Monday, July 28, 2014

Paul Ryan Does Christmas in July

It's as regular as melting Salvador Dali clockwork: Paul Ryan speaks, and the media-political complex (aka the Permanent American Ruling Class) melts. It's the persistence of false memory and denial of reality.

The important people listen, and they are filled with gratitude and awe. Paul Ryan has taken a bold new leap, going where no Republican has gone before! He has devised a brand new Poverty Plan, a starting point from which both political parties can slice and dice the safety net, and then have the nerve to call it a darned good plan for the indigent.

"Democrats should welcome Paul Ryan's poverty plan!" gushes centrist wonk Ezra Klein

The Obama-affiliated Center for American Progress calls Ryan's nouveau-humane approach to sentencing reform "progressive" because he wants to help low-level criminals get back on their feet. Oh the humanity.

"Three Ideas from Ryan's Poverty Plan That Even Liberals Can Love," blares a headline in the Washington Post. (Here's a teaser: Ryan's earned income tax credit for childless workers is nearly identical to Obama's. Then again, so is that banal "opportunity ladders" rhetoric.)

Getting the drift? This is how the brutality agenda gets set in an election year, and how newly-returned Dems and Republicans can get together this fall with their pruning shears for a backroom rip-fest and call it a sewing bee.

Once you get past the feel-good bipartisan hype, the truth is that this year's Ryan excrescence is only a slight variation on his usual Social Darwinist theme. Since wealth inequality is In, and deficit hawkery is Out as a subject of polite conversation, the GOP has to be especially careful in this year's framing of its inbred sadism. So, taking a cue from Obama's own Newspeak, "cuts" have been euphemistically replaced by "reform."

Rather than peddle his standard starve the beast slash-o-rama, the GOP chairman of the House Budget Committee has pivoted to the concern-trolling of the down and out. He's dispensed with actual budgets and numbers this time, simply because his past mathematical gyrations were so easily debunkable.

What economist, after all, can presume to read the inner workings of Paul Ryan's emotional mind?

So, like his literary heroine, the cult priestess of selfishness Ayn Rand, Ryan is playing it safe and sticking to pure pulp fiction.

(graphic by Kat Garcia)

 Romantic that he is, he's even invented a hero and a heroine of his very own to illustrate how his bait and switch "Opportunity Grants" (OGs) would work. Ryan's plot has poor people embarking on a one-stop shopping spree which ends at the exclusive Personal Responsibility Boutique.  A "counselor" (who sounds suspiciously like a used car salesman) will shove a contract in front of you. Failure to sign on the dotted line and then to strictly abide by its onerous terms and conditions will result in a midnight visit from the repo man.

 You will be given X amount of time to get your ass in gear and have your dreams come true, or you'll be dead meat. Failure to use your bootstraps to get a job by an artificial deadline will result in a boot getting locked onto your benefits.

 But! If you get off your butt quicker than expected, if you spring from your hammock of dependency like a Pavlovian dog on a trampoline, Ryan promises you a reward.... a savings bond! (or more likely, a Walmart gift card. Because Walmart must always continue to get government welfare. Always. )

Also, the more clients that communities can kick off welfare, the more federal money they'd receive as their own reward. Just like car salespeople, the "counselors" will be compensated on the basis of how thoroughly they can screw the customers.

The fictional poor people that Ryan invents (see pages 20-23 of the report) are a deserving single mother named Andrea, and an undeserving male slacker he calls Steve.

Andrea, through no fault of her own, has been abandoned by her louse of a husband. Since she bore him two kids within the sanctified bonds of matrimony, she is not a slut. She is, therefore, a "deserving" poor person.  Her only fault is the mythical "skills gap" that centrist pundits have dreamed up to absolve greedy plutocrats and pandering politicians of their own responsibility for record income disparity and the unemployment crisis. So Ryan's solution is for Andrea to use her parents as free babysitters while she goes after hubby for back child support, works part-time, gets her teaching degree, and climbs up the magical opportunity ladder.

How similar Ryan's OG proposals are to to the Mitt Romney's Guide to Paying for College. To wit: hit up Mom and Dad!

 Ryan conveniently ignores the fact that fewer and fewer working mothers have access to free child care courtesy of their stay-at-home unemployed relatives. Grandma and Grandpa are putting off their own retirements in record numbers, working longer hours for less money. Increasingly, working mothers are sandwiched between taking care of children and taking care of ailing impoverished parents. And historically, ex-husbands do not pay regular or adequate child support.

 Paul Ryan seems to be living in 1960s sitcom land. Here are some facts:

The percentage of child care provided by day care centers had increased from 6 percent in 1965 to 28 percent in 1990, partly because the influx of women into the workforce had narrowed the pool of female relatives and friends available to take care of other people's children. Between 1985 and 2005, employment by day care centers increased over 250 percent, representing a gain of almost 400,000 new jobs. Workplace child care facilities did not grow at the same rate: a 1995 survey found that only 10 percent of the nation's 681 major employers offered on-site care programs to their employees.
So much for Ryan's Cinderella fantasy world, in which on-site day care doesn't exist, even for Andrea's born-in-wedlock children. 

Now for the "undeserving poor" section in his poverty manifesto. He and his cohort have gotten into hot water recently for racial dog-whistling, so he avoids such words as "urban" and "culture" when talking about Slacker Steve. Needless to say, he still manages to dog-whistle, if not to bull-horn. This make-believe guy comes from a "generational poverty" family of single, unwed (read: Black) welfare queens. Steve fathered a child out of wedlock himself, and neither visits nor supports his baby mama and his kid. He hangs out on his couch of dependency and does a lot of drugs. He's a high school dropout. He's every racist Republican's nightmare. They probably don't want him anywhere near the virtuous Andrea.

But Ryan isn't satisfied with just bashing indigent minorities for their "laziness". Since Mr. Gen-Poor is a drug addict, Ryan cynically surmises there is at least one career goal that fires him up. And that's the medical field! So he has Steve trade in his food stamps for a full-time job as a cashier to earn money while striving for his GED in order to attend Dental Assisting school while he's kicking drugs through ineffectual talk therapy and responsible parenting classes.

Now we've definitely gone from Disney to Dali. Ryan cannot be serious.There are no full-time cashier jobs for high school dropouts. There are hardly any full-time cashier jobs for college graduates! Even Ryan, given his own budgetary math disability, would probably flunk the Walmart aptitude test section that measures making correct change at the register.

 And a job in a dental office? Addiction is a lifelong chronic disease requiring intensive rehabilitation and support to keep it under control. Relapses are the rule. No medical professional with half a brain would dream of letting even a recovering addict anywhere near medication and prescription pads.

Ryan cannot be serious. But he can be very, very cruel. He has just effectively set Make-Believe Steve up by surrounding him with drugs in his work environment, thus condemning him to joblessness, and probably prison, followed by dumping back on the street for "humanitarian reasons", followed swiftly by a premature death.

But isn't that the whole point? The real star of the Poverty Plan is the Social Darwinism wolf in sheep's clothing.

The OGs (Opportunity Grants) from hell's marketplace should actually be called UGs.... or OMGs. As in, oh my god. 

This is Paul Ryan's Christmas in July greeting card to America.

"Get Well Soon" (photo by T. Garcia)


James F Traynor said...

This is an interesting take on our general economic condition which remains piss poor for the majority. Intuitively it makes sense to me from what I've seen taking place on the investment scene.

Pearl said...

Dear Friends: I recently sent in a strong comment to the article by Grossman, An Israel Without Illusions. This morning I checked to see where my comment was and was astonished to find it the second highest one with a NYTimes pic. I had wondered if anything I might say about this issue would ever hit a nerve! Well, miracles can happen and it is encouraging to find such a reaction to an honest article for a change. I hope it encourages all of us to continue with our work with more energy to fight the dragons.

Mr. Grossman:

I respect your desire to end the destructive conflicts between Israel and
the Palestinians. However, you do not address the basic realities which have
put everyone in a bind. My family travelled to Israel in l959 when my
husband was offered a 4 year contract at the Technion. We believed we were
going to a country that was open and welcoming and supporting many Jews
whose lives had been damaged during WW 2. It was then 13 years old and as
we settled in, began to learn many things that had never appeared in the
Jewish press or had heard about from knowledgeable people. It was a shocking
experience to find extreme political conflicts among the population, strong
disagreements in the Knesset, ,major attention to arming and strengthening
the military, an open secret about many nuclear missiles being built in the
desert and furious attacks by Prime Minister Ben Gurion against citizens
wanting to institute communication with Arabs living in squalor in refugee
camps surrounding the country. The conservative religious party had a strong
influence in the Knesset and colleagues and friends voiced their concerns
to us about the future. Plans for expansion and bringing in large groups of
settlers was also on the agenda.
In order to survive now, Israel must form a different coalition of
leadership to change the purpose and ways of dealing with the oppressed
Palestinians as well as a totally new and different direction for the
I hope it is not too late.

Pearl said...

P.S. I am deeply honored and moved to now be the top commentor of 248 recommendations in the Readers Pics column out of 550 comments in total to this unusual article. Mr. Grossman must be an Israeli as his article was translated from Hebrew. I hope he is an inspiration to all the Israelis living in fear in their country, knowing the destructive path they have taken.

Pearl said...

P.P.S. I have just learned that Mr. Grossman is a highly regarded published author in Israel and that he lost his son in battle.

Miss Manners said...

When a person starts a posting on a message board, or forum, or Facebook, that others are able to comment on, that original posting and the comments on it are called a thread. A thread hijacking occurs when one or more individuals commenting on the original posting, go off topic, creating a separate conversation. This is rude, and bad internet etiquette. If people want to discuss a different topic, they should start their own thread.
Below is a thread, consisting of an original posting and comments on that original posting. They illustrate a thread hijacking.

original posting: I'm so excited that my cat has learned to use the toilet with City Kitty! The training seemed like it took forever, but it's so worth it to not have to deal with a litter box any more! Has anyone else done this?

comment 1: Ugh! I just started training my cat, but he can't seem to move beyond the orange stage. How'd you get through that?

comment 2: I'm training my dog at PetCo classes. She's very smart. She learns the commands faster than the other dogs.

comment 3: I'm training my dog in PetCo classes too. They have great trainers. They're patient with the dogs and the people.

Comments 2 and 3 are off topic and are hijacking this thread. The person who made comment 2 should have started their own thread. The person who made comment 3 is guilty of continuing the hijacking.

Pearl said...

Miss Manners (interesting name): We go off topic when a current crisis is of major interest and is timely to report. If I recall, Karen once addressed this problem saying that she welcomes all comments as long as they are not abusive or personally insulting even if off topic. Obviously she is more open minded than you are and not nearly as rude Miss Manners.
I have no objections to reading anyone's comments even if along another line which often starts a different direction from her original column and often inspired by it.
I also welcome a website which allows a wide freedom of expression.
Bad internet etiquette is secondary to freedom of expression which I find refreshing. One learns a great deal from side comments of merit if they are not handicapped by Emily Post's rules of behavior.
I wanted our website readers to know about a current article in the NYTimes that is important and may have been missed.

Jacki said...

bipartisanship between Ryan and dem Patty Murray is the cause that there was no extension of long term unemployment benefits this year. The pundits were more excited about the deal to break the phony gridlock than they were about how badly the deal hurts poor people. Now we can look forward to more of the same. Because they're all the same.

annenigma said...

Yay Pearl!

Miss Manners obviously hasn't been following this blog for long or she'd know better than to scold us for not following her rules. We've seen the Mother Superior type here before, so she's not fooling anyone by pretending to be helpful with etiquette as if we were her schoolchildren.

It is a fact that Karen has encouraged us to save our NYT comments and post them here if we wish, any time we want. So please carry on, Pearl!

Denis Neville said...

Ryan unveiled anti-poverty plan at the American Enterprise Institute.

Bill Moyers’ guest last week was Arthur C. Brooks, president of the AEI.

What a pair Ryan and Brooks make. Brooks hangs out with the Dali Lama, a holy man who by profession suffers fools gladly, and Ryan invokes Jesus, ““You cure poverty eye to eye, soul to soul. Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people.” Both are frauds and morally bankrupt. What is appalling is that a lot of people actually believe their nonsense.

Ryan calls for “customized life plans” to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty as a condition for receiving federal assistance in the form of cash (his plan would consolidate the funding from food stamps, welfare, and housing-assistance programs).

Ryan outlines the minimum requirements: a contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success; a timeline for meeting these benchmarks; sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract; incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract; and time limits for remaining on cash assistance. The consequences for missing the benchmarks would be “most likely immediate sanctions and a reduction in benefits,” Ryan writes.

Drug testing, work requirements, and now “customized life plans” to further mark and punish the poors. Ryan’s plan is a model in which the poor are shamed and demeaned. Are the recipients of corporate welfare required to submit action plans?

Pearl said...

Thanks Annenigma: I also meant to add that Karen also welcomes all comments even if they have disagreements with others as long as not abusive or personally insulting. I am glad you have verified this and some of our most interesting and lively discussions have often involved disagreements and/or off topic submissions.

James F Traynor said...

As one who has, on occasion, pissed on the thread I must agree, to some extent, with Miss Manners, but we are definitely an odd lot here whose limits extend from myself to, for instance, Zee. And we are all tolerated by Karen. It's what makes this blog interesting. And Pearl is one of our favorites. But, what the hell, come again. I'm sure Karen won't mind.

Denis Neville said...

Hijacking a thread (aka pissing on a thread) LOL!!!

To forestall any further thread drift, I submit the following:

Paul Ryan’s uses the Doublespeak phrase “Opportunity Grant” in his new antipoverty plan.

In reality it is a block grant that would consolidate 11 disparate low-income programs into a single block grant to states.

Ryan’s poodles, caring as they do about poor people, are gushing about the boldness of “Opportunity Grants” - an innovative way to reorganize safety net policy; a game-changer for upward mobility!

Under block grants, state governments would have more flexibility in how to use those funds, making it easier to target block grants rather than other benefit programs for long-term freezes or cuts. Block grants could force bad choices and cause substantial conflict as groups with diverse needs compete for scarce dollars.

Thus, Ryan’s “Opportunity Grant,” being another poverty scam, would likely increase poverty and hardship.

Upward mobility? So much for his roadmap out of poverty! Some opportunity!!!

Paul Ryan is truly a flimflam man.

Why do so many hate the poor and resent the idea of helping them?

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.” - Stephen Colbert

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

As Annenigma pointed out, Miss Manners is clearly new to the blog or she would have read how supportive Pearl is of all that Karen writes. Personally, I was delighted to read Pearl's post and went straight over to the Times to read the article to which she responded. I learn so much from those who regularly comment and what is going on between Israel and Palestine is of particular importance at the moment.

Karen, Denis and Jacki . . . thanks for such enlightening information.

Karen Garcia said...

Clarification of commenting policy:

As I have written many times before, I welcome guest posts from readers on topics of interest to you. (politics, culture.) A regular post will get you a wider audience. You may submit your posts either as a regular email to me, or as a Word document attached to an email. Please provide hyperlinks or source materials when quoting the work of others.

My email address:

Re your NY Times comments: in the future, please publish as comments where they'd best directly (or even obliquely) relate to the subject matter. If the Times censors or buries a comment that doesn't even remotely relate to the subject I have just spent my time writing about, please forward to me in an email for use as a possible guest post. Since the NYT is so stingy with its character count, it would help if you were able to expand your thoughts for this venue, where there is of course no word limit.

When I said awhile ago that I am not authoritarian or control-freaky when it comes to staying on topic in comments, I probably should have said I don't mind it when the comments begin to VEER off my own topic in the course of a spirited conversation. I did not mean to invite a free-for-all, which might confuse would-be participants. So I apologize for my lack of clarity in that regard.

(I used to post "Open Threads" but discontinued them due to lack of response.)

Also... please refrain from posting stand-alone links as comments with no explanation of what's in them.

Thanks for your cooperation!

Karen Garcia said...


Another reason for the need to re-clarify the commenting policy is that my piece on underwater torture of marine life has gone "viral" -- e.g, it's been picked up by some major sites, and I have thus experienced a huge uptick in new readership. With that, unfortunately, come the trolls and other usual Internet suspects. For example, I just removed a comment from a guy advertising his spell-casting business.

So, to spread the message that "anything goes" on this blog is not the message I want to send! I especially don't want to have to re-institute approval before posting comments.