Paul Ryan Still Doesnt Get It

Losing national elections rarely causes conservatives to pause and reflect on their ways. Only once in the past 6 presidential election, going back to 1993, have they won a majority of votes – which only tells them they should be more conservative.

A year after going down on the USS 47%, Paul Ryan still hasnt grasped the not-so-awesome electoral consequences of saying mean things about poor people and minorities. In a recent radio interview, Ryan derided what he perceived as the “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value of work.”

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus did not miss his meaning: “inner city culture” is a euphemism for “black ghettos” – analogous to “states’ rights” as code for “segregation” and “Kenyan” as code for “nigger” – all of which allow racists to signal their true sentiments on an open channel.

Ryan, of course, asserts that his reference to an inner-city culture without a work ethic did not indicate blacks specifically, but, you know, referred to all those other non-working inner-city generations of men too. The problem with Ryan’s defense is that later in that same interview he said, “this tailspin or spiral that we’re looking at in our communities, your buddy Charles Murray [has] written books on this.” What’s Charles Murray’s most famous book? That would be the “The Bell Curve,” which argues that inferior black socio-economic outcomes are caused by inferior black intelligence. Wanna borrow my shovel, Paul?

If Ryan still doesnt seem like a complete piece of garbage, remember: he’s the the guy who went to a private college on social assistance, then made a post-undergrad hobby of demeaning other people who rely on social assistance as “takers.” Every so often he’ll release a so-called “budget plan,” whose primary features are slashing social assistance, cutting taxes on the rich, and refusing to name the tax loopholes he’d close to pay for the tax cuts, leaving us (in the GOP style) with a gargantuan budget deficit.

We’re not done piling on Ryan. He sees social insurance as “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” Hey it could be worse: social assistance could also send shallow, self-righteous hypocrites to college, so they might one day become Congressmen who denigrate anyone else who uses social assistance to improve their lives. As Ryan put it, “We call it a poverty trap. There are incentives not to work, and to stay where you are…. We got to have the courage to face that down…. And if we succeed, we can… get people back to work, and get people back to meeting their potential.”

Ryan thinks the cause of American poverty and unemployment is a cushy American safety net. But the impact of social insurance (unemployment, food stamps, housing, welfare, etc.) on peoples’ willingness to work isnt a purely theoretical matter. Nations around the world offer social insurance of varying degrees of generosity – if Ryan were right, we’d expect to see fewer people in the workforce in countries with generous social insurance. And guess what: we find the opposite. The US, with by far the stingiest social insurance in the developed world, doesnt just have the most poverty, shortest lives, highest infant mortality and declining education levels – the US also has among the lowest labor force participation rates (LFPRs) in its working-age population, and by a wide margin.

Remarkably, while paying lip-service to their crudely conceived notions of free enterprise, conservatives fail to grasp one basic implication of their beliefs: if you make work more valuable, more people will want it. If work, by law, included such benefits as unemployment insurance, disability, sick leave, maternity leave, paid vacation, overtime pay, etc.; then conservatives, by their own dogmas, should predict that more people would want to work and enter the labor force.

This is precisely what we see when we look at patterns of work-force participation in the West. Scandinavia, with the most generous social insurance, and liberal labor laws, has some of the highest working-age LFPRs in the world. Sweden is tops at well over 80%, but many other European nations are at 77% or higher. The US comes in at 73% – and is trending down.

Ryan – who stopped his education after a bachelor’s degree, eager to get out into the world and annoy people with facile rantings – may be a racist, but he is surely a hypocrite, and concerning social policy, an utter ignoramus. In other words, he is the ideal GOP VP candidate – and we should expect to hear plenty more from him in the months and years ahead.


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