Skip to main content

Why Ryan pick won't help Romney

By Ilyse Hogue, Special to CNN
updated 9:25 AM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, during a June hearing on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, during a June hearing on Capitol Hill.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ilyse Hogue: Mitt Romney has faced criticism recently on Bain tenure, tax returns, his tax plan
  • She says Paul Ryan pick no help and Romney already backing away from Ryan budget plan
  • She says Ryan plan would hurt middle class, cut Pell grants, move to privatize Social Security
  • Hogue: Ryan pick may have made Romney's trust deficit even worse

Editor's note: Ilyse Hogue is co-director of Friends of Democracy, a super PAC aimed at electing candidates who champion campaign finance reform. She is the former director of political advocacy and communications for MoveOn.org and has been a senior strategist to Democratic and progressive groups, including Media Matters for America, Public Campaign and Rebuild the Dream. She is a regular contributor to The Nation magazine.

(CNN) -- Elections are ultimately about trust. And trust may be the only kind of currency that Mitt Romney is running low on lately. After a brutal couple of months defending the outsourcing of American jobs by his private equity firm, Bain Capital, and his mysterious tax returns, Romney took another body blow when an independent report revealed that his tax plan would grant himself and his wealthy friends a big tax cut while raising taxes on 95% of Americans.

After his botched European tour failed to deflect attention from his troubles back home, on Saturday he played the one card he had left to change the subject: announcing Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick. But instead of making Americans forget their concerns, the Ryan pick sends a clear signal that Romney intends to double down on his anti-middle-class economic policies.

Ryan, the fresh-faced congressman from Wisconsin, would certainly be voted prom king at Tea Party High. But the tea party fever of 2010 has given way to widespread concerns about both unemployment and political corruption, which frustrated voters view as an insurmountable impediment to putting middle-class families' concerns above those of corporate lobbyists'. On those two counts, as Ryan becomes known outside of the Beltway elite, Romney may end up second-guessing his choice as much as John McCain did when Sarah Palin couldn't name a newspaper.

Ilyse Hogue
Ilyse Hogue

Opinion: Paul Ryan, Gen X Republican

In fact, it appears second thoughts are already creeping in. After initially lauding the Ryan budget of 2011, Romney now claims he doesn't exactly support everything on Ryan's radical wish list. No wonder: Upon closer examination, Ryan's budget reads like a blueprint for dismantling the American middle class.

Had the Ryan budget passed, those few families who make more than $1 million a year would have saved an average of $300,000 annually. How to pay for this? Ryan agrees with Romney that tax hikes for the middle class are in order, but Ryan's budget would eliminate programs that offer ordinary American families a leg up. Under the Ryan budget, in addition to getting rid of tax credits for kids and tuition costs, cuts to Pell grants would leave a million more students unable to afford a college education. At least Romney had a suggestion for them: Remember when he suggested that students ask their parents for a loan to get ahead, just like he did?

What do Democrats think of Ryan?
Thune: Ryan helps with base
'Game changer' vs. 'more of the same'
Will Ryan pick put Wisconsin in play?

Ryan's Social Security plan hands over Americans' retirement funds to Wall Street, with its stellar track record of managing money. For two-thirds of our seniors, those Social Security checks represent most of their monthly income, and for half of those, it's a full 90% of their income. Ryan's plan to privatize this last line of defense for American elderly was so radical that even George W. Bush rejected it. Romney has been passively in favor of privatization, but with Ryan on the ticket, we can expect to see a renewed push to dismantle Social Security.

Opinion: Ryan pick will steer Romney campaign to treacherous waters

And what about jobs, the top concern for American voters of both parties? Romney's jobs plan is the old Republican standby: giving millionaires like himself even more tax cuts and waiting for the jobs to trickle down to the rest of us. But Ryan's plan suggests he would not wait to make the job situation worse. By laying off tens of thousands of police, nurses, medical researchers and construction engineers -- each of whom then would spend less money in our small businesses -- Ryan's unyielding fixation on dismantling our government is projected to result in 4.1 million lost jobs in two years.

Numbers like that make policy wonks go crazy, but in the voting booth, most Americans will pull the lever based on a different measure: how much they trust a candidate's integrity, and empathy. Romney's integrity has taken a beating as voters are left to wonder what he's hiding in the tax returns he refuses to release.

Opinion: Paul Ryan will shift the campaign dynamic

And every new gaffe that shows just how little he appreciates what Americans are going through leaves Americans feeling less empathy from Romney. Ryan's aggressive embrace of self-serving politics only makes these problems worse. While Ryan likes to justify his draconian cuts by saying all Americans need to sacrifice, he protected $40 billion in tax breaks for oil companies -- a move that stands to make his own family a hefty profit.

This is the kind of move that has led to a historic low approval rating for Congress while causing voters to elevate corruption to second highest on their list of concerns. But Ryan elevates selfishness to doctrine. His devotion to 20th-century novelist Ayn Rand, who considered Jesus evil for caring about the poor, is well-documented. Even the Catholic bishops, long the nemesis of the Obama administration, said that "Paul Ryan's budget fails to meet (our) moral criteria."

In picking Ryan, Romney may have hoped to deflect concern from jobs to Ryan's hobby horse of the deficit. But, at first glance, it seems like he just made his own trust deficit worse.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ilyse Hogue.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT