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What is really at stake in the Biden-Ryan debate

On Thursday in Danville, Ky., history will be made. Not for the fact that it's the night of the 2012 vice presidential debate, but because it has the potential to influence the outcome of the election as never before.

Few pundits really thought that Mitt Romney could turn around his failing campaign with one debate. But the Republican presidential nominee defied gravity as his poll numbers flew past President Obama's in the days following the debate. Now it's up to Paul Ryan and Joe Biden to either solidify Romney's bump or cause another shift toward the Obama camp.

Joe Biden is an experienced statesman, famous for his unbridled honesty and sometimes for his gaffes. Ryan has been called out for misleading claims and outright lies, especially since joining the Romney ticket.

So no matter how aggressive each candidate is at Thursday's debate, what will really be on stage is a test of moral character and stark contrasts in what direction each candidate would take the country.

Regardless of what Romney and Ryan say, there is little doubt that a Republican victory on Nov. 6 would commence the end of Medicare and Social Security.

Both Romney and Ryan have published plans that phase out the popular programs in upcoming years. There are also planned cuts to Medicaid that would immediately put seniors in nursing homes, at risk of completely losing their health care.

Romney has admitted that he would means-test Social Security and concurs with Ryan on turning Medicare into a voucher program.

The voucher payments in Ryan and Romney's talking points give the impression that seniors would be free to find their own health insurance policies. But that is not accurate.

Seniors in the voucher program would only be allowed to choose from a list of pre-approved private insurers. Seniors would never see the voucher payments, as they would go directly to the private insurance companies.

While the Medicare voucher program is touted as a way to save the government money, it is actually just a shift of costs onto seniors.

"Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the record suggests that this will do anything other than make health care less efficient," Paul Krugman asserts in the New York Times. "So where are the savings? The answer is, it’s basically a way to deny health care to people while denying that you’re doing so. You don’t say, “we won’t pay for this care," you just hand people a voucher and let them discover that it won’t buy adequate insurance. It’s health-care rationing—but by money instead of deliberate choice."

Campaign-trail details are vague or absent, no doubt because they would be extremely unpopular with voters, but the overall sense is to gradually dismantle safety nets. This has been the mantra of the conservative base for decades, so no one should really be surprised.

The other issue that Biden will likely focus on is the Romney-Ryan tax-cut plan, which is directly tied to proposed cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Despite the fact that Romney denied having a tax-cut plan during his debate with President Obama in Denver, the proposal for 20 percent across-the-board tax cuts are still published on the Romney campaign website. How long they will remain is unknown.

No one will be surprised if fact-checkers discover after the vice-presidential debate that Paul Ryan was dishonest. But everyone will be surprised if Vice President Joe Biden does not call him out on it.

Some media outlets are predicting that there will be more than 70 million people watching the live event. That tops the record number of viewers for the first presidential debate at 67.2 million.

You can read the entire Romney plan at http://www.mittromney.com/jobsplan

If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.

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