2012 Elections » The Truth About Romney-Ryan
The Romney-Ryan campaign has been one of misdirection and evasion. If it seems difficult to pinpoint where GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney stands on many of the issues women care about, that's because he has no intention of coming clean until after Nov. 6 (if then). He has calculatedly changed his position on key questions so often that the candidate has rightly earned President Obama's descriptive term of having "Romnesia."
Many observers, and many voters, want to believe that Romney is merely a right-leaning centrist who is occasionally forced to throw red meat to the Republican Party's conservative base. The reality is much darker. Mitt Romney is personally contemptuous of nearly half -- 47 percent -- of the U.S. population, whom he considers irresponsible moochers, whiners and government freeloaders. And when it comes to more than half the population -- women -- Romney is equally disdainful. He will defund Planned Parenthood, block access to birth control, work to overturn Roe v. Wade and criminalize abortion, and begin dismantling social programs that disproportionately serve and employ women. If you care about women's and girls' lives and futures and want to know the truth about Mitt Romney, you've come to the right place.
Read on and see just how dangerous a Romney-Ryan administration would be for the women of this country.
War on Women's Reproductive Health Rages On
It is no secret that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been leading the charge in the War on Women through their campaigning on women's access to abortion, birth control and other aspects of reproductive health. Romney has promised to defund Planned Parenthood, and Ryan has voted to eliminate Title X family planning funding, which includes federal funding for birth control and cancer screenings for low-income families. President Obama supports and defends Title X Family Planning clinics. In both the FY 2011 and FY 2012, President Obama insisted on including funding for Planned Parenthood in the federal budget.
An arch-opponent of women's reproductive rights, Ryan has supported 38 anti-reproductive rights bills over the years, including his co-sponsorship of the Sanctity of Human Life Act (H.R. 212), which declares that life begins with fertilization and that the fertilized egg "has the constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood," a measure that would criminalize all abortion, in shocking disregard for the lives of actual women.
Romney is on video telling Mike Huckabee that he "absolutely" would have supported a state-level "constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception." Later, a campaign spokesperson, Gail Gitcho, tried to soften Romney's stance by emphasizing to a Politico reporter that the issue should be up to the states to decide -- as if a woman's fundamental right to protect her own life and health and control her own body could somehow depend on what side of a state boundary she lives.
As president, Barack Obama has been a strong advocate for women. Against withering attacks by religious extremists, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the president has stood strong for including contraception alongside mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and a host of other preventive services that health insurers must cover without co-pays; and thanks to Obamacare, some 10 million more women are now eligible for health coverage under Medicaid.
In addition, the president supports the inclusive, bipartisan version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, which addresses the needs of previously underserved populations, like Native American Women, immigrant women and LGBT survivors. Vice President Joe Biden introduced the first Violence Against Women Act in 1994. More recently, the administration introduced a comprehensive guide to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under Federal law to prevent and respond to campus sexual assault. President Obama was the first president to declare April Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April 2009.
Mitt Romney has repeatedly said he would move to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- a move that would put insurance companies back in charge to continue raising their rates, denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and charging women more than men for the same policies. Thirty-two million people, disproportionately women, would be thrown back into the ranks of the uninsured, and seniors' prescription drug prices would rise substantially. Among the most tragic results of repeal of the Affordable Care Act: Insurers would return to their practice of denying prenatal care to pregnant women, a chief reason why the U.S. has higher rates of infant and maternal mortality than any other developed country and higher rates than some developing countries.
Women's Economic Well-Being at Risk
Rep. Paul Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2011, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination and helped ensure that women workers get their fair share in the workplace. Despite Ryan's vote, the Lilly Ledbetter Act passed, and President Obama signed it into law. The president also created an Equal Pay Task Force to ensure that existing equal pay laws are fully enforced. The task force lobbied Congress for passage of an even broader pay equity bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, but was stymied by entrenched Republican opposition to equal pay. Romney has never answered repeated questions about his stand on equal pay, nor has he clarified his position on the Ledbetter Act. His campaign website is silent on the subject.
Ryan also has proposed several House budget plans that drastically reduce federal spending, affecting many programs that are lifelines for low-income women. As for collective bargaining rights that help workers make ends meet, Romney has been very vocal about his support for undermining collective bargaining rights, giving corporations greater freedom in the (mis)treatment of their employees. He promises to shut down the unions' right to support champions of labor by prohibiting the use of union dues for political purposes, while at the same time encouraging corporations to support candidates friendly to big business by taking full advantage of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling.
Senior Security, Safety Net Decimated
For Social Security, Romney has stated he wants to increase the official retirement age to 69 -- a deep benefit cut and a particular hardship on those who work in physically demanding jobs. Nurses, for example, lift more than one ton per day on average. If the official age of retirement is increased to 69 or 70, would this also mean that seniors would have to wait for Medicare coverage in those extended years? That would be a very serious problem, as many seniors begin to experience health problems even before reaching 65 years of age.
But Medicare and Medicaid are most gravely at risk in the Romney-Ryan budget plan. Their scheme creates a voucher program for Medicare (though neither of them likes to use the term) to purchase private insurance. These fixed-amount vouchers would undoubtedly be outstripped by rising costs, so seniors would have to reach into their own pockets to make up the difference, which by some estimates would exceed $6,000 per year. Elimination of the Affordable Care Act would make this situation even worse, not only increasing health care costs generally, but also reinstating the prescription-drug donut hole (at a cost of up to $3,400 per senior per year), which the Affordable Care Act closes.
As for Medicaid, Romney and Ryan propose to convert it to a state block grant program and cap the federal portion so it would grow no more than the annual increase of cost of living (COLA) plus one percent, without regard to how many people are eligible -- a number that goes up and down as the economy grows or shrinks -- or how serious their medical needs. Some 16 million persons not able to afford private health insurance would be flat out-of-luck.
Romney has pledged to cut funding to aid programs like SNAP (food stamps), school lunches and child nutrition programs, and unemployment compensation, which would cause the incomes of a large number of households, disproportionately those in which women are the sole breadwinner or an essential part of the family's income, to fall below the poverty line.
Lesbian, Gay Rights in Question
Romney and Ryan have taken a hard line against LGBT rights. Ryan voted against repeal of the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy -- opposition that Romney now agrees with, although years ago he said he supported repeal. Romney supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. By contrast, President Obama is the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage. Under Obama's leadership, the Department of Justice is no longer wasting taxpayer money defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. The president also signed an executive order to extend federal benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
Ryan voted in favor of the 1999 District of Columbia Appropriations Act that contained a provision to prevent same-sex couples in Washington, D.C., from receiving federal incentives of $5,000 for the adoption of children. He also voted twice in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006 and voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which expanded federal hate crimes categories to include sex, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation -- legislation that NOW worked to pass for more than 20 years.
Turning the Clock Back on Education
This year is the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which promotes equal education opportunity. While President Obama made conscious efforts to include Title IX in his education plans, with particular focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and jobs, Romney has not made any reported comments of his view on Title IX.
In a particularly harmful proposal, Romney is advocating that Title I, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act funding for 21 million low-income children, be converted to vouchers to underwrite private and religious schools. The loss of $27 billion annually by 56,000 public schools around the country would be a serious blow.
When asked about student loans for college, Romney said young adults could simply "borrow money from your parents if you have to." By contrast, student debt alleviation is a goal for President Obama. His administration has implemented the "Pay as You Earn Program," which caps repaying monthly federal student loans to help new graduates. Additionally, in 2010 the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress reformed the student loan program to increase the amount of money available by $61 billion over 10 years for government-backed college loans. This plan is an excellent example of Obama addressing federal economic spending concerns and middle-class hardships at the same time. Romney has yet to counter with a plan other than voicing his support for keeping federal loan rates from increasing.
Obama Sets Global Initiatives for Women
President Obama sees the War on Women as an international issue. In December 2011, Obama released the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, and he signed Executive Order 13595 directing the plan's implementation. This initiative will create a roadmap for how the U.S. will institutionalize efforts to advance women's participation in conflict prevention and resolution. In January 2009, President Obama rescinded the Mexico City Policy, which denied federal funds to health care and aid organizations that use non-U.S. governmental funds to offer or refer abortion services. The administration also restored funding for basic services critical to women's health and empowerment, including increased support for the UN Population Fund. The UN Population Fund provides family planning programs and programs to combat gender-based violence, eradicate female genital mutilation and cutting, reduce transmission of HIV/AIDS and ensure access to essential health care services and supplies for women and families impacted by emergencies. The Romney-Ryan ticket offers no leadership on realizing the international ideal that women's rights are human rights.
Immigrant Policy: Self-Deportation
Rather than supporting comprehensive immigration reform, Romney touts "self-deportation," meaning that U.S. policies and authorities should make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they will leave the country of their own accord. For example, Romney has said that businesses should use the E-Verify system to determine whether job applicants are U.S. citizens, in the hope that undocumented citizens will not find work. Romney does not support the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. as children a pathway to citizenship if they are enrolled at a university or enlisted in the military. Obama supported the DREAM Act, and when Congress failed to pass it in 2010, the administration came up with a similar program in 2012 that would grant two-year work permits and deferral of deportation to young students or soldiers who arrived as children and meet other conditions.
Surprise! More Tax Cuts for the Rich
Romney's oft-repeated theme of "doing away with tax deductions and [adopting] spending cuts" doesn't add up to any credible plan to strengthen the economy or balance the federal budget. A recent analysis by the Tax Policy Center shows that the Romney-Ryan budget plan would dramatically cut taxes for wealthiest households, lower taxes slightly for the middle class and raise taxes on the poor -- all of which would add up to increasing the deficit by $5 trillion. Romney and Ryan would offset that through drastic spending cuts, bringing spending below 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in his first term -- it's about 24 percent of GDP, currently. One prominent economist has called the Romney-Ryan budget plan the single largest wealth transfer from middle- and low-income families to the wealthiest in the entire history of the United States.
Favorite Right-Wing Targets
All of the programs Romney has said are headed for the chopping block are favorite right-wing targets. Romney would privatize Amtrak; reduce subsidies for the arts, public broadcasting and legal services; eliminate Title X Family Planning funds; and reduce foreign aid by $100 million annually. Romney promises to cap Department of Labor retraining funds and drive down wages of federal employees while also reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent. (Note that this move would hit small businesses hardest, as federal agencies would have fewer resources to assist small businesses in applying for grants and contracts and in routine regulatory compliance.) Romney also intends to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contractors to pay prevailing wages and benefits similar to those paid locally. Romney advocates for an increased Department of Defense budget, largely to purchase weapons systems from mega-corporations.
It is obvious that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would make life harder for millions of women, not only through their radical attacks on reproductive rights, but also thanks to their regressive ideas to reduce federal spending so severely that some human needs programs would cease to exist, in order to pay for enhanced tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Romney claims that if he is elected, employment will increase, but as economists have pointed out, he has offered no jobs proposals to back up his claim.
Romney would repeal the Affordable Care Act -- the most important human needs program advanced in decades -- which will help 32 million persons have affordable access to health care and put a halt to the 45,000 earlier deaths per year among those without health insurance. Romney-Ryan would promote fetal rights or fetal personhood laws to criminalize abortion, returning women to the days of dangerous and illegal abortions. Romney's tax reform proposals would increase tax breaks for the wealthy few, while raising them on low-income families. Of the initiatives most ardently supported by feminist activists -- anti-violence programs and pay equity efforts -- Romney and Ryan have little to say. Many other issues of importance to women apparently do not rate a public statement.
President Obama offers a clear plan to create a sustainable economy, and has shown over the past four years that he is committed to social and economic equality. The only thing standing between the president and a strengthened and fairer economy are the right-wing Republicans in Congress who have blocked nearly all such attempts by the president. The National Organization for Women believes that well-informed voters will put Obama back in the White House and restore a functioning Congress that can solve our nation's most pressing problems. We're working around the clock to make that happen.
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