When I first heard that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had tapped Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, I’ll admit, I was a bit baffled. I had been hearing for weeks that Mitt Romney was trying hard to understand our communal agenda so that he could present his case to Jewish voters - but then he turned around and picked Paul Ryan.
Wasn’t this the same Paul Ryan whose budgets had been repeatedly denounced by multiple Jewish organizations - including, among others, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, B’nai B’rith and the National Council of Jewish Women? The same Paul Ryan who would privatize Social Security, tying hard-earned retirement benefits to the risks of the stock market? The same Paul Ryan who wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program and replace Medicaid with block grants, both of which would severely limit our seniors from being able to afford life-saving medical care?
Unfortunately for all of us, that is exactly the Paul Ryan that Romney has chosen to run with. It shouldn’t come as any surprise - after all, Romney has been extremely supportive of Ryan’s budgets in the past, promising that he “would have signed” them if he were president. Again, this budget would cut more than $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade, placing those benefits out of reach of 60 million Americans, all while guaranteeing an additional $5 trillion in tax breaks for the wealthy - this after extending the already existing cuts from the Bush administration.
But it’s not just Ryan’s budgets that should scare American Jews. His views on women’s rights are downright frightening. Ryan has voted repeatedly to limit a woman’s right to choose, supported the so-called “personhood” amendment and even co-sponsored a bill that would ban in-vitro fertilization and criminalize all abortions. Ryan said it himself in a 2010 interview with The Weekly Standard: “I’m as pro-life as a person gets.” And as many in our community continue to rally behind efforts to expand marriage equality and other rights, Romney went in the opposite direction by picking someone who supported a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Although Ryan is pro-Israel - just like President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden - he voted at least six times with the rest of the House Republican caucus against measures that would have strengthened sanctions against Iran. Ryan has little experience in foreign policy and national security, a weakness made clear by his naïve questioning of our country’s top generals’ integrity and his push for cuts to the foreign aid budget - cuts that are strongly opposed by the pro-Israel community.
Judaism teaches that we have a responsibility to take care of each other, particularly those who cannot help themselves. Time and time again, Romney has shown that this value is absent in his policy positions - and now that he has chosen a running mate with a similar apathy toward this principle, it is even more clear that the Jewish community will strongly reject the Romney-Ryan ticket.
David A. Harris is the President and CEO of NJDC