In his first Sunday show interview since the 2012 presidential election, Chairman of the House Budget Committee and former GOP candidate for vice president, Paul Ryan (R-WI), reflected on the election and the Republican party.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Ryan gave his thoughts on how the GOP can learn from the devastating 2012 election losses.
“Obviously, we have to expand our appeal,” he said. “We have to expand our appeal to more people and show how we’ll take the country’s founding principles and apply them to the problem of the day, solutions to fix our problems.”
“We have to show our ideas are better at fighting poverty, better at solving health care, how our ideas are better at solving problems that people experience in their daily lives. And that’s a challenge we have to rise to, and I think we’re up for it.”
This is in no way reconcilable with the fact that Ryan stated during the campaign that 6o% of Americans are “takers.” You can’t speak about these people as “takers” and then try to feign compassion and concern for them two months later.
The original Ryan budget included cuts to SNAP (food stamp program), children’s health care, Pell Grants, Medicare, and more. The new budget that Speaker of the House John Boehner has tasked him with is expected to be a re-purposed version of his original budget. Furthermore, he voted against Hurricane Sandy relief. Really? Does he really think we’re going to buy into his lies about “solving problems that people experience in their daily lives?” How much bigger a problem can people have in their daily lives than having their homes destroyed by a hurricane?
He contradicted himself in the same interview by saying that he believes that many people who are receiving food stamps don’t really need them and implying that the ones who are receiving them via fraudulent means are the biggest problem.
“All we’re saying is you actually have to be eligible for this program to receive this program,” he said. “We need to target these things at people that actually need them.”
Meet the Press host David Gregory pulled up a video clip of President Obama’s inaugural speech in which the President said:
“For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.”
Ryan was visibly flustered as his face reddened and he did a complete about-face on the whole “solving problems that people experience in their daily lives” idea and once again said that people in need are a part of a “dependency culture.”
“But if you keep the context going, my point in making that statistic is, it’s not as these statistics lead you to believe. We don’t want a dependency culture. We want a safety net that makes sure that people don’t fall through the cracks, that gets people on their feet. Americans want the American dream and the point I make when I cite that statistic is, it’s not as it seems. People want the American dream. They want lives of opportunity.
They want to reach their potential. And so our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able bodied people are becoming dependent upon the government than upon themselves for their livelihoods. We want to make sure we don’t continue that trend. And when you take a look at those statistics, it’s not as bad as those statistics say. People want lives of upward mobility. People want to chart their own course. They want to reach their potential and our policies should gear towards doing that, so no one’s suggesting that Medicare and Social Security makes you a taker. These are people like my mom, who worked hard, paid her taxes and now is collecting a benefit that she paid for. No one is suggesting people like my mom is a taker.” (Meet the Press life transcript)
So when people like his mom, and himself, enjoy the benefits of programs like Social Security, it’s fine because they “paid for” them. OK, we already know he feels this way, so why the pretense that he and the GOP are going to suddenly try to appeal to people by fighting poverty and solving healthcare. Their solution for healthcare is to let people go to the emergency room when sick.
He dug himself in deeper when he said:
“This is a straw man argument. The President said I think the week earlier that we had suspicions about Medicare and taking care of the elderly and feeding poor children. When he sets up these straw men, which is to affix views to his adversaries that they don’t have to win the argument by default, it’s not really an honest debate.” (Meet the Press life transcript)
Reading all of the above, can anyone really come around to seeing Paul Ryan as a benevolent human being? How can he expect anyone to believe that he and the GOP are concerned with fighting poverty and solving health care?
New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait feels that the President was speaking directly to Ryan in his inaugural address.
That really is a direct shot at Ryan more than anybody else. Obama is arguing that misfortune can strike Americans in all forms — a disability, a storm, illness, or merely outliving our savings — and we have some obligation to each other. Ryan’s budget imposes savage cuts to food stamps, children’s health insurance, and other mitigations of suffering for the least fortunate. Oh, and Ryan also voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. By Ryan’s definition, if the government is rebuilding your destroyed home, you’re a taker, too.
The fact is, Paul Ryan is not concerned about poverty. He didn’t suddenly become concerned about unemployed people. He’s not concerned about “feeding poor children” or “the elderly.” Vulnerable people are not straw men. They’re living human beings, and the statistics that he dismisses are real. Paul Ryan has not magically changed into a benevolent and caring human being.
The only way the GOP is going to expand their appeal is to become Democrats.
I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I also have a grossly neglected blog. Find me somewhere and let’s discuss stuff.