For a moment, let's talk fantasy. Let's say Mitt Romney somehow overcomes all of his apparent weakness -- Bain Capital rapaciousness, tax-record speculation, rich-guy aloofness -- and somehow ekes past President Obama in November in one of the narrowest victories in recent American politics. Democrats are swept into apoplexy, Paul Krugman's head implodes, and Rush Limbaugh launches a spectacularly insane campaign of agitprop.
But then, something strange happens. People accept Mitt and realize he's not all that radical after all. He passed state-wide
medicare health care in Massachusetts, didn't he? Things can't get that bad, right? Then -- because Democrats are always wrong -- they do.
Weeks later, Romney dies. Just like that. Gone. Massive heart failure, they say. Ryan is rushed before Chief Justice John Roberts, who administers the oath of office and, incredibly enough, we have our 46th commander and chief. President Paul Ryan.
Deep breaths, people. This is a very real situation. Nearly one-fifth of presidents have died while in office, so it's not completely out of the realm of probable conjecture that Romney will croak while president.
What would such a scenario mean for America? What would a Paul Ryan America look like?
Ryan, a congressman from Janesville, Wisconsin, who also chairs the House Budget Committee is perhaps best known for his budget, which House republicans passed last April before the Senate vanquished it. The item is a manifesto ascribing all American woes to the fact that the rich ain't rich enough, and the poor ain't poor enough. Ryan has repeatedly said that he believes in a county that sacrifices "equality of outcome" for "equality of opportunity."
It's entirely possible that if Romney won the election, defeating the nation's most popular Democrat, that most of the other losers got booted as well. That means a Republican House, Senate, and presidency. So a Ryan presidency would have the support he'd need to furnish -- for all Americans -- a grand shift in our national aesthetic.
In a Ryan administration, the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which Ryan co-sponsored with Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri (yes that Todd Akin) will be passed into law, granting every fertilized egg "the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood." Even in cases of rape and incest.
And he'll only be getting started. Since the dawning of the New Deal through Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, the United States has been a large, functioning welfare state. Ryan would irrevocably change all of that, bringing us back to the Gilded Era when companies like Standard Oil Company determined the fate of the country -- and he'd do it all espousing the tenets of Atlas Shrugged, which deifies the wealthy while demonizing the poor.
The premise, first introduced to the United States by Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics, is that market-based economies work best when they operate devoid of any intervention or regulation. But in a Ryan America, he'll do more than deregulate certain markets, he'll privatize the government writ large. Think Helena Brown times gajillion.
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Here's how he'd affect the exorbitantly wealthy: He'd eliminate taxes on capital gains, which are profits made in stock or bond market trading. Capital gains account for nearly 60 percent of the income generated by the Forbes 400, according to Forbes. Here's how he'd affect the disenfranchised: He'd raise the age of medicare coverage from 65 to 67, "leaving many 65- and 66-year-olds without any health coverage at all," according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He's also cut $770 billion over 10 years from Medicaid and other programs assisting the poor.
Then, the coffers would be stripped of revenues generated by estate taxes, meaning that gargantuan inheritances will be passed down in total to the following generations. These cuts, Ryan says, will be absorbed by closing various tax loopholes, though to date, he hasn't mentioned one single loophole he'd shutter. And in a time of skyrocketing tuition costs, he'll seal the deal on the middle class by slashing Pell Grants by $850 -- all but eliminating President Obama's $1,000 increase. That will mean more student loans, higher interest rates, greater youth stagnation.
Don't kid yourself. These plans are very, very radical. They will, by all accounts, vastly increase our nation's inequality problems -- shattering any notion of social mobility in the United States. We'd become a nation of profound inertia. Every parent tells their child they can be anything they want to be in America, but in a Paul Ryan America that, frankly, wouldn't be true. If you're poor -- you'll stay poor.