Wisconsin State Journal giddy for Paul Ryan as Speaker

paul Ryan 1Days ago we predicted the Wisconsin State Journal would print a rapturous editorial supporting Paul Ryan for Speaker of the House. Sure enough, they delivered a fawning tribute that Ryan’s own staff could’ve written. According to the State Journal, not just the Republican House but the entire country needs Paul Ryan in the Speaker’s chair.

The editorial calls him a policy wonk (Ryan’s favorite claim). They say he’s fearless, he’s a leader of substance, he’s got intellectual heft, he’s a grown-up, he’s pragmatic, he’s a statesman. Jiminy-pop, the State Journal is head over heels.

Amusingly, just before climaxing, the editorial’s author (Milfred we assume) gets so worked up that he can no longer write, edit, or use a spell checker, offering this:

The Republicans badly need a statesmen [sic] in charge of the House with intellectual heft and political savvy.

(It’s a one sentence with both a typo and a misplaced preposition. But let’s put that aside. Shouldn’ta mentioned it. Mistakes are part of life. Later, we’ll throw in a few typos of our own, just in solidaridy, because we is all humen.)

The real problem here is the over-the-top adoration thrown at Congressman Ryan. “Intellectual heft”?  “Statesman”? We don’t see it.

The truth is there’s almost nothing — at the policy level — to distinguish Ryan from any of his Republican colleagues. He’s a reliable booster of more and more tax cuts for the rich. This is simply a Republican orthodoxy. It has shown itself again and again (see below) to work nicely for the rich and work badly for everyone else.

Currently all the GOP candidates for president want tax cuts for the rich.  The [conservative] Tax Foundation estimates a Rubio plan would cut 27.9 percent for the top 1 percent. The Jeb Bush plan would raise after-tax income of top earners by 16.4 percent.  Trump would raise income of the top 1 percent by 27 percent.

This is just standard modern Republican theology. It’s not “wonkery.” And it’s not “fearless.” Enabling a tiny minority of king-makers to buy our elections — for what seems a tiny outlay to them — is a lousy idea for America. Lousy.

Income - divergence at the top

And indeed, in a nice bit of reporting at the New York Times, we saw the headline last week

Just 158 families have
provided nearly half of the
early money for efforts to
capture the White House

(i.e., 138 families backing Republicans, 20 families backing Democrats)

***

Of course there’s more to Congressman Paul Ryan than his tax cuts for the rich.

He “doesn’t know” if humans are causing climate change , and he opposes any steps to combat it. Such fearlessness! Such intellectual heft! The State Journal has really taken the measure of the man.

His religious views on abortion are translated into votes on policy, as are his prejudices (religious or otherwise) against gays.

And as we noted earlier:

Surely the State Journal guys know about the now famous meeting on the night of Obama’s first inauguration. Republican leaders met at a tony D.C. steakhouse where they agreed in advance, simply as a self-serving partisan strategy, to oppose whatever Obama would seek to do. In their plan Obama would have no accomplishments to run on for a 2nd term. And whatever that meant for the American people was irrelevant. Surely the State Journal guys watched this strategy — a pure partisan strategy — play out over the next 7 years. And surely they knew that Paul Ryan was one of the small group settling on that strategy that night.

Yes, in 2013 he did cut a budget deal with Democrats. So America continued to have a federal government, and the world had its benchmark currency. This doesn’t make him a great pragmatist with “intellectual heft”.  It’s what any sane American wanted, and perhaps more to the point, it’s what bond-holders wanted.

The State Journal can urge Ryan to run for the Speaker’s job. They can fairly say that since he is respected among Republicans, he might be able to reign in loose-cannon colleagues in the House who are threatening anarchy in our federal government and in world financial markets. Of course, that might be bad for Mr. Ryan’s prospects in the future. The State Journal recognizes the potential danger to Ryan’s reputation if he were suddenly more in the public eye. But what the State Journal should not have done is ladle on the thick, worshipful praise. It’s just silly. It tells more about the State Journal than it tells about the congressman.

 

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