Paul Ryan Was Never Trying To Make Things Better For Poor People
First off, now that he’s retired and will presumably be kicking around in Wisconsin not too far from me, I’ve already decided that if I ever meet Paul Ryan, I’m going to intentionally call him “Senator” in the hopes that he’ll have to correct me. I think that would be fun.
Second, outside of any and all Trump complicity, we need to remember that Paul Ryan was never interested in making things better for poor people.
See, there’s been this widely held misconception that Randian Republicans think the best way to help poor people is to get the government out of the way so the market can fix everything. Only “fix everything” doesn’t mean ensuring that everyone has a livable wage, access to affordable healthcare, and decent housing. If the market makes those things happen, fine. But the real goal of the market is to decide who wins and who loses. And to punish those who’ve lost enough that they’ll stop losing, or at least just go away.
I mean, those terrible books that Ryan’s built his entire political philosophy on? They’re explicitly about how people who succeed should form their own utopian society away from those who’ve failed. Outside of the intentional disregard for historical preference shown to one group over all others (hint: it rhymes with pight nen), what is everyone pretending happens to the “takers” who are left behind?
Ryan’s usual answer is that the community should step in to help people. It’s an idea that’s … nice? In that it trusts people will take care of each other while explicitly ignoring the way our country has, by design, ensured specific communities have fewer overall resources with which to take care of themselves. Basically, people are saying, “Hey, we’re poor. Can we enact protections to make sure being poor doesn’t kill us.” And Ryan’s all, “Why don’t you just ask your friends for help?” And people are all, “Because you’ve created a country that systematically disenfranchises people, and has increased the wage gap over generations to the point that Black Americans will statistically have nothing by the middle of the century.” And Ryan’s all, “Lolz. Yeah, we sure fucked you.” So maybe not actually that nice.
And while that’s Ryan’s public answer to what happens to people who lose in a capitalist society, the answer he’d give if he weren’t a morally bankrupt coward is more along the lines of
He doesn’t care. He’s never cared. Capitalism is a zero-sum game, so for it to work, someone has to lose. And if losing means people die, that’s the cost of having a “free and open market.” So while I’m going to celebrate the hell out of him leaving and no one being sad about that, I’m also going to keep in mind that Ryan will go home to his upper-class lifestyle and seventy-nine thousand dollar a year pension. Constantly reminding him that his legacy will be that of a footnote enabler of the worst presidency the country has ever seen seems like the least we can do.
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