Critics who live in Paul Ryan's current congressional district gathered at Wilson's Coffee in Racine to make it plain to the newly-named Republican vice presidential candidate that his budget isn't going to fly with them come November.
Seniors Speak Out About Paul Ryan was organized by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. The invitation asked seniors to attend and let them know they might be asked to hold signs during the event.
The crowd of about 60 residents - most of them seniors - listened as people explained how Ryan's plans to revamp Medicare and Medicaid could impact seniors and threaten the middle class.
"We're here to tell Paul Ryan that his plan is a very, very bad idea," said Jane Witt, chairwoman of the Racine County Democratic Party.
Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, told the crowd that the changes Ryan supports could harm a large number of Wisconsin residents.
"More than 900,000 Wisconsin residents will be threatened with the potential of having their lives, physically and emotionally, ruined by a major illness," Mason said. "The great thing about America is that we have a vibrant middle class with the security and stability of knowing health care is waiting for them when they retire. Paul Ryan's plan puts all of that at risk, and we have to insure we have a vibrant middle class going into the future."
Retired social worker Rachel Trobaugh noted that Ryan's plan wasn't crafted in the district with district residents in mind but instead in the boardrooms of Washington lobbyists.
"The principle feature of this Paul Ryan budget, which Mitt Romney has now embraced, is turning Medicare into a voucher program and ending the guaranteed coverage that is the cornerstone of the program. Seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, would be forced into expensive private plans they cannot afford. What then will happen to these seniors?” she said.
During his time at the podium, Moreau "Mac" MacCaughey, a retired social worker supervisor, wondered aloud whether Ryan's plan cuts Medicare to balance the budget, funnels money into education and infrastructure or creates job training programs.
"No, Paul Ryan's plan is for millionaires, for Mitt Romney, and people like him," he stated.
After formal remarks concluded, Mason took questions from the media and the audience.
Patch asked how Ryan's plan was playing with seniors - the largest voting block in the country - outside the First District.
"Well, it's playing poorly," Mason answered. "Here in the First District, we know Paul Ryan is a nice guy and a family man, but his budget is not nice. You look at Florida and Pennsylvania where a lot of seniors live and rely on Medicare as an economic cornerstone."
Picking this fight seems a poor choice, Mason added, but he also noted it's a fight Republicans apparently want to have.
Resident Marlowe Harmon asked if seniors could find themselves without benefits and whether or not vouchers will cost more than they cover.
"If you get a voucher and you use up the voucher in a year, then you will be thrown into the loving arms of the private insurance industry to help you," Mason said.
And for people who are not yet seniors, the threat, Mason continued, is no less serious.
"Medicare has been an economic security since 1965, but if you look down the road, there is no security," he stated.
The event was part of a larger, statewide push called Seniors Speak Out about Paul Ryan. Copies of an open letter signed by 60 citizens to Ryan were distributed to people at Wilson's Coffee Wednesday afternoon. In the letter, which is attached to this story, senior residents detail how Ryan's budget and plans for Medicare hurt their bottom line and endanger future generations as well.
The contents of the letter echo remarks made during the event and concludes with, "Representative Ryan, your plan is wrong for Wisconsin's seniors and wrong for America."
Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the state Democratic Party, said similar dates are being organized in communities across Wisconsin.
Editor's Note: In the original version of this story, we did not make note that the event was organized by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. We have added that information.