him in the context of the different tendencies in Wisconsin, which is an historic place, the home of McCarthy and the home of La Follette, and explain who they are.

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Sure. Well, I mean, on the economic question, I mean, here you have Paul Ryan with the traditional Republican message that if you cut taxes for the wealthy and cut taxes for business, that everything is going to be great. But what actually drives the economy is consumer demand, and we need to give people enough money in their pockets so they can go out and buy things. If they buy things, then employers can hire more people, and the economy will cook. But they have a completely reverse idea of how to get the economy going. And Paul Ryan is against the minimum wage, and he’s against, you know, government jobs programs and anything that would stimulate the economy from the federal level. So, I think he’s got that all wrong.

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