The lively October 11 debate between Vice President Joe Biden and the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, has been widely analyzed and fact-checked. But from the Wisconsin perspective, a few statements made by our fellow cheesehead brought to mind some idioms used widely in his home state.
If You Live In a Glass House, Don't Throw Stones
"Joe and I are from similar towns. He's from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I'm from Janesville, Wisconsin." Ryan then cited Scranton's ten percent unemployment rate, incorrectly suggesting it was indicative of national trends. "You know what it was the day [Obama and Biden] came in? 8.5 percent. That is happening all around America."
When Ryan first became a U.S. Representative in 1999, unemployment in Janesville was at 3.8 percent. It is now at 9.2 percent. But nationally and in America's major cities, unemployment is going down, albeit slowly. Unemployment in Ryan's hometown is still too high, but the rate has dropped from a peak of 15.6 percent a few months after Obama and Biden took office. The peak was largely attributable to the Janesville General Motors plant closing in 2008 under President George W. Bush.
Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me
Ryan pledged during the debate that the Romney-Ryan ticket has a plan for "getting the economy growing at 4 percent, creating 12 million jobs over the next four years."
The 12 million jobs pledge is one that Romney has been repeating on the campaign trail, with the campaign airing ads in Ryan's home state promising to create 240,000 jobs in Wisconsin (12 million divided by 50 states). But folks in Wisconsin have reason to doubt these sorts of jobs pledges.
Wisconsin's current Governor Scott Walker was elected in 2010 with a nearly identical jobs pledge -- a promise to create 250,000 jobs by the end of his term in 2014 -- and repeated the pledge in May of 2012 during his recall election. But even Walker admits this promise is already broken. Wisconsin's job growth rates continues to rank among the worst in the nation, behind other states in the region and nationally.
Biden, for his part, did not make a specific promise about jobs numbers, but he did say "we can and we will" get unemployment below 6 percent, a plan that the White House has not backed up with any specifics.
As CMD asked in September, do these folks really think Wisconsinites will fall for it again?
Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth
In the debate, Rep. Ryan railed against the Obama administration's stimulus plan and characterized it as a failure. Biden quickly pointed out that Ryan himself had sought stimulus funds for companies in his district.
"I love that, I love that," Biden responded, laughing. "This is such a bad program and he writes me a letter saying -- writes the Department of Energy a letter saying -- the reason we need this stimulus, it will create growth and jobs. His words. And now he's sitting here looking at me."
Ryan sought $20 million in "green stimulus" for the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation and hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Energy Center of Wisconsin, both of which were granted by the Department of Energy. Ryan defended the letters in the debate by saying "We advocated for constituents who were applying for grants. It's what we do."
In one of the letters, Ryan wrote: "I was pleased that the primary objectives of their project will allow residents and businesses in the partner cities to reduce their energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and stimulate the local economy by creating new jobs."
Other businesses in Ryan's district have also benefitted from stimulus spending. Ruud Lighting in Racine, for example, manufactures LED lights and has expanded and added jobs by winning contracts to supply LED lights to municipalities across the United States, many of which are making the purchases using federal stimulus dollars from the Department of Energy.
Don't Kill a Goose That Lays Golden Eggs
In his closing statements, Ryan repeated the widely discredited claim that Obamacare is a "government takeover of health care," a right-wing talking point that CMD's Senior Fellow on Healthcare Wendell Potter has demonstrated was developed by the private health care industry. "Obamacare," after all, was developed largely to protect and defend the private insurance industry against those who preferred a government-run health care system, such as those found in Canada and much of Europe.
Romney and Ryan have pledged to repeal "Obamacare" without putting forward a plan to replace it. But in 2010, Rep. Ryan sought Obamacare funding for a community health center in his district.
"The proposed new facility, the Belle City Neighborhood Health Center, will serve both the preventative and comprehensive primary healthcare needs of thousands of new patients of all ages who are currently without healthcare," Ryan wrote.
Community health centers like this one provide a variety of vital health services to low-income communities, and "Obamacare" provides funding to significantly expand those services, including $9.5 billion in operating costs for existing community health centers and $1.5 billion for constructing new facilities.
Wisconsinites will be talking about these facts and others as they gather around the bubbler this weekend.