Paul Ryan has spent more than a year furiously distancing himself from the wreckage of the 2012 Republican campaign. Even in the closing weeks before the election, Ryan gave a high-profile speech about poverty that amounted to a personal escape pod from Mitt Romney’s disastrous caught-on-tape denunciation of the moocher class. Since then, Ryan’s team has openly discussed the need to rebrand him and the particular danger, in the wake of the 47 percent tape, of his association with Ayn Rand-ism.
Today, we see the next step in Ryan’s rebranding, in the form of a largely credulous Washington Post story outlining his plans to launch himself into anti-poverty policy.
The article asserts, “Unlike Romney, Ryan is no child of privilege.” And Ryan certainly did not come from Romney-esque riches; he was born into “one of the most prominent families in Janesville,” and received a share of two family trust funds. Ryan Lizza reported in a profile of Ryan last year:
Three families, the Ryans, the Fitzgeralds, and the Cullens, sometimes called the Irish Mafia, helped develop the town, especially in the postwar era. The Ryans were major road builders, and today Ryan, Inc., started in 1884 by Paul’s great-grandfather, is a national construction firm.
Ryan does carefully tend his working class bona fides – when his visit to a Belgian brewery was discovered, he let it be known he prefers Miller Lite and found the foreign beers on tap unfamiliar.
The substance of Ryan’s anti-poverty agenda remains yet to be announced, but the general spirit of the endeavor can already be discerned from Ryan’s previous remarks, and those of the allies helping him formulate it. Ryan believes that the main impediment facing poor people is the existence of government programs that give them money and health care – a problem his budget rectifies by cutting subsidies to the poor. Those subsidies, Ryan has said, amount to a “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”
Ryan’s new line seems similar to the old one:
“Paul wants people to dream again,” Holloway said of Ryan. “You don’t dream when you’ve got food stamps.”
In fact, lots of people who survived on food stamps — like J.K. Rowling — went on to achieve great things.
The other emerging element of Ryan’s anti-poverty agenda is Jesus:
“You cure poverty eye to eye, soul to soul,” he said last week at the Heritage forum. “Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people.”
Basically, Ryan loves the poor the way fundamentalist Christians love gays.