what-we-think_web.jpgRepublican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s choice for his running mate has sharpened the ideological divide for the November election and given Americans an unimpeded view of the two visions being offered for our nation’s future.

By tapping Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate, Mr. Romney has brought into the campaign Mr. Ryan’s controversial budget plan which calls for substantial reduction of the role of government.

The Ryan budget also proposes fundamental changes in the social safety net that has kept millions of Americans afloat for at least three quarters of a century: Social Security and Medicare, to which working citizens are required to contribute, and Medicaid and welfare, which provide government-sponsored health care and financial assistance, respectively, for the poor.

Mr. Romney supported the Ryan plan long before he tapped him as his running mate but it does not appear that the ideas of the two GOP contenders have as yet been merged into a single platform. That should come soon. But there can be no doubt that together they offer a path for America that would be a complete resurrecting of a time when freewheeling capitalism operated in an environment of very little, if any, government regulation. Their argument is that Big Business must be set free of controls that they claim hinder growth and expansion and, hence, further economic prosperity for the nation.

Their problem, though, is that history does not support their contention. They obviously embrace the idea that “a rising tide lifts all boats” but that is just a tiresome platitude. A rising tide can also flood and capsize all boats and the lessons of the past point clearly to the fact that prior to the implementation of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of 1932, America was the land for the wealthy and the poor had to get by as they could, often not at all.

It is an idea near and dear to the heart of a segment of the Republican Party that the New Deal must be completely dismantled and they are hoping to use the anxieties created by the continuing economic difficulties of the country to push through that agenda.

President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are pledging to maintain the integrity of the social safety net, while also proposing to implement measures that would continue to restore the health of the economy, with government having a role in how that happens. One of Mr. Obama’s campaign slogans is “there is no going back.” That is an obvious reference to the pre-New Deal era.

So the lines are now clearly drawn. There are Americans who will come down on either side and the choice must be respected. But whatever the choice, it must be based on an understanding of what is at stake when it is time to enter the polling station and cast a ballot.