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Paul Ryan's Comments Betray The Real Republican Strategy

Christian Patterson |
January 23, 2013 | 7:45 a.m. PST


Sometimes people just need a little help. (Natalie Kolb, Creative Commons)
Sometimes people just need a little help. (Natalie Kolb, Creative Commons)
It took less than 24 hours for House Republicans to end the armistice that was inauguration and declare open season on the President they’ve spent the last four years lambasting.

Paul Ryan blasted the President in a radio interview Tuesday morning, criticizing Obama’s message of economic equality by asserting that we are turning into “a nation of takers” and admitting that he was “aching to hear” the President address our debt problem.

While conservative attacks are as plentiful as "Call Me Maybe" remakes, these particular comments tell us a great deal more about the House GOP strategy than the usual attacks on the President. Their strategy can be summed up pretty easily: doing anything possible to prevent Democrats from helping struggling Americans.

Almost immediately after the votes were counted and Mitt Romney delivered his concession speech, the plight of the millions of Americans struggling to find employment or work their way out of poverty seemed to disappear from the national radar. No one should be all that surprised that it did.

Mitt Romney definitely thought that a near eight percent unemployment rate presented a ripe target on which to hit Obama while on the campaign trail. But his agenda never contained the type of job creating initiatives that would put Americans back to work. Ted Cruz, Todd Akin and their fellow Republican senatorial candidates loved to talk about the plight of families driven into poverty, but what legislation did they actually propose to offer people any kind of relief?

After Republicans lost the Presidency and seats in both houses of Congress, their tactics shifted, but the objective remained the same. This was made plain by the GOP’s first priority during the lame duck session: extend tax cuts for the rich and cut social security and Medicare. Unable to achieve that goal through fiscal cliff negotiations, they burrowed in and decided they’d hold the nation’s credit rating hostage until Democrats agreed to drastic cuts in the social safety net. Realizing that that, too, was a losing strategy, they’ve now settled on waiting until sequester negotiations begin to pick apart the programs that so many families rely on to keep them afloat.

Republicans have obviously taken measures to remove things like getting the unemployment rate under control and fighting poverty from the national agenda. The White House and Congressional Democrats have to first protect the hard won gains of the last century before renewing the fight for new ways to enlarge and protect the middle class.

Even Boehner’s “compromise” to raise the debt ceiling for three months is a thinly veiled attempt to create a constant cyle of fiscal emergencies that prevent the Democrats from making a concerted push for bills that will help everyday Americans. Any negotiations over a comprehensive immigration package that will reuinite families and help hard working immigrants achieve the American dream will be immediately stopped for new “bipartisan” negotiatons to raise the debt ceiling.

These talks will obviously include demands that the President, Reid and Pelosi cut more and more out of essential programs like Medicaid, Social Security, the Supplemenatary Nutritional Assistance Program and other elements of the social safety net.

Whether Republicans win these concessions is of very little consequence. John Boehner wasn’t born last night, and this certainly isn’t his first rodeo. He’s cognizant of the fact that every time Americans see partisan bickering on the Hill, an inability to compromise for the good of the American people, or negative attacks on the other side, Republicans win. That is because even if Republicans are the ones instigating this behavior, they are not the party whose agenda is dependent upon the people’s belief that the government can do good in their lives.

The President took great pains to communicate that fact during his inauguration speech. He knows that federal assistance forms the lifeline that can save a little girl’s life when her parents can no longer shoulder the costs of her bone marrow transplant. He’s seen it form the spark that opens up new wind and solar manufacturers in factory towns that had fallen on difficult times. He has first hand knowledge of it forming the bridge to prosperity for a young man who would not have been able to afford college without federal Pell Grants.

The President stood before the nation and made that case to the American people on Monday. Which is why Paul Ryan wasted no time in reminding everyone of his party’s favorite boogey man. We have a debt problem in this country. No one contests that. But there are also millions of unemployed Americans out there. Americans who desperately need help before we gut the initiatives that keep them afloat.

Paul Ryan’s assertions betray a lack of understanding about the American character. People aren’t dependent on government because they’re lazy. Sometimes people just need a little help. Instead of labeling our fellow citizens as “takers,” we should strive to create an economy that provides the oppurtunies and jobs necessary to help people get back on their feet.

Paul Ryan’s comments show that his party either doesn’t know that, or that it doesn’t care.


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