ANALYSIS: Senior Citizens Beware

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  • Senior citizens beware.

    U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan — Mitt Romney's running mate for the White House — wants to dismantle Medicare, which could adversely impact millions of African-American seniors and elderly people of color who rely heavily on the government health care program.

    Ryan, a policy wonk from Wisconsin, is the architect of a controversial GOP budget that would lower tax rates for millionaires and completely overhaul Medicare.

    “He’s never been content to simply curse the darkness,” Romney said of Ryan in Norfolk, Virginia this weekend. “He’d rather light candles.”

    Although Romney speaks highly of his new running mate, Ryan has not been very successful in Congress. In his nearly 13 years serving in the House, Ryan has only passed two bills. One of those bills from 2000 renamed a post office in his district. The post office in Janesville, Wisconsin is now known as "Les Aspin Post Office Building."

    Still, if Romney and Ryan are elected to the White House in November, they plan to blow up Medicare and perhaps force many of the nation's seniors to fend for themselves.

    Ryan, 42, is a rising star in the Republican Party who was born in Wisconsin and, according to some conservatives, could help Romney connect with middle-class Americans and those who view Romney as an insensitive, wealthy politician.

    “The commitment Mitt Romney and I make to you is this: We won’t duck the tough issues; we will lead,” Ryan said. “We won’t blame others; we will take responsibility. And we won’t replace our founding principles; we will reapply them.”

    And then Ryan set his sights on President Barack Obama.

    "He's going to divide and distract this country to win an election by default, and you know what? We're not going to fall for that," Ryan said to supporters at a rally with Romney on Saturday.

    Romney's choice of Ryan for his vice presidential running mate comes as a new poll shows Obama leading Romney by 7 points among registered voters — 52 percent to 45 percent – according to a CNN/ORC International poll.

    Democrats seized on the poll and were quick to attack Ryan.

    David Axelrod, the Obama campaign's senior strategist, sent an email to supporters entitled "Get To Know Paul Ryan."

    "It's our job, especially in these first few days and weeks, to make sure voters get the facts on his record, and a clear picture as to what a Romney-Ryan administration would look like for regular people, when the slogans fade away and the real policy decisions they'd face as president and vice president are on the table," Axelrod wrote.

    Axelrod said the Obama campaign will spend a good deal of time in the coming weeks picking apart Ryan's record and explaining Ryan's vision of leadership to voters.

    "Both Romney and Ryan are severely conservative, threatening to take us backward on women's issues and civil rights," Axelrod wrote. "Ryan co-sponsored a bill that would ban common forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization, and abortions even in cases of rape or incest. He voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, voted against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality."

    "On so many issues, Paul Ryan, like Mitt Romney, has taken extreme positions that are out of touch with the values most Americans share," he added.

    Romney is trying to reach undecided voters this week by embarking on a four-day bus tour of battleground states where Obama won in 2008 — Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio. The Romney campaign, with Ryan's help, feels they will win these four states.

    “To me, picking not just a guy from Wisconsin, but a guy from a place like Janesville or the Green Bay area is important. There's a lot of Wisconsin culture centered on that, but it's also culturally similar to places like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toledo. I think that gives him a lot of resonance in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan,” Republican strategist Rick Wilson told reporters. “He's also young, smart and can play in Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, etc.”

    Meanwhile, Romney can't seem to shake his image of a millionaire who only wants to look out for other millionaires. A Catholic faith-based group is urging Romney to visit sections of America where he seldom travels: low-income communities.

    The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) has criticized Romney’s language regarding welfare programs and welfare recipients.

    "Our Christian tradition teaches that we are to treat the poor with dignity and to prioritize the poor in our policies as a society," the organization said in a press release last week.  "At a time when millions are struggling financially, it is degrading to talk about the 'dependency' of people hurting in this economy, as Gov. Romney did recently."

    Romney has been roundly criticized for his lack of compassion ever since he announced his candidacy. Earlier this year, he infamously suggested that he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”

    “I’m in this race because I care about Americans,” Romney told CNN in February. “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

    Since then, Romney stunned lawmakers by announcing that he may eliminate the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and consolidate the U.S. Department of Education if he’s elected president in November.

    It’s a random concept that could have dire consequences for millions of African-Americans who have relied on the government to save their homes from foreclosure, get access to affordable housing, and take advantage of special assistance for first-time home buyers.

    "I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some I'll eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go," Romney said during a private campaign fundraiser last weekend. "Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later."

    The issue of eliminating HUD is incomprehensible considering the number of Americans –blacks and whites — who take advantage of HUD’s many programs.

    Last week, for example, HUD charged the owners and managers of Heritage Point Mobile Home Park in Montgomery, Alabama, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent a lot in the park to an African-American family and employing a policy of excluding African-Americans.

    And earlier this year, HUD made $85 million available to state housing agencies to provide affordable supportive housing for extremely low-income persons with disabilities, many of whom are African-Americans.

    But on the campaign trail, Romney omits his plans for HUD while trying to connect with blue-collar Americans. In fact, Romney has told voters that he comes from a family that was mired in poverty during his upbringing.

    "I'll tell you about how much I love this country, this extraordinary land, where someone like my dad, who grew up poor and never graduated from college, could pursue his dreams and work his way up to running a great car company," Romney told a crowd of supporters. "Only in America could a man like my dad become governor of the state in which he once sold paint from the trunk of his car."

    By contrast, in his book "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness," Romney’s recollection of his family’s financial situation appears  more optimistic than impoverished.

    "At 5 years old, Dad and his family were finally living pretty well,” Romney “They had a nice home and a small farm, and Dad even had his own pony, called Monty."
     

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