He got famous for telling fibs during the campaign. Now he’s dissembling about his attack on society’s “takers”
Last seen blaming “urban” voters (you know who he’s talking about) for his and Mitt Romney’s bitter November defeat, Rep. Paul Ryan returned to the prevaricating ways he made famous throughout the campaign on Tuesday. There were his silly lies about his marathon time, of course, and perhaps more serious, his serial lies in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., last August, on welfare, GM restructuring and the 2009 stimulus bill. It’s hard to know exactly what words to use to describe his campaign appearance “helping” at a soup kitchen that turned out to be a photo op showing him scrubbing already clean pots and pans, but “honest” isn’t one of them.
Now Ryan is trying to squirm out of the lasso in which the president captured him in his inaugural address Monday. “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us,” Obama said with indignation. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
Everyone who followed the 2012 campaign knew Obama was talking about Ryan as surely as if he’d said his name.
But now Ryan is complaining that Obama is being unfair, and that he never included Social Security and Medicare recipients in his attacks on “takers.” On the Laura Ingraham Show, he told a guest host that those programs “are not taker programs.” He accused the president of a “switcheroo” and said he had decided to “shadowbox with a straw man” and misrepresent the GOP position on those programs.
The problem, as Mother Jones points out, is that Ryan is on record in several places saying that the 60 to 70 percent of Americans who receive some sort of government assistance are making us “a society where we have a net majority of takers versus makers.” He says he got those numbers from a Tax Foundation study — which included Medicare and Social Security recipients to get that number.
Ryan is also on record supporting plans to voucherize Medicare and he was a point person for George W. Bush’s failed plan to privatize Social Security. He’s shown his hostility to those programs, and by extension, to those who rely on them, many times over the years.
Likewise, his running mate Mitt Romney’s callous remarks about the “47 percent” also relies on calculations that include Social Security and Medicare recipients.
Ryan didn’t move away from his “taker” analysis entirely. “The concern that people like me have been raising is we do not want a dependency culture.” He also complained that the president didn’t promise to tackle the debt – debt mostly created by programs Ryan voted for, from two wars to new Medicare benefits to TARP, plus the Bush tax cuts.
Now Ryan is angry that the president is telling the truth about the gulf between the two parties. Also from Obama’s inauguration address:
For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.
Oh, and by the way, Ryan voted against Hurricane Sandy relief. Maybe he’ll find some way to whine that Obama’s reference to “a home swept away in a terrible storm” is unfair, too.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." More Joan Walsh.
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