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Memo to Joe, Re: Debate

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Posted on Oct 11, 2012

By Robert Reich

This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s Web page, www.robertreich.org.

TO: VPOTUS

FROM: Robert Reich

RE: Debate

Beware: Paul Ryan will appear affable. He’s less polished and aggressive than Romney, even soft-spoken. And he acts as if he’s saying reasonable things.

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But under the surface he’s a right-wing zealot. And nothing he says or believes is reasonable – neither logical nor reflecting the values of the great majority of Americans.

Your job is to smoke Ryan out, exposing his fanaticism. The best way to do this is to force him to take responsibility for the regressive budget he created as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Ryan won’t be able to pull a Romney — pretending he’s a moderate — because the Ryan budget is out there, with specific numbers.

It’s an astounding document that Romney fully supports. And it fills in the details Romney has left out of his proposals. Mitt Romney is a robot who will say and do whatever he’s programmed to do. Ryan is the robot’s brain. The robot has no heart. It’s your job to enable America to see this.

I suggest you hold up a copy of the Ryan budget in front of the cameras. You might even read selected passages.

Emphasize these points: Ryan’s budget turns Medicare into vouchers. It includes the same $716 billion of savings Romney last week accused the President of cutting out of Medicare – but instead of getting it from providers he gets it from the elderly.

It turns Medicaid over to cash-starved states, with even less federal contribution. This will hurt the poor as well as middle-class elderly in nursing homes.

Over 60 percent of its savings come out of programs for lower-income Americans – like Pell grants and food stamps.

Yet it gives huge tax cuts to the top 1 percent – some $4.7 trillion over the next decade. (This is the same top 1 percent, you might add, who have reaped 93 percent of the gains from the recovery, whose stock portfolios have regained everything they lost and more, and who are now taking home a larger share of total income than at any time in the last eighty years and paying the lowest taxes than at any time since before World War II.)

As a result it doesn’t reduce the federal debt at all. In fact, it worsens it.

On top of all this, Ryan is on record – as is Romney – for wanting to repeal both ObamaCare (taking coverage away from 30 million Americans) and the Dodd-Frank law (thereby giving cover to Wall Street).

Your challenge will be get this across firmly and clearly, with an appropriate degree of indignation – on a medium that rewards style over substance, glibness over detail, and optimistic happy talk over grim reality.

My suggestion: Be cheerfully aggressive. Take Ryan on directly and sharply but do so with a smile. Force him to take responsibility for the regressiveness of his budget and the radicalism of his ideology.

Prepare your closing carefully (unlike the President seemed to have done last week), and tell America the unvarnished truth: Romney and Ryan plan to do a reverse Robin Hood at a time in our nation’s history when the rich have never had it so good while the rest haven’t been as economically insecure since the Great Depression.

Their agenda is all the more remarkable in that we have a growing budget deficit to deal with, along soaring healthcare costs and aging boomers without enough to retire on because their net worth went down the drain with their homes.

The fundamental question is whether we’re still all in it together – whether as American citizens we continue to have obligations to one another to assure equal opportunity and help for those who need it – or we’re on our own, without a common bond or a common good. Romney and Ryan represent the latter view, a view utterly at odds with what we have accomplished as a nation.

Robert B. Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including the best-sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest, “Beyond Outrage,” is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.


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