Since Rep. Paul Ryan was chosen as former Gov. Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate, commentators across the political spectrum have been discussing Ryan’s ideas. We are told that Ryan’s ideas are “bold” and even “courageous” for confronting our fiscal challenges. Less discussed, however, are the human costs of those policy proposals. It’s important to remember that the ends do not always justify the means. As women and as Jews, we oppose them, and we urge others to do the same.
In our great nation, all women must have access to basic reproductive health care. When exploring Ryan’s record, it is remarkable how extreme he is on a woman’s right to make medical decisions regarding her own body. In fact, it’s almost unbelievable.
In 2011, Ryan — along with his newly infamous colleague, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri — voted for and cosponsored the bill, “H.R. 358,” which, if enacted, would prohibit hospitals from performing abortions under any circumstances. Under this bill, even abortions necessary to save the life of the mother would be outlawed. Ryan and Akin also have proposed giving fertilized eggs the same rights as people, which would have the effect of criminalizing many forms of birth control. That’s about as extreme as one can be on abortion and access to contraceptives.
Given all the recent controversy over Akin’s comments that “women who are victims of ‘legitimate rape’ rarely get pregnant,” it’s important to understand that the Romney/Ryan ticket and the GOP platform share Akin’s radical anti-choice policy prescriptions.
Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the first bill that President Obama signed into law as president. Named after a woman who was paid significantly less than her male counterparts and whose right to sue was not held up by the U.S. Supreme Court, this 2009 law expanded the legal rights of women to challenge unfair pay. Ryan’s policy stances are not only wrong for women, they would negatively impact virtually all Americans, especially those who are the worst off among us.
Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal made his — and now Romney’s — ultimate ambition clear. They want to gut the federal government, eviscerating nearly all its services besides national defense. Medicare as we know it would end, replaced with a voucher program. Medicaid, which has become the largest provider of health care for those of limited resources, would be drastically reduced. The independent Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 14 to 27 million Americans would lose Medicaid coverage as a result.
It would be one thing if the wealthy shared in the suffering. But Ryan proposes $300,000 in tax cuts for each American who makes more than one million dollars a year. At the same time, those who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 would see their tax bills increase by $1,358, according to the highly respected Tax Policy Center. Ryan’s plan has been referred to as “Robin Hood in reverse,” taking from the least well off and giving to the most comfortable.
What about Medicare? First, it’s worth noting that Ryan’s most recent plan actually represents a modified version of his earlier ideas. Previously, Ryan proposed making seniors absorb more than two-thirds of the costs that Medicare now pays for. If that’s a window into his genuine worldview, it’s frightening. But even his more “modest” approach to Medicare is plainly unacceptable. He wants to give seniors vouchers that they can then spend on private insurance. One problem: he does not plan to compel insurers to accept those with pre-existing conditions. Consequently, under his plan, a senior could be given a voucher but be unable to find a company willing to give him or her insurance.
As Jews, we feel obligated to live up to the principle of “tikkun olam,” or “repairing the world.” But not all attempts to repair the world are created equal. Efforts that do disproportionate harm to the elderly, the poor and the needy conflict with our tradition’s commitment to worldly justice.
Ryan clearly does not share our values.
When asked about the defensibility of his proposed $134 billion cuts to the food stamp program, Ryan coldly explained, “You have to get savings in those areas.” For him, it seems that the numbers on a spreadsheet are mere data, with no human correspondents. In fact, they are our friends, our neighbors and our loved ones.
Voters should reject these extremist ideas as they consider the candidacy of Mitt Romney, the man who wants to make Paul Ryan the second most powerful man in the world.
Nancy Ratzan, Millie Sernovitz and Barbara Dobkin are, respectively, past presidents of the National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Women International and the founding chair of the Hadassah Foundation.