Ryan budget debate comes to Philly

Posted: August 15, 2012

MITT ROMNEY and Paul Ryan want to destroy Medicare and use the money saved to give bigger tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

Or, Romney and Ryan want to save Medicare from bankruptcy, ensuring that a key part of the social safety net survives.

Those were the competing political narratives pitched Monday in Philly by surrogates for President Obama's re-election campaign and Romney's Republican bid to replace him in the White House.

Romney's selection Saturday of Ryan, a seven-term member of the U.S. House from Wisconsin, for the vice-presidential spot on his ticket reset the political debate on how to manage the national budget.

The budget Ryan has twice proposed in the House moved to center stage, in part because Romney has refused to release all of the details of his own 59-point economic plan, which he unveiled last September.

Romney, interviewed Sunday on "60 Minutes" with Ryan, made it clear that his plan trumps Ryan's.

"I have my budget plan, as you know, that I've put out," Romney said, "and that's the budget plan that we're going to run on."

Romney, campaigning in Florida on Monday, refused to say how his economic plan differs from Ryan's budget when it comes to Medicare.

Democrats were more interested Monday in talking about Ryan's budget, dubbed the "Path to Prosperity." Romney endorsed the plan in March when the U.S. House approved it. (It failed in the Senate.)

Ryan's plan focused on cutting taxes and federal programs, shifting Medicare to a voucher program with spending caps for people currently 55 or younger who are now not yet eligible for the program.

He shares Romney's belief that making permanent the tax cuts started in President George W. Bush's first term, along with reductions in the corporate-tax rate, would spur economic growth to strengthen the economy and create jobs.

Meanwhile, a trio of suburban congressional challengers stood in front of a senior center on South Broad Street to declare that Ryan hopes to "end Medicare as we know it."

Later Jim Burn, chairman of the state Democratic Party, and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Democrat who represents parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, held a conference call with reporters to push the same message.

It could be a politically potent line of attack for the Nov. 6 general election. Nearly 2.3 million people in Pennsylvania, about 18 percent of the state's population, are on Medicare. That's the second-highest proportion of beneficiaries in the country, behind Florida.

Two Republican congressmen from the exurbs, Reps. Joe Pitts of Lancaster County and Charlie Dent of the Lehigh Valley, visited Philly on Monday to stump for Romney and Ryan.

Dent and Pitts said they expect Romney to blend some of Ryan's budget ideas into his economic plan.

Dent predicted that Democrats would use "mediscare" tactics, such as an Internet ad from a liberal group in May 2011 that showed a Ryan look-alike pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair off a cliff as "America the Beautiful" plays.

Dent denounced such tactics as "outrageous stuff like that, over the top, out of control."


Contact Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or brennac@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN. Read his blog, phillyclout.com.

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