Paul Ryan will take his star turn Tuesday night, presenting the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
While there has been some uncertainty about what Obama might say, there is no mystery about what the Wisconsin Republican’s response will be.
Ryan will say whatever Wall Street tells him to say.
Ryan’s got a reputation as a Republican “big ideas” guy. And, in fairness, he’s far more familiar with conservative economic theories than GOP talking heads like House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But Ryan’s “big ideas” never deviate from the demands of his patrons in the executives suites of the biggest banks and the biggest multinational corporations.
The new chairman of the House Budget Committee has emerged as the GOP’s point man on “fiscal responsibility” issues. Yet he played such a key role in passing the Wall Street bailout of 2008 that he earned a feature spot in filmmaker Michael Moore’s expose of the bailout: Capitalism: A Love Story. Ryan rallied Republican votes for the measure when sincere conservatives wanted to vote “no” to the $800 billion giveaway.
There was nothing fiscally responsible—let alone necessary—about the bailout. Indeed, it was such a bad deal that it spawned a popular revolt that gave rise to the Tea Party movement.
Now Ryan positions himself as the champion of the Tea Party’s call for debt relief. But that’s not where Ryan is really coming from.
In fact, nonpartisan analysts say his form of “fiscal responsibility” would actually expand debts and deficits. Why? Because Ryan is not nearly so determined to address spending as he is to advocate for bailouts, privatizations and policy shifts that steer US tax dollars into the vaults of big banks, the accounts of speculators and the bonuses of CEOs.
Technically, Ryan represents Janesville, Wisconsin, a blue-collar town that voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008. But Ryan’s real designation ought to be: Paul Ryan, R–Wall Street.
Janesville used to be a major manufacturing center. But it has fallen on hard times. Like so many manufacturing communities in the Great Lakes region, it has been rocked by the outsourcing of US jobs. That’s not Ryan’s concern, however. Since his election to the House in 1998, Ryan has consistently voted for free-trade pacts—including the extension of most-favored-nation trading status to China—that have been absolutely devastating to the community and others in his southeastern Wisconsin district.
So how does Ryan keep getting re-elected? He’s a smart politician, that’s how. At election time, he spends millions of dollars collected from Wall Street speculators and CEOs to tell his constituents that he really is determined to save their jobs—or, at the very least, to find them new jobs. He cuts lovely television ads on the assembly lines of the factories that remain in operation promises to fight for working families.
He is, of course, practicing the age-old political art of fooling some of the people some of the time.
The truth is that Paul Ryan has no interest in fighting for working families—in Janesville or anywhere else in the United States.
In 2008, the sprawling General Motors plant that had been Janesville’s top employer for nine decades was shuttered. Thousands of jobs were lost. Unemployment soared. Working families in Janesville and surrounding Rock County, Wisconsin, are still struggling.
What was Ryan doing in the months before GM plant closed? Campaigning for a scheme to gamble Social Security funds on the stock market and to 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 of 2008 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. For Janesville workers who had lost their jobs and their prospects for future work, that’s just about the only thing that could have made matters worse.
What did he do after GM announced it would close the plant?
Ryan was busy rounding up votes to enact that massive bailout for Wall Street. While many conservatives objected to the $800 billion bailout of the banks and speculators—as did progressive populists from the region, such as Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur—Ryan was arguably the best friend Wall Street had in a Republican caucus that is not exactly unfriendly to bankers and CEOs.
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.