I suppose if you were looking to pick another “game changer” like Sarah Palin to run as your Vice President, you’d want to choose someone who is at least twice as smart but half as crazy, and Paul Ryan certainly seems to fit that bill nicely. Known as a policy wonk and a fan of the pop-philosopher, Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan marks a similar concession by Mitt Romney to his right flank that John McCain made four years ago.
The only question now is whether or not Ryan’s promise as a Tea Party hero will be enough to overcome Romney’s smothering personality. McCain was a good guy who got undercut by the assumption that anyone elected as a governor, of anything, wouldn’t be completely vexed by questions about what she likes to read.
But the Democrats won’t be so lucky this time around. Ryan has a solid grasp of what he’s doing, and by picking him as his VP, Romney has taken ownership of not only the cost-cutting policies of Paul Ryan, but the underlying values of those polices.
And if any ethnic-minority thinks it has anything to do with bringing America back to prosperity, they are the ones who have no idea what he’s doing. While Ryan’s budget proposals seem innocuous enough, if morally numb, they will have deep consequences for Latinos if those policies are ever implemented.
Just to give you one example, Medicare reform will have a great impact on the future wellness of Latinos. Latinos make up a young population with a median age of 27 years, while the median age of non-Hispanic whites is 42 years old. This means that the vast majority of the population that is retired is non-Hispanic white, and by extension, the vast majority of Medicare recipients are also non-Hispanic white.
Yet, any tinkering of Medicare will have the greatest impact on the benefits of future participants, not current ones. Meaning, the burden of any cost cutting or experimenting with the program will fall largely on the shoulders of Latinos. For instance, under Ryan’s voucher plan for Medicare, the voucher could lose half its value in just 14 years given the increasing costs of health care.
And since most recipients of Medicare are satisfied with their health plan, Latinos should be rightfully concerned that they will not get the same benefits when they retire.
Another example. Latinos are not only young, but they are also poor. The median wealth of non-Hispanic whites is about eighteen times that of Hispanics, and the gap between the two continues to widen. This means that more than a quarter of Hispanics depend on Medicaid for their health care needs.
Ryan is not only proposing deep cuts to Medicaid, but he is proposing that funds from the Federal government for Medicaid be issued as “block grants”. A block grant is simply a lump sum of money that the Federal government would give to each state for their own low-income medical program, but it would be up to each state to determine how those funds would be spent.
This seems harmless enough. But consider that past federal programs whose administering was left up to the states have historically been used to discriminate against minorities. Ira Katznelson, a political science and history professor at Columbia University, wrote a book that chronicles how Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies became a haven for racists to discriminate against minorities.
In his book, When Affirmative Action was White, Kaztnelson convincingly demonstrates how part of the Southern states’ acceptance of FDR’s plans to pull the country out of the Depression was predicated on the deal that the States would get to administer many of those policies. This ensured that whites would disproportionately benefit from federal aid, and that blacks would be left to fend for themselves. Anyone wants to guess how Latinos in Alabama or Arizona would fair under similar programs?
Romney’s VP pick is a clear signal to Latinos about what the values of a Romney presidency would look like. Incidentally, I have no problem with cutting corporate tax rates, since Romney has shown us how corporations find ways to not pay taxes anyways. But while much of the noise from Democrats will focus on class warfare, Latinos should be more aware of the deeper policy implications a Romney presidency will have on the safety net many Latinos depend on daily and on those benefits we are looking forward to into our future.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.