Paul Ryan and Dignity

Paul Ryan, former running mate of Mitt Romney and still Representative for Wisconsin’s 1st district, spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday. He elaborated on his war view on the poor. Paul Krugman quotes two striking passages. First, on dignity:

 “The left is making a big mistake,” Ryan predicted. “What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. People don’t just want a life of comfort. They want a life of dignity, they want a life of self determination.”

I’m sure poor people want a life of dignity, so maybe not shame them for having to accept assistance to fulfill the most basic needs? Sure, many people (who mostly can afford more) call Kraft Mac & Cheese a “comfort food” but that doesn’t make feeding yourself on such cheep basics a “life of comfort." 

Thanks to his wife’s money and good tax-payer funded pay as a Representative, Ryan’s stomach is quite full, yet I’m not so sure about his soul. He has this to say about free lunches at school for children

“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 continued. “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.”

First off, there are a lot of things kids don’t want in one moment that are reasonable and help them in the mid- to long-term. Like math.

The anecdote is terrible. One reason for the kid’s feeling could be the shaming of poor people by politicians like Rep. Ryan that is handed down via the parents to the boy’s class mates, who continue shaming, bullying him for needing assistance. Another reason might be that the child, growing up in an extremely materialist society, has learned that love is expressed through material things, and feel unloved because his guardian can’t afford material tokens of affection. Maybe his parents really have issues, and do not show love towards their child.

It all sounds like a solution must lie in helping both the exemplary kid and parent. There are myriad ways to go about this (better wages for the parents, teaching that love mustn’t only be expressed through material, strategies against bullying, better assistance for struggling families, family therapy ..) but taking away what little the kid has isn’t one of them. 

You don’t magically start floating when someone pulls away the security net, Representative Ryan. You fall further down.

Update: Turns out the anecdote was bullshit anyway, further showing he’s the worst.

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