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Romney chooses Paul Ryan

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 8/16/2012, 4:55 p.m.

Students and scholars of African-American history recall the speech Booker T. Washington delivered in Atlanta in 1895 at the Cotton Exposition in which Blacks and whites in the audience cheered him for different reasons. However, Mitt Romney's announcement of Rep. Paul Ryan, 42, of Wisconsin as his running mate has excited conservatives and liberals for the same reasons.

For the GOP, and particularly for the conservatives and tea party members, Ryan is the perfect choice because unlike the other choices on the VP shortlist, he can ably defend the proposed budget cuts and overhauling Medicare. On the other hand, Democrats feel it won't be necessary to pussyfoot around with vague issues in their attacks. Ryan wears a huge, indisputable target with his promise to lower taxes for the wealthy.

Moreover, several of his positions on social issues will probably prove troubling for many American voters who favor abortion and pro-choice and same-sex marriage, all of which the Roman Catholic Ryan opposes. In fact, the Romney-Ryan ticket is a strange mixture of a Mormon and a Catholic, which only further adds to the continuing disappearance of white Protestants from the top leadership positions in the nation.

"By choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt just made the most radical choice possible," said Sen. Harry Reid, himself a Mormon. "Paul Ryan is the tea party's darling and architect of the GOP's plan to destroy Medicare. And while dismantling the nation's social safety net, he will give even more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires like Mitt Romney."

Rep. Charles Rangel was equally disturbed by the Ryan selection, especially his stance on Social Security.

Ryan, Rangel charges, is the mastermind of the plan to dismantle Social Security. "According to Social Security's chief actuary, Ryan's dubiously named 'Path to Prosperity' will remove $4.9 trillion from the program's trust fund. In addition, it will reduce benefits for all future retirees and push the retirement age higher and higher.

"And--possibly worst of all--Congressman Ryan is an outspoken proponent of the privatization of Social Security," Rangel continued. "He was back in 2005 and he still is now. Imagine if Social Security had been partially private in 2008--millions of Americans would have lost their retirement savings. The entire point of Social Security is that it is an irrevocable promise: Workers pay in, and when they are no longer working, they receive benefits. There is no room for the high risk of privatization."

No room either, if Rangel and other Democrats are right, for Ryan's toxic policies, and though he's not perceived as an extremist, this makes him all the more dangerous, said David Axelrod, a chief strategist for Obama.

As expected, the polls are fairly mixed about Ryan's presence on the GOP ticket, but few are overwhelmingly powerful and it appears doubtful that he will corral a substantial number of votes, though he has energized the Republican base.

How all of this plays out in critical battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio has created the usual speculation. Certainly, those voting areas with a large population of senior citizens will be paying close attention to the race and where to best register their concern.

The debates between Ryan and Biden may prove to be the highlight of the season.