|Election preview: Zerban, Deschler square off against Ryan|
|Election preview: Zerban, Deschler square off against Ryan|
|Written by Todd MIshler/Walworth County Sunday|
|Thursday, 18 October 2012 10:35|
Rob Zerban, Keith Deschler and Paul Ryan.
KENOSHA -- Rob Zerban and Keith Deschler have their differences, but the underdog challengers in the 1st Congressional District race have at least one thing in common -- they continue to throw verbal punches at incumbent Rep. Paul Ryan, especially because the GOP vice presidential candidate hasn't agreed to debate them.
So, many body blows can Ryan, a Janesville Republican, absorb before his seemingly comfortable, double-digit advantage starts to dwindle enough that his campaign responds, and will that prevent, zone-defense strategy affect him at the polls?
Zerban, D-Kenosha represents Ryan's most viable opponent since the latter was elected to the House in 1998. And the long shot Deschler, a Libertarian from Racine, could draw votes away from both parties in this, his fourth run for office.
With the election less than three weeks away, they were pushing Ryan to participate in either one or both debates schedule for Oct. 25 and Oct. 29, if even via satellite hookup, because they say his national exposure the past two months has opened him up for much more criticism and voters in the district deserve a public discussion of their differences.
"Since he's been on the national stage, people have gotten to hear his positions on the budget, Medicare and women's issues, including extreme views such as co-sponsoring H.R. 3 with Todd Akin," said Zerban, referring to the Missouri congressman whose "legitimate rape" comments stirred controversy in August. "I understand that he's busy ... carrying water and everything for Mitt Romney, but those are just excuses. He needs to engage the voters of this district and articulate his views. It's what the democratic process is all about."
Deschler also said that Ryan should play his hand and throw his cards on the table. "I hope that he debates us, but I can understand why if he doesn't," Deschler said.
"He is in the lead in the polls, and enough so that he doesn't feel it's beneficial to debate his opponents. It does make it harder for me to point out many of his votes over the years that are not consistent with his almost Libertarian-sounding rhetoric. Note his support of TARP, the auto bailouts, Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, the Middle East wars, the Patriot Act, major defense hikes, raising the debt ceiling without serious budget cuts and the substantial growth in spending and debt in his budget Roadmap."
Ryan's camp responded in kind, but had not committed to a debate as of press time.
"In last Thursday's debate with Vice President Joe Biden, voters in the 1st Congressional District were able to hear Congressman Ryan lay out his vision for our nation's future and heard the policy specifics that he would advance in Washington," Ryan campaign manager Kevin Seifert said. "The push for a debate by Congressman Ryan's opponent (Zerban) is not out of the ordinary, particularly given the fact he is lagging so far behind in the polls."
"Additionally, the dates extended for candidate forums in the 1st District are Oct. 25 and Oct. 29, so those still are a ways off in terms of scheduling."
Regardless of whether they'll actually debate before Nov. 6 or not, the candidates don't need polls to tell them what constituents are talking and worrying about.
"Voters' No. 1 concern is Medicare and not wanting Paul Ryan killing it and turning it into a voucher program," Zerban said. "And the second thing would be jobs and the economy. We need southeastern Wisconsin to prosper again, and unemployment has tripled since Paul Ryan took office in 1998 and more than doubled in Racine and Kenosha. He has a lot to answer for."
Deschler said neither party, and therefore neither of his opponents, has the answers for solving any real problems.
"Republicans try to slow the Democrats' big government machine, but they don't propose enough measures that actually reverse the trend toward bigger government," said Deschler, who has lost three bids for the State Assembly's 62nd District (2002, '04 and '08), "Ryan's Roadmap adds another $11 trillion to the debt and finally gets around to a balanced budget in 2040."
"Jobs and economic security are on most people's minds," Deschler said. "Racine and other big cities in the district have experienced double-digit unemployment and underemployment for far too long, and it's only gotten worse under Obama."
"Democrats would rather keep their lower income, blue collar voter base happy by promising them all kinds of entitlements and subsidies to keep them reliant on the government for their economic survival, and to keep them voting Democrat for life," Deschler said. "Republicans talk a good game about cutting wasteful spending, balancing budgets, lowering taxes to encourage job creation and savings, and less reliance upon government assistance.
"Democrats seem not to care that inflating the currency via the Federal Reserve printing presses, running up chronic $1 trillion deficits and creating perpetual dependency upon cradle-to-grave, command-and-control social welfare compassion and phony economic stimulus are a sure-fire recipe for economic disaster like that in Greece and Spain," Deschler added.
Seifert said that Ryan's plan for turning around the national economy will in turn help those in his home district.
"With unemployment persistently stuck at around 8 percent nationally, and higher in parts of southern Wisconsin, there is no doubt that growing the economy and creating jobs are among the top concerns for residents of the 1st District," Seifert said. "Related to this is getting a handle on our $16 trillion national debt, which is causing a lack of confidence and certainty. This is why Congressman Ryan has worked tirelessly to advance pro-growth policies that reduce our debt, reduce the regulatory burden businesses face and reform our tax code so America is more competitive in an increasingly global economy."
Neither major party appears willing to move from its steadfast positions when it comes to solving key issues and bridging those differences, leaving the general public wondering how things such as the so-called fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts and unfathomable national debt will affect their bottom lines.
"My understanding is that none of this (fiscal cliff) will take place until after the new members of Congress are sworn in and that current funding levels will continue, so it's difficult to discuss specific cuts or proposals right now," Zerban said.
Zerban doesn't buy the idea that Democrats aren't as concerned about the deficit. "(Bill) Clinton balanced the budget. Then the deficit doubled under George Bush and Republicans spent like drunken sailors. And my opponent (Ryan) supported all of those programs and handed (President) Obama the largest fiscal mess ever, and now they're doubling down on those same failed, trickle-down principles."
One key piece to the entire puzzle is what to do about Medicare and Social Security, and again, the strategies differ widely.
Ryan and his running mate have proposed changing Medicare from an open-ended benefit program to a system that the government pays a fixed amount to private plans.
"Congressman Ryan has offered specific solutions to address the drivers of our debt, namely spending on government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid," Seifert said. "By reforming these programs now, we can avoid a debt crisis and ensure that the government delivers on the promises made to individuals through these critical programs."
Zerban opposes what he calls the privatization of Social Security, which he says benefits large financial interests, not senior citizens, and supports lifting the cap on taxable income.
"A big reason why we're in this mess, besides two unfunded wars, is because Paul Ryan and others voted for a huge expansion of Medicare Part B, which gave away people's right to negotiate with the big pharmaceutical companies and gave them a big gift," Zerban said. "Wouldn't the wiser plan be to try to drive down the price? Besides turning it into a voucher program, he wants to raise the age and doesn't allow for cost-of-living adjustments. I believe he's absolutely wrong on this whole issue."
Ryan, the House's budget chairman, points the finger directly at those across the political aisle and the man in the White House.
"Congressman Ryan does not believe that our troops and brave men and women serving in the armed services should pay the price for Washington's inability to get spending under control," Seifert said. "Allowing the sequester to occur would be a failure of leadership and a failure to govern, which is why Congressman Ryan supported legislation that included common sense spending reductions, which would more than offset the cost of the sequester. He also has called on the administration to detail how these cuts would impact our nation's defense.
"With respect to the expiration of tax cuts at the end of this year, Congressman Ryan supported legislation that would extend the current tax rates for a year in an effort to prevent massive tax hikes from hitting Americans because of Congress' inability to act," Seifert added. "The president has insisted on taking more from hard-working Americans in the form of higher taxes, but Congressman Ryan believes there's a better way forward. He supported a one-year extension of current tax rates so Congress can have the time and opportunity to work in a bipartisan fashion on fundamental tax reforms that make our tax code fairer, simpler and more competitive. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats and the administration have refused to lead, resulting in additional uncertainty for our troops, our job creators and all Americans.
"Our deficits are a function of Washington spending too much, not Americans being taxed too little," Seifert said. "We need to focus on cutting spending, not on increasing taxes on small businesses, job creators and successful Americans. The Path to Prosperity, which Congressman Ryan authored and the House passed, showed how we can reform our tax code in a revenue-neutral and pro-growth way. By closing loopholes and deductions, which disproportionately are used by high-income earners, and broadening our tax base, we can lower tax rates for Americans and do so in a way that doesn't slow down economic growth. Further, the president's proposed tax increases do not come close to paying for his proposed spending increases. These tax increases would not just affect the wealthiest Americans, they would also hit many of our nation's job creators and successful small businesses at a time they can ill afford it."
Needless to say, Deschler, a former Republican, offers much different and more drastic measures to address the country's financial ills, including significant department/agency cuts and eliminations, as well as getting rid of the IRS.
"If elected, the No. 1 thing I'd do is call a special session of Congress, whether it's a lame duck session or not, and start balancing the budget so we can start tackling the deficit," Deschler said. "We should be able to trim $1.1 trillion for fiscal year 2013 right away. We have so much waste. A big part of that waste is government agencies ... I'd whack them by two-thirds, either eliminate or slash many of them. I'd get rid of the education and energy departments, phase them out and eliminate them by 2014. We could easily cut two-thirds of the defense spending, or at least half of it, right away. We can cut out $100 billion in corporate welfare.
Deschler said the automatic cuts early in 2013 would be simply a starting point.
"The special session would make sure that the biggest causes of the deficit get tackled first - defense, entitlements, wasteful and unnecessary cabinet departments and agencies, corporate welfare. Also, I propose a major tax simplification and reform, with a two-year phase out of the tax code, replacing it in 2015 with a version of the fair tax (national sales tax), with an interest-bearing, rebate account for taxes paid up to the poverty line. I would keep the Bush tax rates for 2013 and no income tax increases."
Deschler agrees with the basic concept of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.
"I support turning these two programs into block grants to the states, with minimal federal intervention and red tape," Deschler said. "I would cut at least $200 billion from Medicare and $100 billion from Medicaid for fiscal 2013. Block grants allow the states to be '50 laboratories of innovation,' as Gary Johnson describes it. This encourages market-driven reforms like health vouchers, which encourage consumer choice to pursue the best coverage, the treatments needed to deal with individual health issues, at the lowest cost. Any monies left over in the vouchers transfer to interest-bearing health savings accounts. "If we fail to curb the growth of entitlements, they will end up costing over $12,000 in additional taxes per household by 2050," he added. "Social Security will cut at least 22 percent from benefits by 2033, unless we slow the growth of the program and begin at least to partially privatize retirement income."
Just like the race for president, the 1st Congressional District offers voters clear and different choices when they head to the polls and decide which sales pitch best serves their interests - and a PolitiFact checker would come in handy.
Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that the top 100 individual super PAC donors make up just 3.7 percent of those who have contributed to the new money vehicles, but account for more than 80 percent of the total money raised. Zerban said that despite a huge disparity in campaign war chests, he's happy with his efforts as the race reaches the home stretch.
"I've been at this for 19 months, and I've raised $2 million, so I've got strong core support," Zerban said. "The national spotlight has been focused on Paul Ryan, and it's not been kind because they've seen sides of him they've never seen before. I'm absolutely optimistic about my chances."
Ryan's camp obviously is confident in victory, which means, should he and Romney not win the White House, that he will continue his rallying cry in the House budget realm.
"The first priority is preventing the looming fiscal cliff from hitting our troops and our job creators," Seifert said. "Connected with that is passing a budget that provides a blueprint for the United States to get back on a path to prosperity. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Ryan has shown specifically how we can address our debt and deficit so we get spending under control and our economy growing again. He will continue to lead with solutions equal in magnitude to the economic challenges we face."
Deschler said Libertarians want less government in the personal and economic spheres.
"Reckless government spending, loose monetary policy, punitive anti-job and anti-worker tax and regulatory systems have teamed up to keep many hard-working modest income folks, myself included, from getting ahead," Deschler said. "A key concept to help us weather the economic storms much better is the prebate accounts and the fair tax. I am the one candidate who is fiscally responsible and socially tolerant and for personal and economic liberty."
|Last Updated on Friday, 19 October 2012 10:04|