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Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011

Just Another Pretty Face

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One of the most ridiculous developments in politics is the rise of pretty faces spouting right-wing nonsense and getting far more attention than they deserve because they’re—what?—so made-for-TV.

Why do we have seemingly around-the-clock media coverage of a not-very-bright, former part-term governor from Alaska who resigned to pursue a full-time career of being on television?

And why did CNN give prime time to a response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech from one not-very-bright, extremist congresswoman from Minnesota who couldn’t even read a teleprompter and look at the camera at the same time?

Before anyone starts yelling “Sexist!” at anyone daring to question the intellectual heft of the aforementioned, this column actually is about another pretty face—Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

Ryan was the rising Republican star selected to present the real Republican response to the president’s State of the Union.

Ryan, young, good-looking, described as “Kennedyesque” by a fawning local media, is making his move on the national stage. From an aesthetic point of view alone, Ryan is far more presentable than all those sour, old Republican leaders with faces like clenched fists.

But last week, as America looked into Ryan’s big, puppy-dog eyes and heard his earnest-sounding, bit-lip response to the president, you had to hope voters wouldn’t be swooning too much to notice the vicious things he was saying

Ryan is one scary cupcake.

Ryan’s Tired Ideas

Few people make any strong intellectual claims for Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann. But the scary part about Ryan, who just became chair of the House Budget Committee, is he’s held up as some kind of brilliant, intellectual force in the Republican Party.

Anyone who really listened to his response would have noticed Ryan’s alleged economic expertise is steeped in the mean-spirited, hate-the-poor bigotry of an earlier era and the convenient Republican pocket-lining philosophy that government’s primary role is to cut the taxes of millionaires and billionaires.

Most Americans are aware this country’s social safety net has been shredded in recent years by welfare reform (more accurately described as “welfare slashing”) and a near-Depression, resulting in deep cuts to government programs for the least powerful and most vulnerable among us.

But Ryan apparently still lives in that mythical world that never existed where welfare queens drive their Cadillacs to the relief office to load bags of money into their trunks.

Describing steps Obama and the Democrats took to create jobs and support those out of work during the second greatest economic disaster in American history, which resulted from Republican economic policies, Ryan’s bizarre conclusion was:

“This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.”

Hammocks!! Hammocks!? The idea of the poor lolling around in hammocks eating bonbons should be offensive to anyone who knows anything about real poverty, a daily struggle for survival in the most miserable and dangerous living conditions in America.

While President Obama was appropriating Ronald Reagan’s sunny optimism about America’s ability to accomplish big things as (what is still) the strongest economy on Earth, Ryan did his best to scare the bejesus out of the nation with apocalyptic doom and gloom.

"Speaking candidly, as one citizen to another: We still have time... but not much time,” Ryan said ominously.

The political approach of Democrats to try to create jobs and lower health care costs, he said, “threatens not only our livelihoods, but our way of life.”

For someone laying out such a menacing vision of America’s imminent destruction—just “around the corner,” he said—Ryan was extremely vague about solutions. But, man, does he have some.

The sooner every American reads Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future,” the better. Talk about a terrifying scenario. Ryan has put forward a very specific plan to end government support for pretty much everyone in the country except the very wealthy.

Privatizing Social Security so our retirement funds could evaporate like our 401(k)s is just the beginning.

Ryan also would eliminate Medicare and give our oldest and sickest citizens limited vouchers to try to buy (unreformed) health insurance on the private market. Good luck with that.

Those whom Ryan does care about—millionaires and billionaires—would see all the top income tax brackets eliminated and pay exactly the same rate as someone earning just over $50,000 a year.

All corporate taxes would be eliminated and replaced with a consumption tax we consumers would have to pay on every single thing we buy.

Somehow, the government showering billions of dollars on millionaires and billionaires won’t turn them all into lazy bums lolling about in hammocks.

Paul Krugman, the Nobel-Prize-winning economist, calls Ryan a charlatan with a sham plan that makes no useful contribution to America’s future.

Ken is made of the same cheap plastic as the two Barbies. Pretty is as pretty does.

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