Romney and Ryan: The key policy differences

6:21 PM, Oct 11, 2012   |    comments
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns with vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in Fishersville, Va., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012. / AP PHOTO/CHARLES DHARAPAK
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(CBS News)-- When Paul Ryan and Joe Biden face off in tonight's vice presidential debate, both candidates will be subject to a level of scrutiny they've largely been able to sidestep so far on the trail. Ryan, the author of a controversial budget plan that would overhaul the tax code and Medicare, is likely to face some pointed questions on those ideas. But Mitt Romney's campaign insists it would not defer to Ryan's pre-existing policy proposals in a Romney-Ryan administration, and the two haven't always seen eye to eye on every issue. Below, CBSNews.com presents a few of the issues on which they diverge.

Abortion

Mitt Romney's position on abortion has evolved significantly over time, but he currently opposes abortion with exceptions only for the victims of rape and incest and if the life of the mother is at risk. He has clarified, however, that he does not support exemptions for both "the health and life of the mother." Many abortion opponents, including Ryan, do not support such exception because they believe it creates a loophole, such as for a mental health exception.

Paul Ryan, meanwhile, has for years opposed all abortions except to save the life of the woman. He has not supported exemptions for rape and incest, but the Romney campaign has made clear that if elected, Ryan's views would be superseded by those of Romney on the matter.

Auto bailout

In 2008, Mitt Romney declared his opposition to the government bailout of the auto industry in a now-famous op-ed, entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." In that article, Romney argued that "if General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for on Tuesday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye." He argued that without the bailout, auto companies would be forced to dramatically restructure in a way that would benefit the industry, while writing them "a check" would allow them to stay the "the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses."

Paul Ryan, on the other hand, supported the $14 billion measure - albeit, he says, grudgingly. In a statement made on the night he voted for the bill, Ryan cited the concerns about saving "jobs in Southern Wisconsin and the retiree commitments to workers that could be placed in jeopardy under certain bankruptcy scenarios," but urged Congress to "stop overselling what it can do." Later, he complained the bailout bill had not been implemented as he had expected, and that he was "deeply troubled" by the precedent it set for the future.

Capital gains tax cuts

In recent days, Romney has touted a plan that would eliminate taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains for middle-income taxpayers, which he defines as those making $200,000 or less.

Ryan, meanwhile. has advocated a simple two-level revenue model, which would eliminate taxes on capital gains, as among other things. According to his 2013 budget, however, the tax reform mandate goes to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Medicare

Romney supports reforming the current Medicare program to a "premium support" system, wherein the government offers a senior a predefined amount of money to spend in a health insurance exchange rather than paying directly for the benefits a senior uses. The campaign has said current seniors would not be impacted by the plan and that insurance plans would be required to offer coverage at least comparable to what Medicare currently provides. Additionally, it says, lower income seniors would receive more generous support while wealthier seniors would receive less support.

Ryan has also supported a premium support plan, which would give seniors vouchers to purchase either private insurance or traditional, government-run insurance on an exchange starting in 2023. Ryan's 2013 budget, which outlined this Medicare overhaul, caps federal spending increases on Medicare at half a percentage point higher than the growth rate of the economy, which means that theoretically, if health care costs rise faster than that, seniors would increasingly have to pay more out of pocket. Romney's Medicare platform, which is a relatively loose outline rather than a specific policy document, does not mention those caps. Moreover, Romney has said he would not include the $716 billion in cuts to Medicare featured in Ryan's budget, and that a Romney-Ryan administration would restore those caps.

Tax reform

Romney has proposed a slew of changes to the current tax system. He would keep personal income taxes at their current rates for now but there are several key changes he says will encourage savings and spur job creation. Romney says he would eliminate taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains for those making less than $200,000 per year. He would also permanently extend the Bush-era tax cuts, which lowered individual income tax rates and cut the child tax credit in half. Eliminate the estate tax and cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Romney's tax plan also includes reducing income tax rates by 20 percent across-the-board, a figure which could significantly reduce the tax burden of middle-income Americans. But some experts are skeptical that Romney will be able to keep tax rates low for middle-income taxpayers without getting rid of loopholes like the mortgage tax deduction, a popular tax break for people in the middle class who own their own homes. Romney has consistently said he will not raise taxes on any Americans, but has declined to specify which loopholes and deductions he would get rid of in order to make his tax plan revenue neutral.

Ryan's tax plan, as outlined in his 2013 budget proposal, would also extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under President Bush, which are set to expire at the end of this year. It would enact another $4.5 trillion in cuts over the next decade, excluding the $5.4 trillion in revenue lost from permanently extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

As CBS News' Jill Schlesinger explained in August, the plan would eliminate the current six marginal tax rates and replace them with just two rates: 10 percent and 25 percent. Like Romney's plan, Ryan's would also repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, and eliminate the tax provisions of the 2010 health reform law. 

Sarah Huisenga contributed to this report.

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