Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I'm really grateful that David Brooks is on book leave, because -- well, obviouslt because he's not writing awful columns, but also because he's not around to gush like a hormonal adolescent at the rollout of Paul Ryan V2.0, which is taking place right now. Unfortunately, it's a slow rollout, which means Brooks will be back at his post in time to swoon, along with the rest of the centrist press, at this grubby little go-getter's attempt to rebrand himself. For now, we have a long story in The Washington Post, as well as a shorter post at Business Insider, which serve as a sort of warning shot:

From the Post:
Paul Ryan is ready to move beyond last year's failed presidential campaign and the budget committee chairmanship that has defined him to embark on an ambitious new project: Steering Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp.

Since February, Ryan (R-Wis.) has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods with another old Kemp ally, Bob Woodson, the 76-year-old civil rights activist and anti-poverty crusader, to talk to ex-convicts and recovering addicts about the means of their salvation.

Ryan's staff, meanwhile, has been trolling center-right think tanks and intellectuals for ideas to replace the "bureaucratic, top-down anti-poverty programs" that Ryan blames for "wrecking families and communities" since Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964....
As far as I can tell, nothing Ryan and his crew are likely to come up with will conflict with his budgets, which gut programs for the needy. As Jonathan Chait notes, the message appears to be that government programs are bad and Jesus is good:
Ryan's new line seems similar to the old one:
"Paul wants people to dream again," Holloway said of Ryan. "You don’t dream when you’ve got food stamps."
In fact, lots of people who survived on food stamps -- like J.K. Rowling -- went on to achieve great things.

The other emerging element of Ryan's anti-poverty agenda is Jesus:
"You cure poverty eye to eye, soul to soul," he said last week at the Heritage forum. "Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people."
David Brooks is squirming with delight already.

The Post story mentions one Ryan ally: Bob Woodson, founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise -- a man who attacks black leaders for making a cause celebre of Trayvon Martin, accuses the Democratic Party of caring too much about those damn gays and women ("Everybody has come in front of [blacks and poor people] on the bus -- gays, immigrants, women, environmentalists"), and has friendly chats like this with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: ... So as you know we've been reporting on this for about a month. And I believe it's a collapse of the traditional African-American family that's leading to the violence, the bad education and chaos in general. Am I wrong?

BOB WOODSON, CEO, CENTER FOR NEIGHBORHOOD ENTERPRISE: No you're right, Bill. But there has always been a great divide in the black community over this issue. Unfortunately, the civil rights movement of which I was a part in the 60s has declined and morphed into a race grievance industry.

It was Booker T. Washington at the turn of the century said there are groups of blacks who thrive off the grievance of their fellow blacks. If blacks lose their grievance they lose their income. And unfortunately that's what we have today.

O'REILLY: Now do you believe that extends all the way down to the folks or is it just centered in the -- look, we established last night very, very vividly and nobody has challenged it that last Saturday's march in Washington was funded by the teacher's unions very heavily and that the money went into organizations like Al Sharpton's action committee and other civil rights concerns and there is big money involved.

But do the rank-and-file African-American folks in your opinion want the government money to continue to flow and, therefore get behind the grievance industry?

WOODSON: As I said, Bill, in 1965, Bill Raspberry, a banner headline on the front page of the "The Washington Post" and has said "Poor Negroes are not benefiting from the gains of the civil rights movement." And so even from back then until today, the interests of the so-called leadership has -- has often been at odds with the rank-and-file. And this is true on this issue. If you were to take polls, for instance most low income blacks support vouchers for education. The civil rights leadership opposes it....

And the same thing is occurring in New York where Stop-and-Frisk is threatened which means that if they are successful, that you'll see a tick in the murder rate....
So that's one of the inspirations for Ryan's new endeavor. Another, as Business Insider's Danny Vinik explains, is Scott Winship:
To help [Ryan] develop new ideas, the Manhattan Institute's Scott Winship has been working with Ryan in recent months. Winship has worked for liberals organizations like the Democratic Strategist and Third Way before switching over to moderate ones in the Pew Charitable Trust and Brookings Institute. This past September, he joined the conservative Manhattan Institute as a senior fellow.

... In particular, [Winship] wants the government to play a role in advising and teaching young people to act responsibly to reduce early pregnancies and abortions.
Yeah, that's the idea I expect Ryan to glom onto most readily, to the delight of Brooks and other centrists -- that if those people would just keep their damn knees together, we wouldn't need all this welfare. (Brooks will write of "values" and "virtue.")

We're also told that Winship doesn't think poor people suffer as much as we think from inequality "once you account for the value of health insurance and taxes." (Medicaid -- it's what's for dinner!) And he's also a fan, naturally, of school vouchers.

I told you this morning that Paul Ryan was the only politician invited to speak at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting this week, apart from President Obama and Governor Chris Christie. I suspect Ryan is seen as the guy who can bring "serious" back to the GOP. This, I guess is supposed to be how. Never mind that his proposal will be a slap in the fact to the people it's supposed to help, while probably alienating the GOP base Ryan wants to retain for a possible 2016 presidential campaign. The press will still swoon. And maybe that will be enough for Young Paul.


aimai said...

I really think this ship has sailed. The problem for a "starve the beast" strategy is that a huge proportion of white people are hanging on by their fingertips--now on snap and medicaid and UI. So who Ryan thinks he's impressing is beyond me. Sure: those whites are still racist but they don't care if he's a compassionate conservative (which is all that talking about black poverty is about--pretending to compassionate conservativism). They never cared--that was always a head fake for the imaginary soccer mom. But you know what soccer moms are worried about right now? Not how much black people are making off of food stamps but how little they are getting now that they are staring down the barrell of multi year unemployment.

There is no comfortable, racist, middle class to appeal to anymore. People are just keeping their upper lip above water. And they are turning to government to help them. Ryan is going to have to do a lot more than compassionately go "eye to eye" with some addicts while white mothers and children are thrown off of SNAP.

Steve M. said...

I'm not sure. It seems to me that as long as some of the population is doing moderately well, the message "And they want to take what you've got!" has some appeal (in the usual form or in this "compassionate" form). Remember, polls show that the teabaggers are somewhat better off than average.

Irv said...

There's a slave, enslaved by his own arrogance and incompetence, who wasn't emancipated by Lincoln - but he does live in a big house that Lincoln lived in !

Warren Terra said...

""liberals organizations like the Democratic Strategist and Third Way""
I will admit I've never heard of "The Democratic Strategist" - but, far from being "liberal" or a "liberals' organization" isn't the whole point of the Third Way to find a middle ground, to solve policy questions in ways both sides like?

Victor said...

What the MSM needs to realize, is that when "Privatizing" Ryan talks about "addressing" poverty, is that he's got nothing original to say - and that his recommendations will, if not increase poverty, make the conditions for those in poverty, worse.

And that the female and minority "expert's" on his side are nothing but Judas's and Quisling's - who are banking on being able to keep collecting their pieces of silver for life by selling out people who are just like them, but didn't sell out, because they either didn't know how, didn't have the necessary skills, or just plain-old had something inside of them that kept them from selling out - I believe the term for that, is a "CONSCIENCE!"

Peter Janovsky said...

Whenever I think that poor whites might support Dems, I remember that poor non-slaveholders were fervent confederates.

As far as Jack Kemp is concerned -- he's now the shorthand for "Republican who at least gave lip service to the poor." Not for any real policy.

aimai said...

I think the main difference we disagree is not over what the strategy is but how effective it will be. There's no denying that Ryan is on his rehabilitation road and that the press, because they are bored and want to see a conflict and a horse race on the Republican side, will lap it up. Absolutely. Ryan has no choice but to try to rehabilitate himself after the disasterous link up with Romney and Romney's enormous gaffes in re the "47 percent takers."

So Ryan is going to go to the well that the Republicans have used a million times before: welfare as the new slavery, welfare and poverty as the result of addiction/personal failings, private charity, a kind of "middle class-cloth coat" version of Republicanism, the continued cry that Obama and the Dems haven't done enough for the black community. One reason he has to do this is that anything else commits the Republicans to a 100 percent win of the white voter. They have to at least make a play for Blacks and hispanics to shave off a few points or they have to suppress all those votes and take 100 percent of the white vote to even have a prayer of winning.

And the press, of course, is eager to have something to cover and skinny, compassionate Ryan makes a good foil for fat, agressive, Christie.

But as to whether it will go over with the voters? That I doubt, for the reasons I suggested above. Sure, it may play with the tea party elderly. But those people are a given as voters. The imaginary suburban security mom, or compassionate soccer mom? Those people are basically ceasing to exist. They either don't have time for this shit or they are actually aligned with the interests of the beneficiaries of the welfare state even if they remain racist themselves. Ryan is fighting the last war with the last war's weapons. By the time this makes any difference--in the next presidential election--its going to be as useless to him as the photo op of him washing pans at an already cleaned soup kitchen.

Steve M. said...

They either don't have time for this shit or they are actually aligned with the interests of the beneficiaries of the welfare state even if they remain racist themselves.

They may be aligned. But do they think they're aligned?

aimai said...

Who are we talking about? Compassionate conservativism was always aimed at suburban white women and quasi democrats--it was a ploy aimed at allowing them to vote for Republicans without feeling like they were voting for Scrooge and Banker Potter rolled into one. That voting block is done, finished, over. They either have zero interest in AA civil rights and the welfare state or they are too busy fighting to keep their own jobs and their own SNAP and UI benefits to care about imaginary black addicts.

I'm not arguing that racism is finished--I'm arguing that racism as a cause of action is baked into the 27 percenters, and not particularly relevant to female white voters who could swing Republican or Independent. They just don't care about it.