As a Latino voter, I was surprised that Romney chose Ryan as his Veep, when he has struggled to connect with Hispanics. Until recently, I knew little about this Generation X lawmaker from Janesville, Wisconsin.
So, who is Paul Ryan? Democrats say he's the bogeyman who wants to end Medicare. Republicans say he's the new face of the GOP. Unfortunately, they're both right. Ryan has radical views about our country's future, and his ideas would have severe consequences for Latinos — the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority group.
Like Romney, Ryan is an immigration hardliner. He opposes the DREAM Act, a measure that helps young people brought here without documents as children earn citizenship. In 2005, Ryan supported a bill that would've criminalized all undocumented immigrants. He once said that "anchor babies cost money," using an offensive term for children born in the United States to parents without papers. Instead of being inclusive, Ryan reinforces the Republican Party's negative image among Hispanics as hostile to immigrants.
Ryan is best known for his proposals to slash government spending. His budget would turn Medicare into a voucher system, drastically cut social services, and give tax breaks to the wealthy — all without actually reducing the deficit. Ryan is going to have a hard time selling Hispanics on this. According to the polling company Latino Decisions, 73 percent of Hispanics oppose cutting Medicare to balance the budget, while 83 percent favor raising taxes on the wealthy to do so.
Ryan's plan would disproportionately impact the most vulnerable Americans. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He wants to cut funding for Pell Grants and food stamps, and turn Medicaid over to the states. Again, these are ideas opposed by Hispanics. An April poll by the Pew Center found that 75 percent of Latinos, in these hard economic times, favor a bigger government with more services, not a smaller government offering less.
Millions of Latino families and seniors, in fact, depend on the safety net that Ryan wants to slash. The National Council of La Raza, the American Association of Retired Persons, and the National Association for the Hispanic Elderly all agree that the Ryan budget would be harmful to Latinos.
It's ironic that Ryan considers "big government" to be a problem because he has spent just about his entire adult life in the public sector. He's a seven-term congressman who has been in Washington since college, aside from a short stint with his family's business. He criticizes the deficit that he helped create by voting for the war in Iraq, the bank bailout, and the Bush tax cuts.
True, Ryan is a fresh face with a friendly persona. But looks can be deceiving. Ryan is a devout Catholic, yet his budget has been denounced by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops as "unjustified and wrong." His family's construction business was built upon public works projects such as highways, airports, and defense contracts — the type of government spending that Ryan now opposes. Ryan's budget itself is a rehash of failed Reagan-era policies. Ronald Reagan's former budget guru David Stockman recently called the Ryan budget "phony" and "devoid of credible math or hard policy choices."
Though Romney has lately tried to distance himself from Ryan's budget, he has not put forth one of his own. For all purposes, Ryan's plan is Romney's plan, one with deeply negative implications for Hispanics, the middle class, seniors, and the poor. And the more we know about Ryan, the more obvious it becomes that he and Romney aren't a winning combination for America.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.