People on the right get very upset when we accuse them of thinly-veiled racism in all this moochers and takers talk. They claim we should actually take people like Ryan at face value. Listen to what they say.
So here is Paul Ryan in New Hampshire:
“You see, by going after the root causes of poverty and trying to break the cycle of poverty, you need economic growth, you need job creation, you need higher take-home pay,” Ryan said.
With the nation’s $16 trillion-plus debt being calculated on a large sign next to him, Paul, a seven-term congressman who serves as House Budget Committee chairman, slammed the Democratic administration for creating what he described a “government-centered society with a government-driven economy.”
“This is what Mitt and I are talking about when we are worried about more and more people becoming net dependent on the government than upon themselves. Because by promoting more dependency, by not having jobs and economic growth, people miss their potential,” Paul said in Dover.
“We should not be measuring the progress of our social programs – programs like food stamps – based upon how many people receive them. We should be measuring the progress of our social programs by how many people we transition off of them into lives of self-sufficiency and jobs and upward mobility.”
Okay, but how do you do that? Ryan’s perspective seems to be that if you slash the safety net, good things will happen. In Ryan’s world, people are choosing to be poor, to live on foodstamps, and so on. And the government is enabling that choice. Not just enabling actually, but the government is somehow actively encouraging this sort of dependency. But again, how?
And how precisely does cutting the safety net result in “economic growth…job creation… higher take-home pay”?
What we need is the “next ten words” in Ryan’s recommendations. What we need is some nuance. Some understanding of the causes of poverty and the complexity and difficulty of promoting economic growth. Until then, it really doesn’t matter if his rhetoric is a dog whistle for racists or just an example of a muddled mind. In either case, it means he doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.