Pam and Craig Niehaus grew up in north St. Louis County with two other siblings. Craig claims to be truly bipartisan, having spent half his adult life as a liberal and half as a conservative. A Glendale resident, he sells real estate, writes letters to editors, and visits area bakeries. Pam retired several years ago as communications director for St.Louis Community College. After renovating two houses in Webster Groves, she hopes Craig will find her the perfect condo. The two have very different views of Paul Ryan, who could be the nation’s next vice president.
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Craig: Paul Ryan is an excellent choice to run with Mitt Romney. He is one of the few Republicans who can articulate the conservative message with facts and figures, and provide the ”vision thing” which is lacking in so many Republican campaigns. Ryan may make Wisconsin competitive and will energize conservatives who still have doubts about Romney. His attractive young family and Catholic faith will be important to some voters. He also does well on interview programs, especially on economic matters. All he needs to do is fix his Eddie Munster haircut.
Pam: The Eddie Munster haircut may be the one thing we agree on regarding Paul Ryan. But Craig, I have to compliment your foresight. You spotted Ryan years before he became chairman of the House Budget Committee in 2010, and sent me a scary article he wrote on economic policy. Now that his ideas are gushing into mainstream discourse, more and more voters may become alarmed. You mentioned his Catholic faith will be important to some voters, and it’s true Catholics make up a large voting bloc. Even as a “fallen away” Catholic, I admit to cheering for the Nuns on the Bus and the Catholic bishops when they point out that Ryan’s budget will destroy the safety net and hurt the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Then there’s the downside for the middle class and women in general.
Craig: As I listen to the Democrat talking heads discuss Ryan I’ve decided that they sound like college students. They appear articulate and professional, but the talking points are memorized and they fail to engage in a dialogue when challenged. Very little of what is said has any relationship to the real world. As usual, Democrats and the media paint Republicans as either stupid or evil. With Ryan, who receives over 60% support in a Democrat-leaning district, they have a problem. He can out-debate them on the issues, and Americans will see that the monster image does not match the middle class politician from middle America.
Pam: Well, we agree on Munster, not monster. Ryan certainly isn’t evil or stupid and he comes across as a very nice, earnest guy. The problem, of course, is his political philosophy and how that translates into legislative initiatives and votes. Examples: He would turn Medicare into a voucher system, ultimately costing seniors thousands more per year as vouchers would not cover rising health costs. He is also a sponsor of a “personhood” bill that confers legal status on a fertilized egg, and opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. He voted against a bill requiring stronger background checks on buyers at gun shows. And those are just a few examples in the liberal’s litany of Ryan’s extremist positions. But I also wonder why conservatives are so excited about him. He has spent his entire adult life in Washington D.C., which is anathema to the right wing. He only started worrying about government expenditures and deficits when President Obama took office, having previously voted for TARP, the unfunded Medicare drug bill, and two unfunded wars.
Craig: There you go again, as Reagan would say, taking your talking points from MSNBC “B” teamers. Ryan’s plan for Medicare does not affect you or your spoiled generation, unless you have entered a time machine and are now my younger sister by five or so years. Seniors ten years from now would have an option of staying in traditional Medicare or picking a competitive plan from a private insurer and possibly getting a rebate. That’s it, so go back to watching late night TCM.
As far as “personhood,” it goes along with the belief that human life begins at conception. If you are a human from conception onward, then you have human rights in this country guaranteed by the Constitution, including the right to life (see 13th and 14th Amendments). You may not have the right to produce a photo ID and vote or have a beer at the local bar, but you have the right to exist. (Let’s save Akin for another day.) No, Ryan is not perfect. He voted for TARP like Obama did, voted for those unfunded wars like Hillary, Kerry and Dead Ted did, and voted for Bush’s Medicare Part D which you will now enjoy. But Ryan knows a country cannot continue to spend 40% more than it takes in and not meet disaster. Conservatives will cut some slack to politicians with experience in government so long as they share the view that it needs to be made smaller and less costly—just like Democrats like wealthy people who claim they support higher taxes, but take every deduction they can.
Pam: My “spoiled generation?” We’ll be celebrating your big 60th birthday next January, so you’re officially a boomer too and—lucky you—one of those who would dodge the arrow in Ryan’s Medicare plan. I started Medicare this year and so far so good. It’s a significant savings over my previous insurance, with improvements in care. But everyone knows Medicare will have to be revised if it’s to be available to our kids’ generation. Shortly after President Obama took office in ’09 I heard him speak in St. Louis, and he emphasized the need for revisions, some of which are now part of the Affordable Care Act. (This was just before the Tea Party insurgence during which demonstrators warned the government to “keep your hands off my Medicare.”) The Republican Party has never liked Medicare except, presumably, when lawmakers access it themselves. So, of course, Ryan is now lying on the stump about how the President “raided” Medicare by more than $700 billion when in reality no benefits were reduced. Ryan’s voucher plan is just the latest proposal to get rid of Medicare as Americans have known it for nearly 50 years. (Trivia: President Johnson gave Harry Truman the first Medicare card when the bill was signed into law.)
Even though Ryan looks charming as he campaigns with his mother in Florida retirement communities, he is an extremist ideologue through and through on all issues. Currently, Rep. Todd Akin is all over the news with his appalling comments on “legitimate” rape, and Ryan is trying desperately to back away from the fact that he espouses the same views. Ryan joined Akin as a sponsor of two House bills that tried to redefine “forcible” rape, and does not believe victims of rape and incest should have access to abortion. Mitt Romney will have to tutor Ryan extensively on changing positions and misrepresenting facts if they’re going to get votes from women, seniors and the many others who would be hurt by their policies.
Craig: I know you’re getting forgetful senior sister, but Ryan’s plan, which was developed with Democrat Senator Ron Wyden, doesn’t affect you or me unless we choose to participate ten years from now. Obama’s actions, taking $710 billion from current Medicare for Obamacare, may affect you, however. He will limit the procedures and preventive tests you can access with the IPAB (Independent Payment Advisory Board) and by reducing payments to providers will limit your options. Don’t you wonder why so many stories are showing up about how women under 50 really don’t need regular mammograms and how wonderful hospice is? Medicare spending takes five times more of its share of the economy than it did in 1970, not long after Johnson gave Truman his card. Obama’s plan is Sha La La La La La Live for Today, and don’t worry about tomorrow. He’s not serious and doesn’t need to be as long as he can scare his voters. Wonder if Michelle has written a Soylent Green cookbook?
Pam: My understanding is that Ron Wyden worked with Ryan on a “study proposal” that included some public-private recommendations plus more protection for the most vulnerable Medicare recipients. It was ultimately replaced by Ryan’s current budget which was passed in the House but defeated in the Senate with a “no” vote from Wyden. Republicans, who vowed never to work with the Democrats hours after President Obama’s inauguration, should not be misrepresenting Ryan’s Medicare plan as a bipartisan effort. As for medical research: I take all of it with a grain of salt substitute, like the current study out of Canada that claims eating egg yolks is like smoking cigarettes. I generally don’t see conspiracies around every corner—leave that to the birthers. But I love your comment about a Soylent Green cookbook—which reminds me, who’s cooking Sunday family dinner next week? I can’t wait to talk about Romney-Ryan at the Republican Convention and their antediluvian platform.