Oh, my — not only was Paul Ryan’s hunger=dignity speech appalling on the merits, the anecdote he used to make his point was fake — a distortion of a real story with a completely different point.
I’m actually not happy with this discovery; the crucial point here should be that even if the story of the kid who wants brown bag lunches were true, it would be a terrible argument against school lunches and the social safety net in general. In a way it’s a bad thing to have the conversation shifted instead to Ryan’s failure to get simple facts right.
— Into the Mouths of Babes, Paul Krugman, nytimes.com today
Here’s what Ryan said yesterday in his speech to the CPAC convention, as related by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait:
In his vacuous, sloganeering speech today at CPAC, Paul Ryan argued that “the left” — the term he used to describe not the actual left, but the Obama administration — offers Americans “a full stomach — and an empty soul.” What soul-emptying ways is “the left” filling people’s stomachs? Ryan has a story from his fellow Republican, Eloise Anderson:
“She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But 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 wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.”
Anderson is a longtime anti-safety-net crusader and currently a member of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Ryan was paraphrasing testimony gave to the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs, last summer. Greg Sargent details the controversy here, and links to Glenn Kessler’s and Wonkette’s investigative reports on it from last night.
I initially had the same reaction as Krugman: that this under-oath fabrication of fact by a witness at a congressional hearing who is a key member of Walker’s administration, would become the news story, rather than that Ryan used the anecdote to come out for repeal not just of the school lunch program but also of child-labor laws.
But upon reflection, I think the revelation that this Walker appointee gave fabricated testimony to a congressional committee–stunning, in itself–is a net plus, because it brings far more public attention than otherwise to the premise of this Walker appointee (and therefore of Walker himself) and Ryan: that children from poor families, including, presumably, infants and toddlers–these people want to kill the food stamp program, too–should work for their food.
This odd conflation of parent and child, by both Anderson and Ryan, is so weird and ridiculous–and so stunningly offensive, surely, to most Americans–that its mere verbatim recitation will, I think, be a gift that keeps on giving during this year’s campaigns. But it also highlights this: that the Republicans appear to be unaware that a large percentage of school-lunch-program or the food-stamp-program (or both) recipients come from households headed by someone who works, often full-time, at a very low-wage job or at a combination of low-wage jobs.
Or else these pols are claiming that no one should work at very-low-wage jobs, and should instead find a way up the socioeconomic ladder. In which case, they are saying that Walmart and the fast-food and hospitality industries should pay their employees more. I mean, shouldn’t be able to find employees. (Not ones who’ve fed themselves and their kids, anyway.)
Paul Ryan and Scott Walker turn out to be pro-labor, after all! Who knew? We Dems need to start appreciating the annual CPAC conference for it’s, um, newsworthiness.
These people’s weird obsession with killing the social safety net is shared by–what?–15%-20% of the public? They themselves seem to recognize that outrageous that the people who want this is small, and the people who obsess over it and privilege it over all other policy matters, is really, really small. Which presumably is why they keep fabricating stories.
This is part and parcel of the genre that until yesterday most recently featured as its top stars Julie Boonstra and Emilie Lamb. What’s next? Talking polar bears pleading for more oil drilling?
As an aside, I think that if Walker is serious about running for president, he needs to fire Anderson. She fabricated a story, under oath, at a congressional hearing. That’s not a trivial matter.