Paul Ryan on Poverty: Friendship is Magic!

Paul RyanApparently the Beatles were right. All you need is love. At least according to Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush. Well, not exactly. It’s the love you can find that only resides within the confines traditional marriage. That and a host other warm feelings that surely drowns out any hunger pains brought about by abject poverty. During a black-tie awards dinner hosted by the right-wing think-tank the Manhattan Institute, the former Republican Vice Presidential candidate and former Governor of Florida had plenty to say on the best way to fight poverty. Let’s let the Huffington Post start off the festivities with Congressman Ryan:

Having toured the country in recent months focusing on the nation’s poor, Ryan declared that “the best way to turn from a vicious cycle of despair and learned hopelessness to a virtuous cycle of hope and flourishing is by embracing the attributes of friendship, accountability and love.”

“That’s how you fight poverty,” Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee, told a crowd of roughly 750 dressed in tuxedos and gowns.

 Or to put it another way…



Never really thought of Congressman Ryan as a Brony. But this might explain why his economic plans are as cartoonish as they are wrong. And then of course we have Governor Bush:

Jeb BushBush, the son of one president and brother of another, called for more welcoming immigration policies, while offering his own poverty prescription: “A loving family taking care of their children in a traditional marriage will create the chance to break out of poverty far better, far better than any of the government programs that we can create.”

I won’t do a point-by-point refutation of their conservative talking points, primarily because they’re mostly nonsensical. I wasn’t aware that poverty only became an issue once people got divorced or had non-traditional marriages. If there’s one thing that economists agree on, it’s that the Great Depression was caused by single/gay parenting and skyrocketing divorce rates. This anti-poverty plan also makes some rather insulting assumptions about poor people in general. A point that Charles M. Blow from the New York Times already did a masterful job pointing out:

Lovely, Mr. Ryan. Really, I’m touched. But as every poor person in America will tell you, you can’t use friendship tokens to pay the electricity bill, and you can’t simply hug the cashier and walk away with groceries.

Furthermore, the statement makes a basic and demeaning assumption about the poor: that they suffer a deficiency of friendship, accountability and loving relationships. That, sir, has not been my experience. Poverty is demonstrative not of a lack of character, but a lack of cash.

Emphasis all mine. But there is a strange mindset at work here. Paul Ryan was actually a product of a single-parent home for a time. His father tragically passed away when he was a teenager. It’s a wonder he didn’t immediately become a heroin addict once removed from the protective aegis of traditional marriage. Then again, maybe he got extra helpings of accountability and love. Or maybe, just maybe he was easily able to survive the rigors of only having one parent because he was born into one of the most prominent families in Wisconsin. Traditional marriage and love is great and all, but according to an LA Times piece back in 2012, here’s some stuff of yours that’s even better:

  1. The $428,000 estate your dad left your family.
  2. Your grandmother setting up Ryan-Hutter Investment Partnership with assets up to $500,000, and
  3. Your $500,000 equity in Ryan Investment Partnership which your aunt set up in 1995.

I guess if one were to ignore the sort of advantages that come from wealth and privilege, we could just chalk up your rise to fame and even more fortune as a by-products of traditional marriage. That is, assuming traditional marriage’s definition is broadened to include marrying someone whom ended up with a trust fund. Which Paul Ryan also did. This of course pales in comparison when compared to (arguably) the richest and most politically connected family in American history: the House of Bush. Jeb’s family tree includes oil tycoons, Wall Street executives, a Supreme Court Justice, Congressmen, and not one, but two former Presidents. I know John Barth once famously said “Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.” But sweet Jesus! It’s one thing to wholly discount your family’s wealth, power and political connections in terms of your own success. But it’s quite another to recast those same successes as a sort of moral superiority. That’s a whole other level. After all, if the Poors would only embrace attributes like friendship accountability and love, and had more traditional marriages, then and only then, might they drag themselves out of destitution.

That’s neither an anti-poverty plan nor a sign of moral superiority. It is, however, Weapons-Grade Stupid.


Categories: Politics Fix

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1 reply

  1. Dusted off my old wordpress account to say this: a strong community does wonders, but party politicians telling people to have a strong community to avoid poverty is like a burglar telling you that if you didn’t want to be robbed then your windows shouldn’t be made out of something they can kick through.

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