Political Animal


January 22, 2013 3:45 PM Ryan’s Attempted Clarification on “Takers”

By Ed Kilgore

Paul Ryan exhibited some chutzpah today in a cry of foul play aimed at the president’s shot at those who divide Americans into “takers and makers,” which until it got him into trouble in 2012 was one of the Wisconsin Randian’s favorite rhetorical devices.

According to the Weekly Standard, Ryan went on television this morning and perhaps having read Michael Gerson’s WaPo op-ed accusing the president of creating a “raging bonfire of straw men, played the victim his own self:

Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan knocked President Barack Obama for “shadowbox[ing] a straw man” in his inaugural address. Speaking Tuesday morning on the Laura Ingraham Radio Show to guest host Raymond Arroyo, Ryan responded to Obama’s statement that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security “do not make us a nation of takers, they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
Ryan called Obama’s insinuation that he and other reform-minded Republicans consider recipients of these benefits “takers” a “switcheroo.”
“It’s kind of a convenient twist of terms to try and shadowbox a straw man to try to win an argument by default,” Ryan said.
“No one is suggesting that what we call our ‘earned entitlements’, entitlements you pay for, you know, like payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security, are putting you in a ‘taker’ category,” Ryan continued. “The concern that people like me have been raising is we do not want to encourage a dependency culture. This is why we called for welfare reform.

Note first off that Ryan conveniently omits mentioning Medicaid in his self-defense against Obama’s alleged calumny, for the good reason that it is not an “earned entitlement” based on payroll tax deductions. For that matter, Ryan is advancing an interpretation of Medicare that he knows is completely erroneous, because over 40% of Medicare expenditures come from general revenues rather than payroll taxes or premiums. Who knows, maybe Ryan thinks Medicare beneficiaries are “takers” just three days out of every week, or is telegraphing a future intention to limit benefits to payroll taxes paid.

But in fact, Republicans deploying the taker/maker dichotomy, most especially Paul Ryan, are almost always referring to people who receive more federal government benefits, regardless of their type or justification, than they pay in federal taxes. Here’s an example from Ryan:

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said in 2010 that 60 percent of Americans receive more financial benefits from the government than they pay in taxes, making them “takers,” rather than “makers,” according to a 2010 video of Ryan speaking with Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.).
“Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes,” Ryan said. “So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They’ll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves.”
Ryan has been making similar statements for years. His 60 percent comment to Jones was not a one-time gaffe, but an iteration of a point Ryan has repeatedly made while arguing for his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system.

Who’s actually engaging in a “switcheroo” here?

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.


  • FlipYrWhig on January 22, 2013 4:05 PM:

    Without including Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries, the number of people who "depend on the government" would be far fewer, and the potency of the conservative/Randian/wingnut argument absolutely relies on that number being close to half. That's what justifies their feeling of panic, that sense that they're close to being overrun, unless the tough-lovin' Republican Party keeps the moocher hordes at bay.

  • Josef K on January 22, 2013 4:07 PM:

    Ryan called Obama’s insinuation that he and other reform-minded Republicans consider recipients of these benefits “takers” a “switcheroo.”

    I maintain that Wisconsin will be spending the next 100 years atoning for inflicting Paul bloody Ryan upon the country. And the Badger/Cheese State still has another 50 years atonement pending for Joe bloody McCarthy!

  • hells littlest angel on January 22, 2013 4:08 PM:

    Sounds like Ryan is trying to scrub himself up for the Dipshit Beauty Pageant, aka the Republican primary. Privatize what? Ayn who?

    Nice try. Good luck.

  • golack on January 22, 2013 4:22 PM:

    so glad defense contractors don't count...

  • c u n d gulag on January 22, 2013 4:26 PM:

    What has Paul Ryan ever done to make him one of "the makers?"

    He's a "taker," who's been living off the government teat his whole adult life.

    And his family built their business off of being willing to "take" the dollars the Federal and state governments were handing out to build and/or fix roads.

    He's another sociopathic @$$hat, who was born on 3rd base, thinking the government and poor people kept him from getting to tally that triple he was born into, into the HR column.

    A person with any sense of self-awareness and social conscience, would sit down, and STFU!

  • Bokonon on January 22, 2013 4:50 PM:

    Reminds me of the expression "cheese weasel."

    Ryan sure is one, isn't he? Trying to weasel out of his own signature speach applause line?

  • Michael Ryle on January 22, 2013 5:08 PM:

    "... shadowbox a straw man ..."

    Talk about your mixed metaphors.

  • Kathryn on January 22, 2013 5:50 PM:

    gulag is soooooo right, Ryan is a first class taker and a world class liar, does he ever give an interview without lies, not so far as I can tell. He's been a federal employee since he was in his twenties, a congressman at 28 and a staffer for Jack Kemp before that. I don't buy his Ayn Rand world view of course, but by that standard, Paul is an egregious taker. By my standard, he's an egregious hypocrite.

  • MuddyLee on January 22, 2013 6:24 PM:

    What does Ryan say about boat owners paying their fair share for the Coast Guard protection they get and how about ocean property owners and the federally subsidized insurance? And let's not forget the mortgage interest deductions for vacation homes. I would like to see a count of the "takers" above the median income vs those below the median income - and a special focus on the top five percent. I say there are some "takers", and then there are some "TAKERS".

  • Mrs. J on January 23, 2013 5:35 AM:

    That Ryan--methinks he does protest too much about the truth of what text and video has proven him saying. Plus he thinks he is invisible:

    Recall the high rolling granny starver dining with incredibly expensive bottles of wine:


    An economist seated nearby spotted the bottle of Jayer-Gilles 2004 Echezeaux Grand Cru that Paul Ryan’s table had ordered, and checked the wine list-- it sold for $350....they were on their second bottle...