the national interest

Paul Ryan Begs Conservatives Not to Thwart His Boyhood Dream of Immiserating the Poor

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Paul Ryan has been obsessed for his entire adult life by the single-minded goal of reducing distribution from the rich to the poor. But Ryan, who worked as a political aide before running for Congress himself, is savvy enough to recognize that social Darwinism is not a promising basis for a national platform. And so, when he burst onto the national scene, he positioned himself as an earnest, thoughtful policy wonk whose primary interest was in saving the country from a fiscal crisis. Subsequently, when the facts began to catch up to him, Ryan made a huge deal about his allegedly deep commitment to poverty, a messaging ploy that worked quite well. But, in an uncharacteristic fit of candor, he burst out today to National Review editor Rich Lowry, in support of his plan to cut spending on Medicaid, that “We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg.”

Medicaid is a lifeline that gives ultra-cheap health insurance to the desperately poor and sick. Ryan’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare would combine a huge tax cut for the rich with $370 billion in cuts to Medicaid. The latter figure might grow in order to placate ultra-right-wing members of the House who object to his plan because it does not eliminate all subsidies for people unable to afford their own insurance. And it was in the context of placating these far-right dissidents that Ryan abandoned his usual public-relations strategy and admitted that slashing the safety net is his lifelong dream.

Meanwhile, Robert Woodson, a poverty activist who, like so many reporters, has been favorably impressed by Ryan’s doe-eyed apparent sincerity, tells McKay Coppins that he believes Ryan’s commitment to helping the poor despite his fervent efforts to pass a law hurting them:

When I spoke to Woodson late last week, he admitted he was concerned that the people he’s spent his life serving could end up losing coverage under the GOP’s plan. But he hastened to add that he’s not a health-care policy wonk—and, for now, he’s choosing to put his faith in Ryan. “I’m worried about it … but it’s not an issue that I know a lot about; I’m not very deep in understanding,” Woodson said. “All I can do is trust in Paul Ryan and what I know to be his central principle, and that is to protect the least of these.”

Give Woodson this much: Admitting “I don’t know much about this issue, but I believe Paul Ryan as a matter of religious faith” is a pretty honest way to justify it.

Paul Ryan: Immiserating the Poor Is My Boyhood Dream