Home / News / News Features / The Choice for Congress

The Choice for Congress

Paul Ryan and Rob Zerban on the Issues

Oct. 10, 2012
Google plus Linkedin Pinterest
Voters in southeastern Wisconsin have a historically important choice on Nov. 6. Longtime Republican Congressman Paul Ryan will appear on the ballot twice, as Mitt Romney’s running mate and as the candidate for the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin.

Ryan is getting a serious challenge for Congress from Kenosha entrepreneur Rob Zerban—who outraised Ryan this past quarter—and, nationally, from President Barack Obama, who polls show has been beating the Romney-Ryan ticket in Wisconsin.

Ryan’s campaign did not respond to the Shepherd’s request for an interview about his record, nor has the Janesville native agreed to debate Zerban in the district.

But Zerban and Tom Perriello, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress Action Fund, were happy to discuss the issues facing Wisconsin voters.

Perriello, a former Democratic congressman from Virginia, and the Center for American Progress (CAP) have done extensive research on the Romney-Ryan agenda and Ryan’s record in Congress. He said Ryan’s ideological purity has made it impossible for Republicans to negotiate solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems.

“I think he’s probably one of the biggest single reasons that we have the deficit we have,” Perriello said while visiting the Shepherd’s offices last week. “There were serious efforts to get a grand bargain on dealing with our fiscal situation, and Ryan in some way tanked every one of them.”

He said the Romney-Ryan blueprint rewards the financial sector, outsourcing and speculation at the expense of every other industry. In contrast, Perriello said, the Democrats have heeded the call to invest in “building, making and growing things again.”

Here’s how the two agendas compare on taxes, jobs, health care and women’s issues.



Tax Rates

  • Romney-Ryan: Romney and Ryan differ slightly on how they would restructure tax rates. Romney pledges to retain all of the Bush tax cuts—including the tax breaks for those earning a million dollars a year—and then reduce all tax rates by 20%. And although Romney denied it during last week’s debate, his plan to cut taxes by 20% across the board would cut taxes by $5 trillion, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

    Those earning more than a million dollars annually would get a whopping $250,000 in extra tax cuts in a Romney administration on top of the $140,000 average tax cut they received under the Bush plan, CAP found. Romney would also cut tax rates by 20% for middle- and lower-income families, but to make his budget “revenue neutral” he would have to do away with some of the tax deductions that many average Americans rely on, such as the mortgage tax deduction and college savings credits. As a result, middle-class families would see an average tax increase of more than $2,000 a year.

    Ryan’s House budget goes even further and would get rid of the top three tax brackets so that top earners would pay 25%, and he’d also combine the 15% and 10% rates into a 10% rate. This would far and away give a bigger tax break to millionaires—about 125 times as big as a tax break for a middle-class couple, CAP reported.

    Neither Romney nor Ryan has specified which tax deductions they would eliminate or modify to fill up the $5 trillion tax hole they would create.
  • Obama-Zerban: “I think a good first step would be to end the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000, which means going back to the Clinton-era tax rates of 39.6% from what they are right now, 35%,” Zerban said.

    In August, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that this would save the government $950 billion over a 10-year period; $823 billion from revenue and $127 billion from lower interest payments on the debt needed to pay for the high-earners’ tax break.

    Zerban also supports raising tax rates on capital gains and carried interest, profits earned by hedge fund and private equity managers, saying that they should be taxed as regular income. Similarly, Obama has proposed taxing long-term capital gains for high-income earners at 20%, which the Tax Policy Center found would generate about $36 billion between 2013-2022. Obama also wants to tax carried interest as ordinary income.

    “I would also close tax loopholes for corporate jets,” Zerban said. “As a small businessman, I didn’t need a corporate jet tax loophole to employ people. This is just common sense.”


Outsourcing Jobs

  • Romney-Ryan: Currently, big U.S. corporations are allowed to delay payment of their taxes on their foreign profits, an incentive to invest overseas. But Romney and Ryan would give corporations an even bigger incentive to create low-wage jobs in other countries. Both Romney’s agenda and Ryan’s House budget create a “territorial” tax system, one in which overseas profits are never taxed. Never. Foreign profits would be totally tax-exempt in a Romney-Ryan administration.

    CAP calculated that the Romney-Ryan outsourcing incentive and their opposition to the clean energy industry would cost Wisconsin 60,000 jobs.

    While Romney and Ryan now oppose the auto bailout (Ryan actually voted for it in Congress), the plan saved up to 28,000 auto-related jobs in Wisconsin, CAP found.
  • Obama-Zerban: Obama has made “insourcing” a priority by forming an insourcing forum and visiting manufacturers that have brought jobs back to the United States, such as Milwaukee’s Master Lock. In addition, Obama wants to end tax deductions for outsourcing jobs overseas, add incentives for domestic job creators, and create a $2 billion annual tax break for manufacturers to keep them in the United States. His leadership on this issue seems to be working—in 2010 and 2011, the United States ended its decade-long trend of losing manufacturing jobs by adding them instead. And, of course, his auto bailout helped to save jobs across the country, but especially in hard-hit Midwestern states like Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

    Zerban supports insourcing efforts, saying that corporations’ willingness to invest overseas has cost the 1st Congressional District its General Motors jobs in Janesville, its Chrysler plant in Kenosha, and Delphi jobs in Oak Creek.

    “I think there should be a penalty paid by corporations that do ship their jobs overseas, companies that are selling their goods and services in the U.S. and not producing them here,” Zerban said. “We need to make sure that they are paying their fair share to support the infrastructure that they are using to conduct their businesses, whether it’s consumption of energy or transferring their goods on our roads and bridges.”


Health Care and Medicare

  • Romney-Ryan: The Republican standard-bearers would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) immediately upon taking office. They’ve claimed that no seniors currently on Medicare would be affected by the change. However, ACA is already providing benefits to seniors on Medicare, such as free cancer screenings and diabetes testing. CAP found that more than 325,000 Wisconsin seniors are already benefiting from ACA’s Medicare provisions.

    Both support turning Medicare into a voucher program for those under 55, which would make Medicare itself unworkable by reducing the purchasing pool and allowing healthy seniors to opt out of the system, leaving the most expensive consumers on the plan.

    Another problem is that the Romney-Ryan vouchers would not keep up with medical costs. If their plan were in place today, seniors would have to pay an estimated $6,400 more in out-of-pocket payments for their medical insurance—and this amount would likely grow each year.

    And the Romney-Ryan plan would force those under 55 to save a shocking sum of money for their health care during retirement. According to CAP’s calculations, today’s 54-year-old would need to save $59,450 for his or her health expenses; a 49-year-old would have to save $124,626; a 39-year-old would have to put away $216,631; and today’s 29-year-old would have to save a whopping $331,170 for health expenses that would have been covered under traditional Medicare.
  • Obama-Zerban: Zerban supports the ACA, although he said he would have preferred creating a Medicare-for-All system to lower health care costs, reform the health care industry in a holistic manner and increase the risk pool with healthier, younger consumers.

    “It’s hurting our economy by not addressing this once and for all in a holistic way,” Zerban said. “Internationally, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage because our companies are paying a disproportionate cost into their health care. Internally, we are not creating the environment that allows a small entrepreneur to survive. People are afraid of being bankrupted by medical bills.”

    He said Republicans have never supported Medicare “and their tool to kill it is the Ryan budget.”

    Zerban lashed out at the Bush administration’s Medicare Part D—developed by then-Health Secretary Tommy Thompson and supported by Ryan—because it prevents the government from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower-cost drugs, calling it a “giveaway to Big Pharma.” The program created $8 trillion in unfunded liabilities, according to a report by Bush-era Comptroller General David Walker.


Women’s Issues

  • Romney-Ryan: Since the top-of-the-ticket Republicans would repeal “Obamacare,” they’d repeal the consumer protections for women that are built into it, such as free cancer and well-woman screenings and no-pay contraception, and allow for-profit insurance companies to charge women more simply because of their gender. CAP estimated that 967,000 women in Wisconsin would lose these preventative services if Romney and Ryan have their way.

    Both candidates have danced around the issue of abortion, too. Romney has said he would end funding for Planned Parenthood and both candidates would like to limit legal abortions and end exemptions that Republicans have supported for years. In Congress, Ryan pushed a “personhood” bill that would grant constitutional protections to fertilized eggs. That would jeopardize in-vitro fertilization treatments, some contraceptives and embryonic stem cell research. Along with Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, Ryan attempted to redefine rape. Neither candidate supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier to sue for illegal, unequal pay.
  • Obama-Zerban: Both candidates support a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Zerban said he’d like to make them “safe, legal and rare.” Both support the protections built into the ACA for women and both support the Lilly Ledbetter Act. On Jan. 29, 2009, it was the first bill that Obama signed into law.


Are you upset by the way the NFL and the team owners have treated Colin Kaepernick?

Getting poll results. Please wait...