Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ranting On...the Conundrum of Paul Ryan

I am not generally someone who needs to experience something to see the value of it.  In elementary school, I was fortunate not to have to be on an assisted school lunch program, but it was pretty clear to me that some people's parents couldn't afford to pay for their lunch, so they needed help and that made sense.  The same was true for Meals on Wheels-it wasn't a program my grandparents were on, but I knew other grandparents were, and my family & I would would go after church once a month to deliver these meals around our town to make sure people had them.  The same could be said for living in an apartment-I'm aware (based on conversations with neighbors), that some people in my building are getting cheaper rent or assistance from the government with their rent, and I am fine with this because I am fortunate enough to be able to pay for my rent without assistance.  The same can be said for unemployment, for Medicaid, for WIC-I don't need to have it explained to me that these are good programs because sometimes people need help or don't have the same opportunities as others.

What staggers me, though, is that despite not having experienced most of these government assistance programs (note I said most-I've used some in case that's coming in the comments), I would assume that if I had been the beneficiary of these and been lucky enough to get off of them, I would be more of a cheerleader for the program.  For example, I received Stafford loans and have utilized Planned Parenthood, both at times when I couldn't have solved a problem in my life without some help, and as a result I'm more than supportive of these programs as I know the benefit.

This is why Paul Ryan has always perplexed me.  Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, if you disregard politics for a second, is an accomplished man.  While he hardly has the rags-to-riches story of a Bill Clinton, he's not Donald Trump where he had everything handed to him by a wealthy father, never really having to worry about the struggles that an average citizen had to encounter.  At the age of sixteen, while he was a three-sport athlete and working his way as an employee at McDonald's through high school saving for college, his father passed away, and his grandmother with Alzheimer's moved into his home.  As a result of the death of his father, Paul Ryan received survivor's benefits from social security, enough money so that he could eventually attend Miami University in Ohio, and as a result started a career track that would make him one of the most powerful men in the country.

And yet, somehow Paul Ryan does not seem to believe that this benefit helped him despite it clearly giving him a leg-up (I say this as someone still paying off student loans nearly a decade after I graduated from college), or he doesn't want to help other people in similar situations, because Ryan is perpetually cutting programs to the poor, and seems to loathe public safety net programs such as social security, using a hacksaw on it with regular abandon.  This is something I don't get at all-if empathy doesn't make you realize that you should be helping your fellow man, then shouldn't past experience be doing so?  Paul Ryan, whether he likes it or not, would not be in the place that he is in today were it not for the government helping him out.  If anything, he should point to himself as a success story; here is a man who wouldn't have been able to accomplish the career trajectory he did without the help of the government.  Donald Trump, who has never had to worry about money a day in his life, I might understand not getting the importance of social programs, but Paul Ryan, who has received them, who was able to succeed because of them?  How is this possible?

Part of me, quite frankly, wonders if perhaps it's time to maybe just attribute to Ryan that he's a bad person.  I know that's not really a professional argument, but from an emotional standpoint it's the only explanation I can think of to justify why someone would want to cut programs that help the less fortunate.  I know mixing religion and politics makes people uncomfortable (including me), but it's hard for me to reconcile Paul Ryan's allegedly strong Catholic faith and his insistence on cutting all but defense spending and tax cuts for the rich from the budget.  I don't know what Bible he's reading, but I'm pretty sure Jesus would have cared a whole lot more about whether or not the children, the poor, the elderly, and the sick were taken care of then he would over whether the Estate Tax is repealed.

I can't really think of a better explanation than Ryan has no empathy, no ability to realize that some people occasionally need help (including, it cannot be underlined enough, himself and his family).  Looking at these budget cuts makes me so perplexed, particularly the cuts to poverty programs and to the environment, but the fact that they are favored by a man who wouldn't be where he is without those programs is astonishing to me.  I am hopeful that these budget cuts simply cannot go through, because they are so heinous, but I'll never quite get over the conundrum of Paul Ryan, and how a man can be such a gigantic hypocrite without blinking an eye.  That he is so frequently hailed as the "intellectual giant" of the Republican Party shows why I'll never be able to vote for the GOP.

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