Archive - Mar 24, 2014

Paul Ryan: Soul Man

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Memo to Paul Ryan: YOU'RE KILLING IT, DUDE.

That is, if by "it" you mean the hoary-assed old notion of "compassionate conservatism", and if by "killing" you mean "digging up the corpse and pissing on it before telling poor people to go fuck themselves".

One of the disadvantages to taking the week off that I did was that it was the week after CPAC. Very few of the CPAC stories caught my attention this year. Some atheists got invited and then uninvited, which is good, because I hate seeing atheists wasting their time, but other than that, it was garden variety wingnuttery. Except for Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan told a story. The kind of story designed to make him, and conservatives in general, look like good, caring people. The story was about a boy who was getting fed a free lunch at school. I'll skip to the punchline.

"The left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul... He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand.”

You're damn right the left doesn't understand that. We don't understand it because it's woo-woo bullshit. But it's not just woo-woo bullshit. It's also garden-variety bullshit.

Basically, this story is further proof that Republican policy is being built on a version of reality lifted straight from your crazy uncle's Facebook wall, the current version of the e-mail forward. See, this story made its way to Ryan's ears through the testimony of Eloise Anderson, who unfortunately runs Wisconsin's Department of Children and Families.

What Anderson did was take a TV interview from the author of "The Invisible Thread", about a homeless child 25 years ago who wanted to make sure he fit in when receiving private charity, and turned it into a personal anecdote to claim that kids didn't need food, they needed the love of a brown paper bag, and what government can provide that?

And the story sounded so great to Ryan that he brought it to CPAC, and shared it with the throngs there. Throngs that, to a one, want an excuse to believe that not giving hungry kids food is good for them. And everyone was so happy that kids don't really want food that nobody checked to see if it was true, or relevant, or current, or even about government.

Which brings us back from garden variety bullshit to woo-woo bullshit. "Full stomach and an empty soul"? You know who says that? A monster says that. That's the kind of reasoning you normally see from parents whose child has just been found in a cage in the basement.

Even if the story were true, and even if all the kid wanted was proof someone cared about him, how is not feeding him going to ensure that someone cares about him? How is getting a free school lunch even evidence that nobody cares about him? Ryan isn't just suggesting that government assistance fails to fill a spiritual hole, and may even create one. He's saying poverty is prima facie evidence of a spiritual hole.

In other words, poor parents are bad people because they're poor. So we can't feed poor kids, because if we do, their soul that their parents have failed to nurture because of their poorness will never be filled. One wonders what part of rich people's souls tax cuts fill, of course, but only rhetorically, because you don't reason with monsters. You wait until they get the nomination and then hope 50.1% of the population notices.