The Washington Post reports:
Paul Ryan visited a soup kitchen here Saturday on his way to the airport, but by the time the GOP vice presidential nominee and his family had arrived shortly before noon, the grits, sausage and doughnuts had already been served, the hall was empty of patrons, and the volunteers appeared to have already cleaned up.
Crooks & Liars took a rather cynical take on this failed photo-op:
Let me get this straight: Ryan wants a photo op to help catapult over the conventional wisdom that he and his running mate do note care about 47 percent of the Americans, so he goes to a soup kitchen, but only after all those pesky poor people are no longer there? Nice.
I’m inclined to be a little more forgiving. I’m chalking it up to plain Jane hold ups and not a deliberate attempt to avoid the homeless. However, there is one part of the story that caught my attention:
Spokesman Michael Steel said that the visit by the Ryans to the soup kitchen “emphasized the importance of charities and volunteerism to civil society.”
Oh? Is that what Ryan’s oft proclaimed hero, Ayn Rand, thought of charity? Let’s take a look (emphasis mine):
My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.
So, not so important to a civil society, after all.
In reality, Ryan’s (and the conservative movement’s) emphasis on charity is no more than camouflage for the true goal of eliminating the social safety net we have in place. Ryan’s budget infamously ends Medicare as a functioning, sustainable program. Social Security has been under fire since before it was even passed and Mitt Romney has made it perfectly clear that he sees 47% of the country as irresponsible moochers that have the nerve to demand the right not to starve to death in the streets.
By claiming that we can rely on charities to help the poor, the right gives itself a pretense to end social programs. Who needs the government when good Christians will always take care of those in need, right? Now we can wash our hands of the responsibility of caring for our neighbor because they can turn to charities! Except in the next breath, conservatives deride the poor and sick as being moochers that don’t deserve to be helped. Just like Ayn Rand insists, charity is not a moral duty or a major virtue.
So what happens when we do away with the safety net? Will conservatives suddenly increase their charitable donations? Is there any conceivable reason to think so? No. Keep in mind, before Social Security and Medicare, the poverty rate among the elderly was astronomical. And that was before the disease of Randian greed infected almost half the country. Charities did not and, in fact, could not take care of the majority of the sick and the poor. The GOP’s insistance that this will not be the case in the future is based on…nothing. They can provide no numbers to support their claim that charities can take the roll of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Their assertion that the pressure of starvation and homelessness will “encourage” those irresponsible moochers to get jobs has no basis in reality. There are millions of unemployed workers right now. These are people in their prime who want a job and they can’t find one. We’re to believe that the disabled, the old and those otherwise not as capable can find a job that will support them? Ridiculous.
Perhaps if Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans were to come out of the bubble they live in, in which the rich are noble pioneers and the poor are evil and lazy (and almost never white), they would see that the those that need assistance are not the downfall of civilization. They might just see that helping others is one of the highest virtues. Maybe then, they’ll finally stop paying lip service to the words of Jesus that they falsely claim to worship and actually obey them. What a world that would be.