Paul Ryan exhibited some chutzpah today in a cry of foul play aimed at the president’s shot at those who divide Americans into “takers and makers,” which until it got him into trouble in 2012 was one of the Wisconsin Randian’s favorite rhetorical devices.
According to the Weekly Standard, Ryan went on television this morning and perhaps having read Michael Gerson’s WaPo op-ed accusing the president of creating a “raging bonfire of straw men, played the victim his own self:
Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan knocked President Barack Obama for “shadowbox[ing] a straw man” in his inaugural address. Speaking Tuesday morning on the Laura Ingraham Radio Show to guest host Raymond Arroyo, Ryan responded to Obama’s statement that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security “do not make us a nation of takers, they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
Ryan called Obama’s insinuation that he and other reform-minded Republicans consider recipients of these benefits “takers” a “switcheroo.”
“It’s kind of a convenient twist of terms to try and shadowbox a straw man to try to win an argument by default,” Ryan said.
“No one is suggesting that what we call our ‘earned entitlements’, entitlements you pay for, you know, like payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security, are putting you in a ‘taker’ category,” Ryan continued. “The concern that people like me have been raising is we do not want to encourage a dependency culture. This is why we called for welfare reform.
Note first off that Ryan conveniently omits mentioning Medicaid in his self-defense against Obama’s alleged calumny, for the good reason that it is not an “earned entitlement” based on payroll tax deductions. For that matter, Ryan is advancing an interpretation of Medicare that he knows is completely erroneous, because over 40% of Medicare expenditures come from general revenues rather than payroll taxes or premiums. Who knows, maybe Ryan thinks Medicare beneficiaries are “takers” just three days out of every week, or is telegraphing a future intention to limit benefits to payroll taxes paid.
But in fact, Republicans deploying the taker/maker dichotomy, most especially Paul Ryan, are almost always referring to people who receive more federal government benefits, regardless of their type or justification, than they pay in federal taxes. Here’s an example from Ryan:
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said in 2010 that 60 percent of Americans receive more financial benefits from the government than they pay in taxes, making them “takers,” rather than “makers,” according to a 2010 video of Ryan speaking with Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.).
“Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes,” Ryan said. “So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They’ll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves.”
Ryan has been making similar statements for years. His 60 percent comment to Jones was not a one-time gaffe, but an iteration of a point Ryan has repeatedly made while arguing for his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system.
Who’s actually engaging in a “switcheroo” here?