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October 03, 2012 10:43 AM Ryan’s Boca Lite Moment

By Ed Kilgore

Brother Steve Benen casts his usual bright spotlight this morning on a speech given by Paul Ryan about this time last year at an American Spectator event (first brought to public attention yesterday by Ryan Grim at Huffpost). It’s noteworthy because its theme is the same division of the American people into virtuous producers and lazy dependents that got Mitt Romney into so much trouble when he waded into those toxic waters a few months later. For a good part of the excerpt that Benen talks about, Ryan’s on exactly the same track:

The point is we are reaching a fiscal tipping point. The moral tipping point is even worse. And the moral tipping point is before too long we could become a society that we were never ever intended to be. We could become a society where the net majority of Americans are takers not makers.
Another great think tank, the Tax Foundation, runs lots of good numbers. Those of you who don’t know me, I’m kind of a numbers guy. Twenty percent of Americans, according to the Tax Foundation, get 75 percent of their income from the federal government, they’re dependent. Another 20 percent of Americans get 40 percent of their income from the federal government so their reliant. Today 70 percent of Americans get more benefits from the federal government in dollar value than they pay back in taxes.
So you could argue that we’re already past that tipping point.

But whereas in the same point in the chain of Randian logic Mitt Romney went right ahead and suggested the “takers” were lost causes, Ryan hedges a bit:

The good news is, survey after survey, poll after poll, still shows that we are a center-right 70/30 country. Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream, they believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state. What that tells us is at least half of those people that are currently in that category are there not of their wish or their will.

Readers of Ayn Rand will recall that she always made a habit of identifying a few virtuous people among the “looters”—a worker proud of his company or product, for example. Similarly Ryan is allowing as how a big chunk of the government-dependent class really doesn’t want to be there, and thus would presumably not object to being “liberated” by policies that would shrink that suffocating security blanket of the “welfare state.”

As Steve notes, Ryan offers no particulars on which types of “takers” are still invested in the American Dream and which had become worthless parasites. I’m guessing he wouldn’t want to demonize those current Medicare beneficiaries he’s now promising to defend against the dastardly Obama cuts. More likely, it’s those people with their Obamacare and their food stamps that he has in mind as having already slipped out of red-blooded Americanism into some sort of moral hell.

In any event, Ryan’s Boca Lite approach to slicing and dicing the American people is a lot smarter, partly because it’s vaguer, and partly because if you’re going to divide the country into your team and the other team, it’s always smarter to make your team larger.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Grumpy on October 03, 2012 11:28 AM:

    When Ryan complains about a small percentage of taxpayers subsidizing the rest, he's really arguing against income inequality without acknowledging it as such. If the top taxpayers weren't siphoning away the nation's wealth and stashing it in offshore bank accounts, everyone else would have more cash and the tax base would be wider.

  • Ronald on October 03, 2012 11:30 AM:

    "In any event, Ryanís Boca Lite approach to slicing and dicing the American people is a lot smarter, partly because itís vaguer, and partly because if youíre going to divide the country into your team and the other team, itís always smarter to make your team larger."

    The problem is that Ryan's speech has been immediately lumped in where it belongs- with Mr. Romney's 47% speech.

    The attitude is identical, even if the words are prettier, and just as appalling.

  • stormskies on October 03, 2012 11:31 AM:

    Ryan is so fucking smug, arrogant, a self appointed Zarathustra, and such a master propagandist he should put on an old Hitler Nazi uniform.

    And then be treated just as all the 'undesirables', Jews, and gypsies were treated in that time, by 'humans' just like him.

  • Peter C on October 03, 2012 11:32 AM:

    Well, there are roughly 308,746,000 people in the United States. About 61,227,000 of us are less than 15 years old. That's 19.8%. About 18,554,000 of us are 75 years old or older; that's another 6%. There are also about 14 million disabled veterans who are 65 years old or less; that's another 4.5%. That totals 30.3%.

    So Ryan seems to be saying that the moral fiber of our society is being corrupted by a group of slovenly 'takers' including: children too young to legally hold a job, the very elderly, and disabled veterans. No wonder Newt Gingrich wanted to fire school janitors, repeal child labor laws, and make grade-school children clean school toilets; this would bring our society closer to the ideals Gingrich and Ryan envision. Nice.

  • estamm on October 03, 2012 11:37 AM:

    Why doesn't THIS quote enrage everyone: "The good news is, survey after survey, poll after poll, still shows that we are a center-right 70/30 country. Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream, they believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state."

    According to Ryan, the ONLY people who want the 'American Dream' are those on the center-right. Apparently, the 30% on the left don't. This is the quote that outrages me the most!

  • Joe Friday on October 03, 2012 11:42 AM:

    RYAN: "Those of you who don't know me, Iím kind of a numbers guy."

    Yes, a FANTASY "numbers guy".

    And once again, the real "takers" are the Rich & Corporate. What it costs for Corporate Welfare and tax cuts for the Rich & Corporate is STRATOSPHERIC in contrast to what Romney & Ryan are whining about.

  • Peter C on October 03, 2012 11:44 AM:

    Republicans love you while you're only a zygote, but once you are born, you become a scapegoat.

  • Neildsmith on October 03, 2012 11:48 AM:

    13.3% of population are over 65. Another 14% are living below poverty level. So... yeah - 30% or so are probably getting some government support. And that's how it should be!

    Now if Ryan had some ideas about lowering the poverty rate, I might listen to him. But at the moment he and Romney seem to think you do that by throwing them off food stamps and making them pay federal taxes on their meager income.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 03, 2012 11:58 AM:

    Last night I happened to hear on the evening news about how people in Spain literally dumpster dive for dinner. Not just homeless people in over-sized, soiled trench coats, but seemingly working or middle class people behind the restaurants every evening sorting through discarded leftovers.

    You would think that in times like these, people like Ryan who want to dismantle the "welfare state" would be struck down with the whitest of lightning for even having the notion much less touting it during a campaign for Presidency/Vice-Presidency...

  • Steve P on October 03, 2012 12:16 PM:

    I was reading--scanning--The Fountainhead, and I can see its appeal. It has the fluency of pornography, not to mention the closed-world self-gratification. I looked at it to get Rand out of the way ("But have you READ Rand?!?") and because King Vidor's delirious camp lensing of it is a favorite.
    But there's something Vidor and screenwriter Rand left out. One of Roark's buildings is repurposed by the evil "second-handers" from a school for gifted children to a home for retarded children. After a paragraph or two of Rand's disgusted description of those children, the phrase "life unworthy of life" came to mind.
    All that has been written of Rand and her disciples, however entertaining, is extraneous after Whittaker Chambers' epic denunciation of Rand and her worldview in the National Review: "To the gas chambers . . . Go!"
    And this was written in response to Paul Ryan's book of life, "Atlas Shrugged".

  • c u n d gulag on October 03, 2012 12:17 PM:

    Sgt. Gym Bunny,
    Ryan's family, friends, and cronies wouldn't be effected, so he doesn't give a runny sh*t about the rest of us.

    He'll probably want a "Locked Dumpster Amendment" passed by Congress, making sure that every facility that throws out food, has to have a lock on it's dumpster.

    It's the only way to insure the maximum amount of suffering!

    Speaking of dumpsters - when does CRAPTCHA finally end up in one?

    And it'll force people to die quietly at home, rather than embarass the nation scavaging dumpsters for food in the richest nation in the world.

  • Oh my on October 03, 2012 12:41 PM:

    Today 70 percent of Americans get more benefits from the federal government in dollar value than they pay back in taxes.

    Hmmmmm.....I'd like to see Ryan's specifics behind that vague statement. Is one of my "dollar values" that I'm not appropriately being taxed for a war in Iraq? A prescription drug plan I don't partake of?

    And ever since the GOP started running huge deficits back in 2001, couldn't it be argued that 100 percent of Americans are getting more benefits then they pay in?

  • bigtuna on October 03, 2012 12:53 PM:

    If I recall correctly, isn't something like 80% of our economy now driven by consumer activities? That is, the ENTIRE F****ing economy is no longer a producer economy. Most of us are in fact economic consumers, not producers. A good philosophical debate point perhaps, but Ryan is talking through his ass.

    And of course, how many of his "producers" game the federal legal, financial, and tax systems to squeeze more income out for the uber wealthy?

  • Steve on October 03, 2012 12:55 PM:

    Makers vs. takers? Romney and Ryan have both written off a vast number of Americans as takers. Obama's campaign should be pounding Romney with those same words. After all, Romney's business model at Bain Capital was to take over controlling interest in companies by investing a (relatively) small amount of Bain's cash in the targeted companies, financing most of the acquisition by saddling the companies with huge amounts of debt, a good chunk of the debt then being siphoned off to Bain as management fees. If the company goes into bankruptcy because it can't handle the debt, Bain would walk away with huge profits, the debt being someone else's problem. If the company ended up successful, despite the added debt, then fine, Bain would sell out at further profit. The bottom line was that Bain would evaluate takeover targets based on whether they could get someone else to put up the lion's share of the cost (and virtually all of the risk), not necessarily based on the likelihood of whether they could turn the company around. Sounds, to me like Romney was more of a taker than a maker.

  • Zach on October 03, 2012 3:27 PM:

    Plus, what exactly does Ryan "make" anyway in the form of some substantial product?

  • alcatraz on October 03, 2012 5:21 PM:

    Ryan gets at the heart of the matter--that a good number of Americans are getting benefits that are greater than what they put in through taxation. These people share Ryan's ideologically-driven sense that they should feel shame about receiving benefits. Rather than face up to to the contradiction between the reality of the benefits they receive and the ideology of shame, they argue that some of the "takers" don't deserve it while others do. Their sense of shame makes them lash out in anger at the "other," and express disdain, even toward their friends and loved ones, as they refuse to admit that they are also benefiting from the system. This produces the cognitive dissonance that we are all forced to live with.

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