For the Sake of the Poor, Goodbye and Good Riddance to Speaker Ryan

New Orleans    Yes, there could be worse coming from the Republican side of the aisle if they have the opportunity to pick a replace for Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Louisiana Congressman and current Majority Whip Steve Scalise is a good example of how much worse the country could be with him in that position.  Not only does he hail from the old white-flight, David Duke district, but he still wears the mark of his relationships with far right and racist groups in the state.  Regardless, if we care about low-and-moderate income families, we have to bid good riddance to Paul Ryan.

Ryan seems like a Boy Scout.  He presented as clean cut, clean living and straight shooting, but his pretend intellectualism and make believe policy expertise was a lot of hooey and phony-baloney voodoo economics.  It should be enough to simply point out that his legacy claim to the recent tax cut giveaway to corporations and the rich is repellent to anyone and everyone committed to equity in the country.  Worse though has been his constant attack on any level of entitlements from Social Security to healthcare to welfare benefits to even food stamps.  He hides behind a claim of financial stability and sustainability for Medicare and Social Security, but his tax cut leadership makes him a hypocrite at best and a charlatan at worse.

His policies claim he wants to get able-bodied people to work, and he can find plenty of support from the wingnuts that write the editorials for The Wall Street Journal, but there’s little more than a mean-spirit behind these pronouncements.  There is already a work requirement of sorts involved in food stamps so the real effort is to extend it to the age of 59 by pretending there are jobs out there for older Americans for the small benefit they receive from food stamps.  Two-thirds of recipients are exempted from work requirements regardless because of their age, the fact that they are children, disabled, or carrying for children under than six years old.  What’s the beef?  Ryan and his gang don’t like the fact that inequity has meant that even as the recession recedes there are still more than 40 million Americans on the program.  Ryan needed to wake up and face reality of the American economic divide in the same way he has now faced the reality of his own future.

Of course, this is only really good news if the work gets done to elect a Congress that more reflects the country and its priorities and therefore protects entitlements and improves the safety net for those who have no choice or opportunity without it.  Ryan has made the project more urgent for his party and for the rest of us in the fight for what kind of country we really are and want to be.

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Trump Actually Makes a Good Point

republican-symbolNew Orleans      Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee for the presidency, made a very interesting point in a rebuke to Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and also a Republican.  He turned away Ryan’s “wait and see” answer on the question of his endorsement, based on whether or not Trump met certain litmus tests he wanted to use to measure the nature of Trump’s conservative commitments, by not only reminding him that he had 10 million Republican votes mandating change, but also by chiding Ryan on a political philosophy point.  Trump told Ryan, “…I’m a conservative, but don’t’ forget, this is called the Republican Party.  It’s not called the Conservative Party.”

            So, sure, have at Trump.  Call him names, claim he’s a buffoon, or an ignoramus, as Nobel prize economist and Times’ columnist Paul Krugman did, but don’t every make the mistake of believing for one minute that he’s really any of those things.  This guy is clever and quick like a fox.  Underestimating him, as many, maybe most, have done, would, particularly at this point, define stupid, and not the other way around.

            He belled the cow on his comment to Ryan, and on at least this one score all of us have to hope he prevails.

            A republic, classically, is a sovereign state whose authority rests with the people, either directly or through elected representatives.  In a pure, theoretical and practical sense, it differs from a democracy in how it balances individual versus collective rights.  In a republic, individual rights can sometimes prevail over civil or citizen rights.  The United States Bill of Rights protects individual rights.  For example, one vote on a jury can free an accused person in the dock, rather than how the majority might have voted on her innocence or guilt.  In a pure democracy, the majority rules, so 50% plus one assuring the majority interest could make for a democrat and the rights on one individual would make for a republican.  A conservative is by definition resistant to change with a default position respecting how things have been in the past. 

            What Ryan wants is a pledge from Trump that he will genuflect in the direction of what has been the current hard right ideology that has ruled the Republican Party.  The Republican establishment’s disgust with Trump is not necessarily about his xenophobic positions around Muslims or immigrants, but the fact that he is changing the game they have run and the rules they have made.  This dispute with Trump is about power, plain and simple.  Trump is correctly reminding Ryan that a republican is really someone who can cobble the citizens together around their representative positions and respect for their rights.  To the degree Trump has locked into the Republican base, is feeling their pain, and advocating their positions, even when they are abominable, he’s a better Republican, than he is a conservative.  He’s an apostate on the politics and policies of Reagan, the Bushes, the Ryan’s, and a host of others who don’t want change, and he’s all about change.

            Trump certainly shouldn’t be the President of the United States, but on this issue he is one-hundred percent correct, and for goodness sakes all of us have to root for him to blow the bums out of their conservative bunkers and bring change by the bucket load to the Republican ideology and practice.

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