By Ruth Conniff on August 14, 2012

Around his district in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan’s constituents have grown accustomed to his high-energy, friendly meet-and-greets.

If there is one thing Ryan is good at, it’s putting a happy face on the right’s most drastic, Social Darwinist plans to leave the poor and elderly to fend for themselves.

While grandmas in tennis shoes carry protest signs outside his town hall meetings, Ryan dashes through a power point that uses a flurry of graphs that show government spending on Medicare is crushing the economy, and project that massive tax cuts for corporations will revive the economy.

It’s a simple message: lower taxes for the rich and less of safety net for the poor, the elderly, and the unemployed will put us on a “path to prosperity.”

We tried Ryan’s prescription for tax cuts for the rich during the Bush years, to disastrous effect.

The next stage of his plan is even worse. Turning Medicare into a voucher program and Medicaid into a block grant to the states will mean the people who depend on these programs will have to make up the difference if their benefits fail to cover their health care expenses.

I asked Ryan about the study by David Rosnick and Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research that shows his plan would waste $30 trillion over 75 years by diverting money from the single-payer Medicare program to a plethora of top-heavy private bureaucracies.

“This increase in costs—from waste associated with using a less efficient health care delivery system—has not received the attention that it deserves in the public debate,” Rosnick and Dean write.

“Dean and I just disagree,” says Ryan. “I don’t think it’s more efficient to have a single-payer system.” Competition is the key to holding down health care costs, he told me.

Never mind that the United States spends more on its privatized system of health care than any other nation in the world, and yet gets worse health outcomes—we rank 42nd for life expectancy.

"He wants to put us at the mercy of the private health insurance corporations with their outrageous CEO compensation," said Florence Hammelew, a retired Catholic Social Services worker, one of a group of older women who protested outside Ryan’s town hall meeting in Kenosha.

“We can’t guarantee outcomes,” Ryan explains. “We can only guarantee opportunity.”

That’s cold comfort for the poor, the elderly, and the sick.

Ryan’s elevation to vice presidential candidate puts his live-and-let-die anti-government philosophy right at the center of the national debate.

Ryan put it this way at an Americans for Prosperity event in Milwaukee in March: “Progressivism was founded here in Wisconsin. The battle between conservatives and progressives is coming to a crescendo this year.”

At the time he was referring to the effort to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Now, his words just as aptly describe the national election this fall.

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter

To read more about Paul Ryan by The Progressive, click here.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

Subscribe to The Progressive and Get A Free 2015 Calendar

Thirty years after the title year of George Orwell’s “1984,” the Oscar-worthy “Citizenfour” features a real-life...

By Victor Menotti

At a time when most Americans agree that the country has too...

By David Bacon

"The products coming in from the U.S. had government support and subsidies. Mexicans couldn’t...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter