Bill Knight column for Mon, Tues., or Wed., Nov. 9, 10 or 11
Now Speaker of the House, the Wisconsin Congressman currently seems to speak sanely, act polite, and exude an image of an earnest wonk, a mainstream, centrist Republican.
In fact, this comment comes from a solid newsman talking about a slick new anchorman in James L. Brooks’ 1987 movie “Broadcast News,” but it could be about the new Speaker.
“Please don't take it wrong when I tell you that I believe that [Ryan], while a very nice guy, is the Devil…
“What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around?” the reporter continues. “Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No … he will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing ... he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important.”
Throughout his career, Ryan has focused on cutting government, mostly by means of slashing help to poor people like food stamps, utility assistance, housing and jobless benefits, but also education, public transportation, health care and more. Even his comment expressing reluctance to accept the Speaker post – “I cannot and will not give up my family time” – was ironic since he opposes such opportunities for everyday Americans.
Ryan’s 2011 “Path to Prosperity” budget and his 2014 “War on Poverty: 50 Years Later” report both were partisan rationales for dismantling anti-poverty programs. The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ response, “Ryan Report Distorts Safety Net’s Picture,” said Ryan’s 205-page report from last year was “misleading … and omits key research.”
The 45-year-old Catholic and Ayn Rand acolyte was blasted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for budget proposals that avoid “moral criteria” such as serving the poor.
Progressive U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, “We’re talking about someone who wants to privatize large parts of Social Security, someone who wants to make big cuts in the investments we make in education, in infrastructure, in the pieces that help us build a future together.”
In the House, Ryan’s pledged to follow the “Hastert Rule,” whereby the Speaker won’t bring to the floor any bill without a majority of Republican support. So much for debate and collaboration. He’s promised the right-wing “Freedom Caucus” he won’t negotiate or consider immigration reform until after the 2016 election. And he’s hinted that any new spending bill the House drafts before government’s Dec. 11 deadline will include conservative policy riders such as de-funding Planned Parenthood.
As extreme as the Tea Party, Ryan’s also comfy with insider machinations and corporate power, so the right-wing group behind John Boehner’s resignation eventually may notice the same cronyism they supposedly loathe, with ex-lobbyists now aides on the Speaker’s staff.
“Paul Ryan is the embodiment of the troika of money, power and politics that corrupts and controls the Capitol,” say Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, “ – the very thing the Tea Partiers detest.”
Nevertheless, his reactionary voting record may help his standing, if not the nation.
“He's definitely too extreme for America,” said Scott Foval of People for the American Way in Chicago in 2014, “and his policies just don't work."
OK: Ryan’s not Satan. But there’s something sinister in his smoothness. As British novelist Liz Williams said, “All gods were like that: the knife behind the smile, the drop of poison in the honey jar. They liked to bind you to them, make you dance on razor blades.”
Yes, Ryan can talk smoothly and put on airs of being reasonable, but the Devil’s in the details.
[PICTURED: Graphic from Internetweekly.org.]