It’s as regular as melting Salvador Dali clockwork: Paul Ryan speaks, and the media-political complex (aka the Permanent American Ruling Class) melts. It’s the persistence of false memory and denial of reality.
The important people listen, and they are filled with gratitude and awe. Paul Ryan has taken a bold new leap, going where no Republican has gone before! He has devised a brand new Poverty Plan, a starting point from which both political parties can slice and dice the safety net, and then have the nerve to call it a darned good plan for the indigent.
“Democrats should welcome Paul Ryan’s poverty plan!” gushes centrist wonk Ezra Klein.
The Obama-affiliated Center for American Progress calls Ryan’s nouveau-humane approach to sentencing reform “progressive” because he wants to help low-level criminals get back on their feet. Oh the humanity.
“Three Ideas from Ryan’s Poverty Plan That Even Liberals Can Love,” blares a headline in the Washington Post. (Here’s a teaser: Ryan’s earned income tax credit for childless workers is nearly identical to Obama’s. Then again, so is that banal “opportunity ladders” rhetoric.)
Getting the drift? This is how the brutality agenda gets set in an election year, and how newly-returned Dems and Republicans can get together this fall with their pruning shears for a backroom rip-fest and call it a sewing bee.
Once you get past the feel-good bipartisan hype, the truth is that this year’s Ryan excrescence is only a slight variation on his usual Social Darwinist theme. Since wealth inequality is In, and deficit hawkery is Out as a subject of polite conversation, the GOP has to be especially careful in this year’s framing of its inbred sadism. So, taking a cue from Obama’s own Newspeak, “cuts” have been euphemistically replaced by “reform.”
Rather than peddle his standard starve the beast slash-o-rama, the GOP chairman of the House Budget Committee has pivoted to the concern-trolling of the down and out. He’s dispensed with actual budgets and numbers this time, simply because his past mathematical gyrations were so easily debunkable.
What economist, after all, can presume to read the inner workings of Paul Ryan’s emotional mind?
So, like his literary heroine, the cult priestess of selfishness Ayn Rand, Ryan is playing it safe and sticking to pure pulp fiction.
Romantic that he is, he’s even invented a hero and a heroine of his very own to illustrate how his bait and switch “Opportunity Grants” (OGs) would work. Ryan’s plot has poor people embarking on a one-stop shopping spree which ends at the exclusive Personal Responsibility Boutique. A “counselor” (who sounds suspiciously like a used car salesman) will shove a contract in front of you. Failure to sign on the dotted line and then to strictly abide by its onerous terms and conditions will result in a midnight visit from the repo man.
You will be given X amount of time to get your ass in gear and have your dreams come true, or you’ll be dead meat. Failure to use your bootstraps to get a job by an artificial deadline will result in a boot getting locked onto your benefits.
But! If you get off your butt quicker than expected, if you spring from your hammock of dependency like a Pavlovian dog on a trampoline, Ryan promises you a reward…. a savings bond! (or more likely, a Walmart gift card. Because Walmart must always continue to get government welfare. Always. )
Also, the more clients that communities can kick off welfare, the more federal money they’d receive as their own reward. Just like car salespeople, the “counselors” will be compensated on the basis of how thoroughly they can screw the customers.
The fictional poor people that Ryan invents (see pages 20-23 of the report) are a deserving single mother named Andrea, and an undeserving male slacker he calls Steve.
Andrea, through no fault of her own, has been abandoned by her louse of a husband. Since she bore him two kids within the sanctified bonds of matrimony, she is not a slut. She is, therefore, a “deserving” poor person. Her only fault is the mythical “skills gap” that centrist pundits have dreamed up to absolve greedy plutocrats and pandering politicians of their own responsibility for record income disparity and the unemployment crisis. So Ryan’s solution is for Andrea to use her parents as free babysitters while she goes after hubby for back child support, works part-time, gets her teaching degree, and climbs up the magical opportunity ladder.
How similar Ryan’s OG proposals are to to the Mitt Romney’s Guide to Paying for College. To wit: hit up Mom and Dad!
Ryan conveniently ignores the fact that fewer and fewer working mothers have access to free child care courtesy of their stay-at-home unemployed relatives. Grandma and Grandpa are putting off their own retirements in record numbers, working longer hours for less money. Increasingly, working mothers are sandwiched between taking care of children and taking care of ailing impoverished parents. And historically, ex-husbands do not pay regular or adequate child support.
Paul Ryan seems to be living in 1960s sitcom land. Here are some facts:
The percentage of child care provided by day care centers had increased from 6 percent in 1965 to 28 percent in 1990, partly because the influx of women into the workforce had narrowed the pool of female relatives and friends available to take care of other people’s children. Between 1985 and 2005, employment by day care centers increased over 250 percent, representing a gain of almost 400,000 new jobs. Workplace child care facilities did not grow at the same rate: a 1995 survey found that only 10 percent of the nation’s 681 major employers offered on-site care programs to their employees.
So much for Ryan’s Cinderella fantasy world, in which on-site day care doesn’t exist, even for Andrea’s born-in-wedlock children.
Now for the “undeserving poor” section in his poverty manifesto. He and his cohort have gotten into hot water recently for racial dog-whistling, so he avoids such words as “urban” and “culture” when talking about Slacker Steve. Needless to say, he still manages to dog-whistle, if not to bull-horn. This make-believe guy comes from a “generational poverty” family of single, unwed (read: Black) welfare queens. Steve fathered a child out of wedlock himself, and neither visits nor supports his baby mama and his kid. He hangs out on his couch of dependency and does a lot of drugs. He’s a high school dropout. He’s every racist Republican’s nightmare. They probably don’t want him anywhere near the virtuous Andrea.
But Ryan isn’t satisfied with just bashing indigent minorities for their “laziness”. Since Mr. Gen-Poor is a drug addict, Ryan cynically surmises there is at least one career goal that fires him up. And that’s the medical field! So he has Steve trade in his food stamps for a full-time job as a cashier to earn money while striving for his GED in order to attend Dental Assisting school while he’s kicking drugs through ineffectual talk therapy and responsible parenting classes.
Now we’ve definitely gone from Disney to Dali. Ryan cannot be serious.There are no full-time cashier jobs for high school dropouts. There are hardly any full-time cashier jobs for college graduates! Even Ryan, given his own budgetary math disability, would probably flunk the Walmart aptitude test section that measures making correct change at the register.
And a job in a dental office? Addiction is a lifelong chronic disease requiring intensive rehabilitation and support to keep it under control. Relapses are the rule. No medical professional with half a brain would dream of letting even a recovering addict anywhere near medication and prescription pads.
Ryan cannot be serious. But he can be very, very cruel. He has just effectively set Make-Believe Steve up by surrounding him with drugs in his work environment, thus condemning him to joblessness, and probably prison, followed by dumping back on the street for “humanitarian reasons”, followed swiftly by a premature death.
But isn’t that the whole point? The real star of the Poverty Plan is the Social Darwinism wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The OGs (Opportunity Grants) from hell’s marketplace should actually be called UGs…. or OMGs. As in, oh my god.
This is Paul Ryan’s Christmas in July greeting card to America.