Political Animal


October 26, 2011 2:35 PM What is wrong with Paul Ryan?

By Steve Benen

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the increasingly unhinged chairman of the House Budget Committee, has a fascinating sense of timing.

This morning, news consumers woke up to news that the Congressional Budget Office has found that the “top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades,” while incomes have stagnated for the working classes. Much of this, the CBO found, is the result of conservative government policies that are deliberately less redistributive than the policies of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, when the class gap was far less extreme.

At the same time, news consumers also got a look this morning at the latest public attitudes on economic policy. As it turns out, the American mainstream strongly supports economic populism, including higher taxes on the wealthy, more public investment in job creation, and in general, policies that would ensure that American wealth is “more evenly distributed among more people.”

It was against this backdrop that Ryan, the Ayn Rand-loving “class warrior for the wealthy,” fresh off his failed campaign to eliminate Medicare altogether, decided to throw a tantrum at the Heritage Foundation this morning.

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) took direct aim at President Barack Obama in a speech Wednesday morning, accusing him of “preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment” as he travels the country to sell his jobs plan.

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan said Obama’s method of rallying public support for his $447 billion jobs package was “sowing social unrest and class resentment” and could be “just as damaging as his misguided policies.”

“Instead of working together where we agree, the president has opted for divisive rhetoric and the broken politics of the past,” Ryan said…. Ryan accused Obama of using “class-based rhetoric” in his re-election campaign. Obama’s tactics, he said, make “America weaker, not stronger.”

“Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were the hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and resentment,” Ryan said.

If Paul Ryan were half as smart as he thinks he is, his arguments might be worth paying more attention to. Instead, his harangue this morning bordered on pathetic. If merit mattered more in American politics, this speech would mark the turning point at which Ryan transitioned from media darling to laughing stock.

I had a grand idea about grabbing a scalpel and going through Ryan’s most offensive errors of fact and judgment, but Greg Sargent beat me to it. Please read his post. No, seriously, go read it, then come back.

The part that just about made my head explode was when Ryan, a charlatan whose numbers have never added up, accused President Obama of “intellectually lazy arguments.” After picking my jaw up off the floor, I learned that an example of an “intellectually lazy argument” is recommending popular tax increases on the wealthy to help reduce the Republican-created deficit and create jobs.

I also loved the notion that Ryan wants to see Obama be “hopeful” the way he was in 2008 — when Obama won easily running on a platform of higher taxes on everyone making over $250,000.

I’ll resist the temptation to highlight every ridiculous point from Ryan’s speech, but I was especially amazed by the lawmaker taking offense after the mean ol’ president offered mild criticism of the GOP. From Ryan’s speech:

“Just last week, the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of, ‘dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance.’ Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?”

Does he even listen to himself? What the president said last week was true. Congressional Republicans make no effort to hide the fact that they want to gut the health care system and take away health care coverage for tens of millions of people. That’s their agenda; it’s not a secret. Likewise, GOP officials insist that one of the best ways to boost the economy is to prohibit the EPA from enforcing clean air and clean water regulations. That, again, is a simple recitation of what Republicans say they want.

What’s more petty? Obama telling voters the truth or Paul Ryan whining about it?

Some of Ryan’s speech was demonstrably wrong — at one point, he insisted a “flat tax is a progressive effective tax” — some of it was a rehash of tired cliches, and some was an angry conservative pretending to take offense. All of it, meanwhile, offered a defense of a twisted and regressive ideology that demands policymakers do even more to protect millionaires and billionaires from taxes, consequences, and responsibilities.

The New Republic recently explained that Ryan is “Washington’s idea of A Very Serious Person — an earnest individual with a systematic plan. It doesn’t have to be a good plan, but, if it has enough charts and numbers, and is accompanied by some patronizing finger-wagging, it’s golden. Ryan is in fact a slightly creepy Ayn Rand enthusiast seeking to impose a radical right-wing agenda on the country, but his doeish eyes and his Midwestern vintage convinced a rapt press corps that he is the ideas man in this age of budgetary woe. There is probably no public perception more deserving of a major revision.”

The man is one part crackpot, one part con man. The sooner the political world realizes this, the better.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Hedda Peraz on October 26, 2011 2:43 PM:

    Scoff all you like, Ryan will be in OUR Oval Office, in January, 2013.

  • ribber on October 26, 2011 2:49 PM:

    You're building a replica?

  • Suzanne on October 26, 2011 2:49 PM:

    The GOP has adopted a world view that doesn't fit reality. I think most of them really believe what they are saying even though the facts don't fit. Hoover, a Republican, used lower taxes for the wealthy and deregulation to dig the Depression in deeper so it's not a new philosophy. And we saw what happened when Bush was in office. It just doesn't work. The polls show that the majority of Republican voters don't want what they are selling on taxes and jobs. The GOP can't look at facts and evaluate their position or the whole house of cards would fall. They think nothing of lying and manipulating and I think they are projecting this on others. They've lost the ability to do a reality check.

  • Brenna on October 26, 2011 2:50 PM:

    OUR oval office? Really?

    I only wish Ryan would run for president. I'd PAY to watch him seriously debate Obama in front of the nation.

    He's a joke.

  • Danp on October 26, 2011 2:52 PM:

    but his doeish eyes...

    Those might be bovine eyes. There is some kind of odd breeding going on in Wisconsin these days.

  • Holmes on October 26, 2011 2:55 PM:

    The hypocrisy is stunning. They've spent years demonizing Dems(with cover from the sock-puppets in the media) and trying to destroy Obama, but the minute a Dem makes a factual rebuttal, the 'tough guys' in the Republican party get out the fainting couches.

  • dscottsf on October 26, 2011 3:01 PM:

    Rob Zerban for congress.


  • martin on October 26, 2011 3:02 PM:

    Ryan is a member of the Cult of Ayn Rand. Like many cult members, he thinks he arrived there through the use of his intellect. That others didn't arrive at the same conclusions he did indicates, to him, merely how intellectually lazy the others are. Thus anything that contradicts the philosophy of the cult has to be intellectually lazy.

  • bdop4 on October 26, 2011 3:02 PM:

    Change is going to come, one way or another.

    Either progressive tax policies will be enacted, or unionism will make huge comeback and standard wages for workers will increase dramatically. Either way, the current economy will not survive with the obscene income disparity evident in the CBO report.

    Pick your poison, Hedda.

  • David Martin on October 26, 2011 3:04 PM:

    Rick Perry's website for his economic program shows how thick the tax code is by comparing it to a stack of three books: Tolstoy's "War and Peace," Any Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," and the Holy Bible. Conservative evangelicals and such don't seem to have figured out that Tolstoy is Christian while as best I can tell (not having read her Biible-length book), Ayn Rand scorned Christianity.

  • Anonymous on October 26, 2011 3:04 PM:


    "Ryan will be in OUR Oval Office, in January, 2013"

    What do you think he will he doing, cleaning it for President Cain? Your party is the laugh line of the world, and Ryan is a complete fraud, sorta like you but more grandiose.

  • hells littlest angel on October 26, 2011 3:05 PM:

    It's hard for me to imagine how anyone can even pretend to take this slow-witted weightlifter seriously as an intellectual. Those doeish eyes are connected to a brain that would fit quite loosely into a deer's skull.

    And to anyone who is appalled by Hedda Peraz's comments: just say her name out loud a few times.

  • Gandalf on October 26, 2011 3:16 PM:

    A question should be asked of these tools like Ryan. What good are you doing and for whom? The answer is that being bought and paid for he serves only the evil influences of mankinds darker side.

  • Fred on October 26, 2011 3:17 PM:

    Exactly how conservative is Ryan's Wisconsin district? Is there really no chance that a well financed challenger couldn't hang him with his comments given that his positions are unpopular even among Republican voters?

  • SW on October 26, 2011 3:20 PM:

    there is a concise term for what Ryan is. Toadie.

  • Kathryn on October 26, 2011 3:25 PM:

    Others have said it but I've had my doubts; however, beginning to think the GOP is getting worried by Pres. Obama's push to reach directly to the voters, bypassing the do nothing congress, Ryan is sounding strident. McConnell is probably stocking up on brass knuckles this very minute.

  • Schtick on October 26, 2011 3:26 PM:

    I don't understand why he isn't a laughing stock now.

    crapcha....inaticul 171-72....file number?

  • exlibra on October 26, 2011 3:32 PM:

    David (babbling) Brooks was spewing similar BS in his yesterday's column:


    Pore, pore Goopers... For almost 3 yrs they've been abusing Obama every which way, and got so used to his always trying to be accommodating and to his yielding when he thought he could, that it came as a nasty surprise when he finally realized that trying to appease the SOBs was a pointless waste of breath.

    They'd be well advised to pay attention to how abusive behavior plays out in domestic situations. The abused person will, for years, try to pacify the abuser. And then, something snaps and you'd better learn how to live without sleep, because you may find yourself in a burning bed on shot in your own bathroom while shaving. To the cheering of every jury in the country except, possibly, other abusers.

  • Mimikatz on October 26, 2011 3:36 PM:

    Many pundits love people who are, or seem to be, contrarians. To them, liberal ideas seem to be the standard, so they think people like Ryan, who take contrary positions, are smart. It's like bear analysts on Wall Street. The prevailing consensus is generally bullish, so bears always sound more rigorous, even if they aren't.

    The truth is that the prevailing elite consensus is very conservative these days, and Ryan just reflects this. He isn't contrarian at all. He reflects the ideas of the ow ers of media companies, for the most part. Let e wealthy make more and keep more. Ryan is young and to some tastes good look g, but he is still really a hack and a shill for the rich. I wonder whe. He expects his payoff will come and what he expects it to be.

  • Scott on October 26, 2011 3:38 PM:

    Ryan also talked about the "makers" and "takers". Regardless of whether his language is the language of class warfare, I wonder which category he, as someone who is feeding at the federal trough, puts himself.

  • June on October 26, 2011 3:45 PM:

    Of course, Ryan will be there in 2013, Hedda - to congratulate Pres. Obama on his second term!

    Now, back to our show -- it is great to see Ryan's bluff dissected not only in the MSM, but also extremely well by Benen. I have to agree that Ryan is one of those guys who gets a ton of mileage out of having big blue eyes, a golly-gee-whiz face, and just enough book learnin' to sound like he knows what he's talking about. I'm so glad to see others becoming aware that NOTHING this guy says stands up to the slightest scrutiny. If you haven't caught Ryan on CSPAN in committee meetings, you really haven't gotten the full effect. If you're so inclined, especially check out the Feb/March 2010 House committee meetings on healthcare reform chaired by Louis Slaughter - that's where I first really became aware of him. His M.O. is to hijack the meeting topic over to his "work" and to just plain wear everyone down with non-stop weasel words.

    The fact that Ryan's got nothing left but to go around just blatantly lying and whining further proves how woefully unqualified he is to sit in Congress. But Republicans love nothing more than to reward spectacular failure, so I have no doubt they will keep foisting the Completely Useless and Annoying Mr. Ryan on us.

  • jjm on October 26, 2011 3:58 PM:

    It does seem odd how hell-bent the GOPers are to defend the wealthy against the 99%. You'd think they'd make a stab at some kind of Huey Long 'populism' to cover up their allegiance to wealth, but they are no longer even trying for that.

    Any idea why? After the fall of communism, capitalism did decide it no longer needed democracy as a fig leaf. But the nakedness of the GOP's backing of greed, tyranny, and sheer money power strikes me as very odd, indeed in a country where our political leaders are still elected.

    The power of capitalism to rule our lives in other than economic ways depends on people IDENTIFYING with wealth and the wealthy: the new American dream, post-Reagan, was that anyone could be a millionaire.

    2008 shattered those illusions. Now the GOP thinks it can simply dispense with even that illusion and appeal only to the wealthy to get them into power.

    I wonder.....

  • jim filyaw on October 26, 2011 3:59 PM:

    scoff all you like, steve, but whatever the republicans are doing, its working for them. thirty years of reaganism have turned the american middle class into a homo sapiens version of the ivory billed woodpecker, and look how we punished them in the mid term elections.

  • Ron Byers on October 26, 2011 4:03 PM:

    A real debate between Paul Ryan and Elizabeth Warren would be worth the price of the ticket.

    My money would be on Warren. She would cut him to pieces before he even knew he was bleeding. She is a real cool operator.

    Let the games begin.

  • j on October 26, 2011 4:08 PM:

    Apparently for the GOP establishment, Mittens is the chosen one, this afternoon top repubs had a reception with the lobbyists of all the large corporations & Romney. For the life of me I can not understand General Motors being there - Mittens wanted them to go bankrupt and Obama saved the industry!!!!!

  • zandru on October 26, 2011 4:19 PM:

    "Takers and Makers"

    Ryan and his ilk truly seem to believe that folks who manufacture things, perform services, plant-tend-and-pick the crops - these are the "takers."

    While the ones who rake off the biggest portion of the profits from the work of others, reap capital gains-dividends-interest on property which may predate them, flatly swindle others out of their wealth - these are the "makers"?!?

    Even Abraham Lincoln, back in 1861, knew that labor precedes capital, and is superior to it.

    I would like to see all good Lefties turn this expression on its head: the "makers" are clearly the "99%" - the folks who do the work. Those fat cats at the top of the tax code - they're the "takers."

    Use the phrase "takers and makers" frequently, and correctly. If the reactionary Republicans can't live by their own words, they can eat them.

    "mewscis 867" - sounds like some kind of bizarre feline clone...

  • TCinLA on October 26, 2011 4:21 PM:

    Hedda? Your name is really Hedda? For sure? Well, that goes a long way to explaining how you became a wingnut moron. A weirdly stupid name (Reince Priebus comes to mine) is always a sign of wingnuttery at its wingnuttiest.

    I guess if you were a boy, your parents could have named you Sue. They must have been really dumb to name you Hedda. But then, wingnuttery is usually genetic. It's found down in the shallow end of the gene pool, in the family trees that look like straight lines.

  • Gregory on October 26, 2011 4:21 PM:

    If merit mattered more in American politics, this speech would mark the turning point at which Ryan transitioned from media darling to laughing stock.

    I disagree. If merit mattered in American politics, his half-assed budget proposal would have marked Ryan's transition from media darling to laughing stock.

  • exlibra on October 26, 2011 5:29 PM:

    Tom Cleaver in Los Angeles, @4:21PM:

    For one thing, in some cultures, "Hedda" is a perfectly good name, ever since Ibsen wrote about her (in 1890. One would have thought that's time enough to have percolated into American lit textbooks).

    For another thing, I wonder how many people will have to say the same thing how many times, before it clicks with people like you: say her *full* name out loud several times to "get" it. And you call *her* a moron???

  • navamske on October 26, 2011 6:00 PM:

    "Rob Zerban for congress."

    Robber baron?

  • Maddy on October 26, 2011 7:24 PM:

    @ jjm - I think it's because there's no longer any need for them to hide it. They think Citizen's United has made them invincible.

  • ameshall on October 26, 2011 7:33 PM:

    So it's Obama who is �preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment?� Now, that's rich coming from the economic darling of a political party that created and perfected the art of exploiting fear and resentment.

    Ryan is a deluded doofus who thinks the sole purpose of government is to act as the federal Chamber of Commerce. According to him, the government does not serve the needs of "non-corporate people;" rather, it exists to ensure higher profits in the private sector. The government's obligation to non-corporate persons is apparently satisfied if it keeps taxes relatively low and gives individual workers the "freedom" to personally negotiate the terms of their employment without all those pesky wage and hour, worker safety, anti-discrimination, and employee benefit laws. And, of course, Ryan believes people must be held personally responsible not only for the consequences of their own poor judgment but also for the devastation caused by random events not of their own making. So, if you're the sad sack who is born with a disabling disease, gets run over by a Wal-Mart truck, or gets diagnosed with cancer, you're out of luck. The insurance company can dump you, and in the end, without any insurance coverage, you ultimately spend whatever small nest egg you've managed to accumulate on health care. And when the money runs out, it's "Ryan time." Your family either has the money for a private burial or they bury you in the backyard. It's a wonderful life.

  • Doug on October 26, 2011 8:50 PM:

    Perhaps he believed the press clippings his staff gathered? Either that or he's just another self-ghetooized, frightened Republican who doesn't understand that the world doesn't, hasn't and will never, revolve around him.
    Personally I blame his mother. What was she doing, letting him read Randian fantasy novels when he should have been studying so he could have amounted to something? Now he's just another Republican flavor-of-the-day who's discovered there's a hole in the bottom of his con*.

    *Freudian slip or typo; you decide.

  • barackem on October 26, 2011 10:20 PM:

    There was no redistibution in the 40s and 50s. the redistribution that started in the 60s has caused the change. We have created a whole dependency class that can't move up or they lose the crumbs that politicians throw in exchange for an easy vote. As the world has become more efficient, we should expect people who have positioned themselves well to take advantage. In America, just by being a couple in an intact relationship with a bachelor's degree puts that couple in the top 85-90 percentile. Our problem isn't too much going to the rich. It is the dumbing down of our once great nation.

  • POed Lib on October 26, 2011 11:43 PM:

    What was redistributed was intelligence. The Conservaturds eliminated all intelligent conservatives. Now all intelligent people are liberals or socialists. Morons like barackem can barely walk they are so stupid. I never thought that I would miss that fucking asshole Buckley, but he was the last conservative who could actually conjugate a verb correctly.

  • Adam Smith on October 27, 2011 9:41 AM:

    While white collar and high-tech industries have been becoming much more productive and creating vastly more economic value over the past three decades, unskilled labor has not.

    Businesses have become able to do much more with each member of the workforce and are rewarding these workers in a manner commensurate with their economic value produced. Pushing a broom still sweeps the floor, just like it has for millenia.

    I agree that conservative policies (including allowing income disparity) have unleashed this tremendous growth in productivity and have led to increased income disparity. They have also lifted the standard of living for all in the US and millions more in the developing world.

    I'm not in the 1%, but don't kill the golden goose, please.

  • John in TX on October 27, 2011 10:04 AM:

    The New Republic: but his doeish eyes and his Midwestern vintage convinced a rapt press corps that he is the ideas man in this age of budgetary woe

    A major, major part of the problem is right there. A functioning press would have collectively realized -- months ago -- Ryan has about as much credibility on the economy as Pee Wee Herman and dismissed him as the charlatan, fraud and two-bit con man that he is. Instead he's considered a Very Serious person. It's totally ridiculous.

  • manapp99 on October 27, 2011 11:11 AM:

    "A major, major part of the problem is right there. A functioning press would have collectively realized -- months ago -- Obama has about as much credibility on the economy as Pee Wee Herman and dismissed him as the charlatan, fraud and two-bit con man that he is. Instead he's considered a Very Serious person. It's totally ridiculous."

    There...fixed that for you. Now go back to 08 and print this and voila..we would not have been saddled with the least experienced and qualified President in history. The media sold us a man with no plan and no political abilities and now we are experiencing buyers remorse. Not like hacks such as Benen will see the error of their ways and try to actually journalistically investigate all the candidates to give us a serious and unbiased look at them. It is just a politcial game to many in the media without looking at what they are doing to our country.

  • The Globalizer on October 27, 2011 12:39 PM:

    I'll just say this -- if you continue to redistribute wealth here, and nations elsewhere continue to incentivize immigration, you'll start to see a shell of a nation. Income inequality will be low, but so will productivity, innovation, and economic leadership.

    I'm getting really tired of the cult of income equality. If you want equal pay, do work of equal relative value. Obtain a meaningful education, do meaningful work, put together a meaningful resume, that is both cutting edge and broad-based. This stuff isn't hard. The problem is that we have too many people with these exaggerated liberal arts educations running around trying to be cultured and worldly without providing value. So, of course there's income inequality - some people are doing valuable work and others are just rattling around on trivialities.

    My parents were from the lower-to-middle class. My parents worked their way into the upper middle class. I have taken the torch and am starting to work my way into the upper class. If you're going to make my life difficult here, I'll start looking for other places to make my money and look out for my own, or do what the other people of means do - hide assets, use tax loopholes, and engage in all sorts of other tactics to circumvent your intent, which is to take from me and give to them, regardless of any sense of justice.

    Tread carefully on class warfare. It may be a romantic populist notion, but having a bunch of Walmart clerks running the country is not good for the country.

  • Greg on October 27, 2011 12:47 PM:

    The Father Coughlin for the wealthy.

  • NewYawker on October 27, 2011 12:57 PM:

    Thank God for the Paul Ryan's of the world. He is absolutely correct in everything he says. The government needs to be held accountable for out of control spending and he is leading the charge.

    The selfishness of the Democratic party that advocates taking other's money, and then borrowing on the backs of our children, and their grandchildren, is disgusting.

  • Thomas Paine on October 27, 2011 1:36 PM:

    Some of these comments are AMAZING ... only more SAD.

    Suzanne -- HOOVER INCREASED SPENDING 50%. Did the public works (Hoover Dam ring a bell?). FDR ran against "runaway spending" then pulled an Obama and kept the country on the ropes with Big Government for a decade.

    Here's a paper you folks might want to read: Econometric evidence of how Big Government kills economic growth.

    This concerns me because I see the motives (apart from the envy) of most people on the Left as noble -- prosperity. But the means of Big Government are proven failures over and over and over and over....

    If you don't hate Angelina Jolie for her looks or Kobe Bryant for his height and talent, why hate successful people...? SOME are crooks. SOME are just lucky. But what about Steve Jobs, Billionaire?

    Every single day we get better, safer, cheaper, nicer products from businesses because THAT'S how free market competition works. It is GOVERNMENT intervention in markets that protects incumbents, raises costs and bails out failures.

    This is easily demonstrable: You have a cable company? You have a government sanctioned monopoly. That's the ONLY reason it's a monopoly.

    I'll demonstrate some more: I challenge ANYONE to provide ONE EXAMPLE ... just one ... of a MONOPOLY NOT CREATED BY GOVERNMENT SANCTION.

    Again, just one will do. Methinks thou readers should rethinks the Statist position. It's not helping people, it's hurting them. And it will hurt American just as it hurt Argentina and countless other examples.

    I say this as an economists and an advocate of Liberty and Prosperity, not a Politico or a Republican (I'm not). The goals we can agree on; what I'm saying is look around the World at the failures and successes, and choose your policies to advocate WISELY.

  • Thomas Paine on October 27, 2011 1:39 PM:

    PS I do "blame Bush" as well. Runaway spending.

    That's a reason DC has well over DOUBLE the per capital GDP of the most prosperous State, with nary a physical export.

    It's the same reason our economy has been experiencing increasingly slow growth over the decades.

    Read that study.

  • Youremakinmecrazy on October 27, 2011 4:59 PM:

    This article is 100% total BS. #1, Paul Ryan is anything but unhinged. He is one of the calmest, clear thinking members of the entire congress.

    #2, our government or tax codes have not become less redistributionist than the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I don't recall hardly anyone who was on food stamps in those decades, compared to the 40 million plus who take them now. Same goes for all the tax payer $ that goes into welfare, extended unemployment benefits, medicaid/care, Social Security, and stacks of sweet deal government pensions and cadilac health care programs.

    The artcle is BS.