Friday, March 14, 2014

150.7 - Clown Award: Rep. Paul Ryan

Clown Award: Rep. Paul Ryan

Now for one of our regular features, the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

Well, he's been the clown before, I'm sure he will be again, but this week the big red nose goes to the man who in the right wing passes for an intellectual: Rep. Paul Ryan.

CPAC, as you may know, is the Conservative Political Action Committee and it recently concluded its yearly confab, which is a must-go for anyone who hopes to win the favors of the fanatical right-wing yahoos who populate the most activist part - and therefore a politically-potent part - of the Republican Party. So basically it was a week of seeing who could toss the most and reddest meat to the mouth-breathers in the audience before at the end of it all Rand Paul of course won the presidential straw poll, just like his father, Ron Paul, always did in years past.

The thing is, however, the GOPpers, or at least the nominal leaders of the party, have finally realized they have an image problem. So they've started to talk about, for example, "reaching out to minorities." They do seem to have a problem getting the hang of it: The picture on the right is of the attendance at the panel on minority outreach.

But they keep on plugging away at it at this image campaign. On another front, they've heard of this "income inequality" business. They don't quite know what to make of it; they think it's just more whining from those lazy takers, but some of them figure they need to have something to say.

This is where Rep. Paul Rantin' comes in, who at least realizes that GOPpers have to at least look like they care about the poor. So in his speech at CPAC he went on about how completely Republicans understand the American people, while "the left" is offering people "a full stomach and an empty soul."

A stomach full of a school lunch, it turns out. Rantin' told a story he said came from a member of the cabinet of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walkalloveryou. It was about
a young boy from a very poor family, and every day at school he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. Because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him.
"This," Rantin' finished with a dramatic rhetorical flourish, "is what the left does not understand."

Now remember, this kid gets the free lunch because his parents don't have enough money to provide him sufficient and adequate nutrition. But according to Paul Rantin', that inability to provide a brown-bag lunch every day actually somehow proves that those parents do not love their child as much as those parents who are richer love their children - so that boy should go hungry every day because that somehow will fill his soul.

Because as we all know, the very bestest thing we can do for poor people is make them poorer.

Oh, but Paulie-boy doesn't stop there. No, because remember he has to show that right-wingers really really do care about doing something about poverty. They don't want children to go hungry, oh no no no. Because they are the ones who really care.

So he had this study done, a study of the past 50 years of anti-poverty programs. Lo and behold and hey waddaya know, the "study," a 200-page document released about two weeks ago, concluded that anti-poverty programs are counterproductive and ineffective, that they've created "the poverty trap," where, to refer to something Rantin' has said elsewhere, the safety net has turned into "a hammock, that lulls people into lives of complacency" rather than what they should have, which is lives of hard work and self-reliance and the soul-filling experience of an empty belly.

Except - don't be too shocked - the report uses misleading figures, distortions of data, and often ignores its own data.

Here's a big one: The report cites the poverty rate just before the Great Society programs of the early to mid-60s began and compares it to the official poverty rate now. It notes that the current rate is only about one and a-half or two percentage points below the other and claims that shows that poverty programs don't work.

But that is a false comparison. We now have programs that didn't exist then. To get a fair comparison, we have to say what the poverty rate in the US would be today if those programs did not exist, just as they didn't exist at that earlier time.

The answer is that the poverty rate would be almost double: 29% v. 16%, even higher than before the "War on Poverty" began and comparable to the worst part of the Great Depression. Put another way, the various anti-poverty programs have reduced, are reducing, poverty by 13 percentage points. With a current estimated population of something over 320 million, that means that there are nearly 42 million people in this country who do not live in poverty as the result of public programs.

What's more, the report's own conclusions regarding the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs ignore its own findings that numerous programs help the poor get through their lives or even keep them out of poverty. For one example, it notes that the Child Tax Credit keeps about 2.9 million people from falling into poverty, including about 1.5 million children.

I don't know what he hoped to achieve with this report, but there is one thing he surely didn't achieve: He didn't stop people from saying "Paul Ryan, you are a clown."



Avedon said...

The story itself was misleading. The kid was responding to a private would-be benefactor's offer to pay for his school lunch instead of it being paid for by the government. But to the kid, there was no difference - it's not like the guy was offering to make him a lunch.

Larry E said...

True, and perhaps I should have included that.

But even if the story was true as told, my point, as I expect you knew all along, was what Ryan took away from the story was that because the boy got a sponsored lunch, his parents in some way loved him less than richer parents love their children and that it would be better for him to go hungry than to have a government-paid lunch because that - somehow - would "fill his soul," that being - somehow - better than filling his stomach.

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