Finally, Jonathan Chait is back from vacation. This is a big deal because there really is no one who knows Paul Ryan as well as he does. He’s been calling him on his tricks for years, so I was really interested in what he had to say.
But given that he wasn’t around, Annie Lowrey filled in and wrote a very good article, Paul Ryan’s Poverty Plan: The Good, the Bad, and the Paternalistic. Most of the article is about how Ryan wants to put all the poverty plans together and give poor people what amounts to a parole officer. Paternalistic indeed!
As she noted:
That’s right: the more money the government gives you, the less it looks like welfare. If they give you twenty bucks per week for food, they want to rub it in your face; if they give you $200 billion to bail out your bank, they want to make it out so you can claim you were doing the government a favor.
She also addressed the deal-breaker in Ryan’s new “poverty plan”: the block grants. Of course, the thing is that the combining of all the programs and the block granting are the same thing. It would be hard to block grant food stamps, but if he can get it to be part of an omnibus, then it gets block granted by default. She mentioned that this tends to have the effect of slowly killing the program. That’s true. But there is another aspect. That is that red states will find ways to take money away from the poor. After all, just look at the Medicaid expansion. That is free money to the states that Republican governments are passing up. They don’t care about the poor when it comes to Medicaid; they won’t care about the poor when it comes to Paul Ryan’s big ombibus block grants.
Jonathan Chait was back today with, Is Paul Ryan Still Paul Ryan? I get the impression that Chait hasn’t fully absorbed Ryan’s new gambit. And I understand: people like Chait have to maintain an open enough mind to at least consider that Paul Ryan may have changed. But come on! The parts of his plan that involve money are the same old things: block granting. He wanted to do it with Medicaid before, and for the same reason. His idea was that they would give the states their current amount of money and then increase them with inflation. But he knew full well that healthcare inflation was higher than regular inflation. So I think we can all admit that Ryan is doing the same thing that he was doing before; he’s just doing it with more subtlety.
And Chait did call him on this. He mentioned that David Gregory asked Ryan why anyone should assume that these red states that are refusing free Medicaid money would be willing to look out for the best interests of their poorer citizens. And Ryan came back with a bunch of talking point logorrhea that would make Sarah Palin proud. It included his old hammock quote, but he’s rephrased it so he doesn’t look like such a jerk, “If you want to have a healthy economy and have real solutions, you have to have a healthy safety net. And a safety net needs to work to get people out of poverty.” Chait summed it up well, “This string of unrelated talking points that provides zero engagement with the question offers little reason to believe Ryan has grappled with the gaping flaw in his proposal.”
My question continues to be why anyone takes this man seriously. He has no ideas. He plays at being an intellectual. If he were in the Democratic Party, no one would pay attention to him, because there are smart, knowledgeable, and well-spoken people in the Democratic Party. So basically, Paul Ryan being on television at all is yet another example of false equivalence. The truth is that no network should have any Republican on until they actually come up with some ideas that are worth discussing. But unfortunately, we are left with a system where everyone has to pretend that Paul Ryan in the Republican version of Elizabeth Warren. Let’s see now: Warren has a JD from Rutgers and Ryan has read Atlas Shrugged. Yep, I guess they are about the same!
Actually, there is something else that separates Ryan and Warren. Warren is honest about what she’s trying to do. Ryan is a total fraud who won’t admit what he’s really trying to do. The only way that Ryan’s “plan” leads to fewer poor people is if he managed to kill more of them.