Obama Disagrees With Romney-Ryan Economic Vision

Aug 13, 2012
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When President Obama begins a bus tour through Iowa today, he'll be campaigning not only against the policies of Mitt Romney, but also of Paul Ryan, Romney's new running mate. Paul Ryan will also be in Iowa today, though chances are he won't come face to face with the president.

But as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, their economic platforms will be going head to head.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama has effectively been campaigning against Paul Ryan and the other Republicans in Congress for the last two years. That will only ratchet up now that the Wisconsin lawmaker is officially on the GOP ticket.

At a campaign fundraiser in Chicago yesterday, Mr. Obama congratulated Ryan and welcomed him to White House race.

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HORSLEY: That disagreement goes back a long way, though it wasn't always so heated. At a GOP House retreat in 2010, Mr. Obama said Ryan's proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program was an idea that warranted serious discussion.

Then, as now, he warned the plan might just shift health care costs onto the backs of seniors. But he also lamented a slash-and-burn political culture in which each party tries to win votes by scaring seniors, for example, about the other side's proposals.

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HORSLEY: Fifteen months later, in a speech at George Washington University, Mr. Obama took the gloves off. By that time, Republicans had taken control of the House and crafted a budget that included Ryan's Medicare plan, as well as deep cuts in taxes and federal spending. Supporters called the Ryan budget serious and courageous. But with Ryan sitting in the audience, the president insisted it was neither.

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HORSLEY: Yesterday, a spokesman tried to distance Romney from the Ryan budget, stressing that economic policy will be set by the man at the top of the ticket, not his running mate. Mr. Obama drew no such distinction in attacking what he called the Republicans' top-down economics.

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HORSLEY: Democrats say by choosing one of the ideological leaders among House Republicans as his running mate, Romney has sharpened the battle lines in the November election.

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HORSLEY: That's Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen on CNN. As the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Van Hollen had an up-close look at Ryan's spending plan, which would not only change Medicare and Medicaid, but would also cut funding for education, research and transportation.

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HORSLEY: Even with those spending cuts, Ryan's budget would not be balanced for decades, because it doesn't include any new tax revenue. Ryan also voted against the tax increases proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission, which he was a member of.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," the Obama campaign's political advisor, David Axelrod, challenged Ryan's reputation as a deficit hawk.

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HORSLEY: Mr. Obama seems to have set aside any reservations about slash-and-burn politics. Beneath the smoke and scorched earth, though, there's now a serious debate underway about the proper size and scope of the federal government.

Scott Horsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.