Paul Ryan (R-WI)-- The Face Of Mindless Reactionary Obstructionism
Wisconsin's contribution to obstructionism
The new issue of Madison's weekly news magazine, Isthmus, shines a spotlight on the area's most conservative member of Congress, Paul Ryan, by asking whether he risks losing support back home in a moderate swing district by becoming a spokesperson for his extremist political party. The southeast Wisconsin district went from supporting Bush by 8 points in 2004 to supporting Obama by 4 points last November. The district includes 33,000 unemployed workers who look forward to President Obama's stimulus programs as a major component to their families' salvations. Suddenly all over national TV they're watching their own congressman take on the role, ineptly, of the anti-Obama. Ryan didn't only vote against the stimulus plan, he became the GOP mouthpiece against it-- a plan that features an extension of unemployment benefits and massive job-producing public works programs.
This is an area that has been especially hard hit by economic trends. Recent months have seen the closing of the Delphi plant in Oak Creek, ending 3,500 union jobs averaging $26 an hour, along with 300 salaried jobs. Massive layoffs have gutted the once-bustling factory town of Racine, where CNH now has just 680 workers producing tractors, down from 3,400 in 1979.
Chrysler's workforce in Kenosha has been whittled down to 600, one-tenth of the level in 1988. And Janesville is suffering through the loss of its last 1,800 autoworker jobs after General Motors shut down the plant late last year.
...Ryan's claim that Obama was repeating the "mistakes" of FDR was a peculiar position that brought ridicule from Democrats and pundits like Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. Almost all historians credit Roosevelt for lowering unemployment from about 25% to just under 10% through public spending and for extending economic security to millions by allowing unionization and creating the Social Security Act.
Instead of public-sector spending to create jobs and stimulate spending, Ryan urged a package of tax cuts. As he put it, "We missed an opportunity today to enact an economic stimulus package that empowers the engines of economic growth."
While he represents one of the nation's most economically devastated districts, Ryan touts the virtues of unregulated free-market capitalism. He favors trade agreements blamed for sending jobs overseas and opposes universal health care (and even the broadly supported S-CHIP health program for children).
And Ryan didn't only betray his constituents on this one bill. He's in the forefront of die-hard obstructionists who are opposing everything Obama tries to accomplish-- no matter how badly these problems are hurting the folks back home. So far only 4,468 families have lost their homes to predatory banksters in WI-01. Ryan helped rally right-wing Republicans in the House to vote against allowing bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of the loans. Fortunately the bill passed despite his shrill objections-- especially fortunate for the estimated 14,874 homeowners in WI-01 projected to be foreclosed on in the next 4 years. Only 7 Republicans broke with Ryan and the rest of the obstructionist GOP House leadership and voted in favor of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, which passed 234-191 on March 5. All of the biggest Republican recipients of legalized bribes from the banksters, like Ryan ($1,555,321), Spencer Bachus (R-AL- $3,789,474), Eric Cantor (R-VA- $3,121,188), John Boehner (R-OH- $3,045,809), Pete Sessions (R-TX- $2,730,126), and Roy Blunt (R-MO- $2,639,105), i.e., the entire Republican House leadership, voted against the bill. In this morning's NY Times Paul Krugman, in trying to explain the Republican strategy of mindless obstructionism Ryan has decided to bet his future on, declares that it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people.
Ryan is a spokesperson for a fringe faction of the GOP that says the Bush Regime wasn't right-wing enough. But Ryan was a complete Bush rubber stamp for almost his entire political career, having been first elected 2 years before Bush. A deregulation fanatic and a tax-cuts-for-the-rich jihadi, Ryan helped push through a programs of cuts that cost the federal government $1.4 trillion and saves the average family in southeast Wisconsin around $29/year-- although the tiny handful of families making over $1.1 million save almost $18,000 a year. Ryan's vision for the future:
• Partial privatization of Social Security, with the federal government promising to cover stock-market losses, a feature that would have proved catastrophic with the Wall Street meltdown.
• Individual "ownership" of health insurance, highlighted by a $5,000 family tax credit for families-- well short of the average 2008 cost of $15,600 for a family of four, as tabulated by the Millman Medical Index.
• A fresh round of tax cuts to encourage employers to hire more workers.
In other words: more of what brought us to where we are: trickle down voodoo economics that has destroyed the American middle class with pie-in-the-sky right-wing ideology. His critics point out that Ryan's vision "represents a continuation of failed past policies and is thus ill-suited for this moment in history, especially in Ryan's deeply suffering district." If there is no money in the real world economy, companies won't invest even if Republican clowns like Ryan stand on their heads and sing-- because outside of GOP think tanks Inside the Beltway it is common sense that businessmen don't make more products when there is no market for them. That's the fatal flaw in what passes for Ryan's logic.
Ryan continues to oppose government job-creation efforts while actively promoting "free trade" agreements of the sort blamed for major job losses in his district. For instance, Delphi workers in Oak Creek were undercut by the corporation's 50 plants in Mexico, where labor costs are about one-tenth what they are here. General Motors built a plant duplicating its Janesville product lines in Silao, Mexico. And Rainfair shut its plant in Racine to move jobs to China, where industrial wages average about 3% of the U.S.
Throughout the district, job losses have led to mounting poverty and growing desperation.
"Unemployment is up to 15.6% in the city of Racine," says Ron Thomas, the local AFL-CIO secretary and United Way labor liaison. "It's a scary situation right now. Those of us who were baby boomers had the notion that after the Great Depression, we'd never see anything like that again, with all the protections for the unemployed put in place. But with globalization, the free-trade agreements and cutback in the safety net, we're wondering about the future."
Racine's Health Care Network, started in the grim days of the early 1980s to pair low-income people with health professionals who donate their time, now has a waiting list of 3,000 people.
Thomas, who helped get this group established and serves on its board, notes that Ryan has twice voted against a bill to provide subsidized health insurance to low- and moderate-income children and some of their parents. He's amazed at the gulf between the district's needs and Ryan's voting record: "With the economy the way it is, we need health care and we need a jumpstart for jobs."
Ten miles further south along Lake Michigan, the blue-collar community of Kenosha is also suffering.
"It's a disaster," says Judy Jensen, the Labor Council secretary-treasurer. "The food pantries have really seen a spike in demand, but we also now see people who used to volunteer and donate to the food banks coming in for food."
"Our industrial base is now in China and other places," adds local AFL-CIO president Ron Frederick. "Every place around here has laid people off."
The risk for Ryan is whether his increasingly visible and prominent role will be undercut by the resentment some of his constituents feel toward Republican policies... Ryan has consistently backed deregulatory policies favored by the financial industry. These policies set the stage for the sub-prime housing debacle, which in turn toppled major Wall Street banks that had invested heavily in "derivatives" that were supposed to divide up the risk of the sub-prime mortgages.
In 1999, Ryan voted for the repeal of Depression-era legislation meant to minimize the risk undertaken by commercial banks. He backed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that allowed commercial banks to engage in much riskier investment banking and insurance.
In 2000, Ryan voted for the Commodity Futures Trading Modernization Act, which blocked federal regulation of derivatives. A once-obscure stock-market maneuver, derivatives became a popular means of speculating on the future financial health of specific assets.
Many investors steered clear, with billionaire Warren Buffett bluntly describing derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction." But major banks on Wall Street bought billions of derivatives on sub-prime housing mortgages. Ryan, in November 2007, also opposed imposing new regulations on the then-burgeoning sub-prime mortgage industry.
When the bubble in housing prices popped, the banks were stuck with vast losses. The Wall Street crash soon followed, along with the economic catastrophe that hit Ryan's district hard.
To counter damage caused by their role in keeping the sub-prime mortgage industry and Wall Street deregulated, Ryan and other Budget Committee Republicans issued a Jan. 8 analysis called Roots of the Crisis, almost entirely devoted to obscure government policies with no specific mention of the Wall Street bankers who lost hundreds of billions while rewarding themselves with $18.4 billion in bonuses.
The harshest criticism by Ryan and his GOP colleagues on the Budget Committee was contained in a single, remarkably tepid phrase: "The financial crisis that unfolded this year had numerous causes, and Wall Street is not free of blame."
Why the kid-gloves treatment of the financial industry? In an analysis called Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America, the watchdog groups Essential Information and Consumer Education Foundation note that Wall Street has over the last decade "showered Washington with over $1.7 billion in what are prettily described as 'campaign contributions' and... another $3.4 billion on lobbyists whose job it was to press for deregulation."
In return, the banks were able to "get rid of many of the reforms enacted after the Great Depression and to operate, for most of the last 10 years, without any effective rules or constraints whatsoever."
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Ryan's largest set of contributions from 1998 to 2008 came from the financial, real estate and insurance sector, clocking in at $1,555,321. While Ryan claimed that the bank bailout "sucks," he nonetheless voted for it.
Ryan is the most vulnerable of the hardcore obstructionist Republican leaders up for re-election next year. His Herbert Hoover-like alternative budget helped spawn a fundraising effort StopPaulRyan, which is seeking to replace him with a suitable progressive. The first 20 contributors today will receive a copy of the 2-CD set, Quixotic by Americana singer-songerwriter Matt Keating. Another reason to support Blue America's ongoing efforts to replace reactionary, anti-family wingers with progressives (music by WI-01's best band ever):
There are many reasons to replace Paul Ryan. Please help us do it by donating even $5 or $10 through a special StopPaulRyan ActBlue page. Thanks!
UPDATE: When It Comes To Teabaggers There's No Bigger Hypocrite Than Paul Ryan
John Nichols got it right in his Nation column, Hark! Teabaggers! Beware The Tories In Your Ranks.
Among speakers scheduled to titillate teabagger rallies are Florida Congressman Ander Crenshaw (appearing in Jacksonville), Arizona Congressman John Shadegg (appearing in Phoenix), North Carolina Congresswoman Susan Myrick (appearing in Charlotte) and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan (appearing in Madison).
All cast the Tory vote for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which gave hundreds of billions of dollars to banks and speculators.
No doubt, Ryan's the worst hypocrite in the bunch.
The ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee has emerged as the GOPs pointman on "fiscal responsibility" issues. Yet, this Tory legislator played a key role in passing the Wall Street bailout last fall, rallying Republican votes for the measure when sincere conservatives wanted to vote "no" to the $800-billion giveaway with Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who said, "rescuing the economy does not mean we have to just give away $700 billion of taxpayer money to the banks," and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, who said, "Taxpayers deserve a plan that puts their concerns ahead of those who got us into this mess."
Technically, Ryan represents Janesville, Wisconsin, but his real designation ought to be: Paul Ryan, R-Wall Street.
Janesville is, or at least was, a manufacturing town. Yet, Ryan has since his election to the House in 1998 consistently voted for free-trade pacts-- including the extension of most-favored nation trading status to China-- that have been devastating to the community and others in his southeastern Wisconsin district. How devastating, last winter, the sprawling General Motor plant that had been the community's top employer for nine decades, was shuttered.
What was Ryan doing in the months before the plant closed? Campaigning for a scheme to gamble Social Security funds on the stock market and gut Medicare and Medicaid. Had Ryan gotten his way, tens of millions of Americans who lost most of their retirement savings when the stock market crashed in the fall would also have lost much of their Social Security safety net. And they would have had an even harder time getting access to medical care.
Fiscally responsible? Not Paul Ryan.
His whole career has been about redistributing wealth upward, rewriting trade rules to favor multinational corporations, robbing the federal treasury to enrich his banking industry benefactors and running up debts to bail out Wall Street.
If Sam Adams had encountered this Tory, they would have tossed him in Boston Harbor with those crates of tea.
Don't forget: Stop Paul Ryan, before it's too late.