With the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate, the Republican Party has clearly signaled that it wants to go full steam ahead and double down on their War on Women. Mr. Ryan's views fall so far outside the mainstream of American thought, practice and tradition, that what he proposes is no less than a radical reshaping of the social compact that has made our country the envy of the world. His proposed policies would march us backward and would impact millions of American women at every stage of life. Their futures would be endangered, their opportunities diminished, their choices constrained and the implicit guarantee that women and men in their senior years may look forward to a modicum of dignity and security, would be torn to pieces.
Ryan's highly regressive tax plan for instance, would immediately impact the lives of middle class families by shifting more of the total tax burden onto the shoulders of those who can least afford it, while reducing the tax rate of wealthy individuals like Mr. Romney to virtually zero.
His spending plan would slash vital elements of the social safety net, particularly those that benefit women and children. Military spending would be protected, but Ryan's budget would cut education, training, employment, and social services spending by 33 percent. 100,000 children could lose access to the Head Start program, 80,000 children could lose child care subsidies and cuts to Pell Grants could leave a million more students unable to afford a college education. More than three-fifths of the cuts would come from programs for low-income Americans.
Mr. Ryan claims that he can keep his budget revenue neutral by closing loopholes, but economists tell us he'd have to eliminate tax provisions that help the middle class and poor like tax credits for kids and tuition costs.
Mr. Ryan wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would immediately impact the lives of millions of women and children who now have access to affordable health insurance plans and free preventive health care. Women could once again be denied affordable coverage due to pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy.
Mr. Ryan would do all this even though a Harvard study has clearly shown that tens of thousands of deaths each year are associated with a lack of health insurance coverage.
Mr. Ryan boasts of being "pro-life" but he voted for a law that critics understandably labeled the "Let Women Die Act." The bill would have given hospitals the right to refuse to perform an abortion even if it was necessary to save a woman's life. The law would also have allowed the hospital to refuse to transfer a dying woman to a hospital that would save her life.
Mr. Ryan says he wants to get government out of people's lives yet he supported the passage of a federal law that would forbid terminating any pregnancies, even those that came as the result of rape and incest. He believes it is appropriate to use federal law to compel a woman to bear the child of her attacker, or compel a minor to bear her own siblings.
Mr. Ryan has supported "Personhood" legislation that would criminalize widely used forms of birth control. He has voted to deny birth-control coverage to federal employees, called for the defunding of Title 10 family planning programs and called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Mr. Ryan has dismissed Social Security as being technically the same thing as a Ponzi scheme. He wants to radically remake one of the most successful and most popular programs in American history. That could have a huge impact on people's economic security in their senior years, especially on women. A report issued by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee when I was the Chair found that women in their retirement years are less likely than men to have income outside of Social Security to rely on and that, after age 65, Social Security typically accounts for more than two-thirds of their income. Mr. Ryan wants to drastically change the program in ways that would markedly reduce the vital security it provides to tens of millions of women.
We can all agree that there are hard choices to be made. But Mr. Ryan's way is not the right way. His "hard choices" are hard on women, hard on children, hard on the middle class, and hard on the disadvantaged. But all of his proposals go easy on those like Mr. Romney who have been most fortunate in life. Any real solution requires a more balanced approach. Ryan's Roadmap to Prosperity is more like a battle plan to chip away at hard-won rights and vitally important programs that have lifted millions out of poverty, created opportunities and provided security. Whether it is meant to be or not, Ryan's Roadmap serves as one more Republican attack in what has become the GOP's continuing war on women.