The anaerobic activity in the GOP septic tank has churned a familiar turd to the top again. Here’s Jon Chait’s take at NYMag:
Paul Ryan has spent more than a year furiously distancing himself from the wreckage of the 2012 Republican campaign. Even in the closing weeks before the election, Ryan gave a high-profile speech about poverty that amounted to a personal escape pod from Mitt Romney’s disastrous caught-on-tape denunciation of the moocher class. Since then, Ryan’s team has openly discussed the need to rebrand him and the particular danger, in the wake of the 47 percent tape, of his association with Ayn Rand-ism.
Today, we see the next step in Ryan’s rebranding, in the form of a largely credulous Washington Post story outlining his plans to launch himself into anti-poverty policy…
And that of the estimable Mr. Charles P. Pierce, the man responsible for coining the ZEGS epithet:
… Paul Ryan is an opportunistic hack who never has earned a dime outside of the government-quasi-government bullshit industrial complex. He cares less about the poor than he does about Medicare, which he would like to shred, so that it no longer wrecks old people by keeping them alive. It should be noted that, ever since Ronald Reagan proved you could kick the poor and crush the middle class and still get elected, as long as you did it with a smile and were charmingly dim about it, the Republican party has come out with something like this latest scam every time the general electorate catches on to the fact that modern conservatism is growing nostalgic for the economic and social order of the 1880’s. There is nothing new in Republican charlatanism, not even Paul Ryan…
… Paul Ryan’s solution to poverty — which is “light on specifics” as the Post later admits — is largely theological and, as the Jesuits at Georgetown demonstrated, it is not even very good theology. More to the point, though, let’s go back to that brief biographical sketch, shall we? Paul Ryan’s father died, but Paul Ryan’s father was extraordinarily well off, especially in Janesville. He also was politically connected enough that young Paul never lacked for sugar daddies while, at the same time, young Paul was pulling down Social Security benefits that got him through high school and college. (I was working at the time and glad to help such an earnest young man. You’re welcome, dickhead.) He also got wealthy in the most American way of all. He married well.
So here’s my question. All those years when my money and the money of millions of other Americans were helping this already well-off young man hold body and soul together while he went through college, how come his incentive wasn’t damaged by all the taking he was doing? How come he wasn’t crippled by “dependency”? How come his work ethic survived long enough to guarantee that he would never draw anything but a government salary for the rest of his life? How come, as a congressman, on my dime, he hasn’t felt the slow, stultifying hand of government strangling his individual initiative? How come the only people all this quasi-mystical horse-pucky applies to are the people too poor for Paul Ryan’s party to care about? If I do nothing for the rest of my career here than point out what a complete fake this guy is, while embarrassing the fatheads who still take him seriously, I will die a happy blogger.
And Alex Pareene, at Salon:
…Fun fact about Lyndon Johnson’s much-derided “War on Poverty”: It was working! From the enactment of the Great Society through 1970, “the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent.” That’s huge. There’s never been another comparable drop in the poverty rate. That might be, in part, because Republicans and neoliberal Democrats, beginning with Nixon, went on to dismantle most of Johnson’s original programs. They didn’t, though, roll back his expansion of Social Security, which became the most successful anti-poverty program in American history, lowering the poverty rate among the elderly from a shocking 28.5 percent in 1966 to 10.1 percent today. What kind of crazy program is Social Security, that it’s so successful? It’s a program that gives money to old people. That’s all! It taxes lots of people and then gives money to old people and then they’re not poor, or not as poor, anymore.
I can save Ryan’s staff some trouble, too. There are already existing conservative intellectual policy prescriptions for reducing poverty, and most of them amount to “give people money.” The Earned Income Tax Credit, the Ford and Reagan administrations’ alternative to the poverty-fighting programs of Johnson (and Roosevelt), gives poor people money. Even Ryan’s supposed philosophical idol, Friedrich Hayek, supported a universal basic income. For a while, conservatives seemed to understand that the main problem poor people face is that they don’t have enough money, and not that they lack the desire or incentive to make more money. Ryan, though, is an adherent of more modern conservative thinking on the subject, which says that poor people are the victims of government programs that help them buy food to feed themselves and their families….
Most annoyingly, it’s just accepted, without much pushback, that Ryan is exactly what he’s shrewdly marketed himself as. He’s a wonk, he’s an ideas man, he’s reorienting the Republican Party toward real policy solutions to big problems, he’s just as at home drinking a Miller Lite in Kenosha as he is ministering to recovering addicts (or hanging with Reince Priebus). This is what Ryan is selling: An even harder-line version of the conservative policy agenda of the last 30+ years. There’s never, ever any there there in his proposals. And we’ve learned this from the last 600 “budgets” he’s released!… Ryan may be very sincere in his sympathy for the poor and perhaps even convinced that he can come up with a better way to lift them from poverty than liberals, but there’s no coherent way in which slashing food stamps for millions and replacing those cuts with nothing — wait, sorry, I meant replacing the program with “dreams” and “spiritual redemption” — doesn’t have the immediate effect of making a lot of poor people’s lives harder and meaner.