Thursday, December 14, 2017


Is Paul Ryan about to quit Congress? I can't tell. Politico reported this today:
... Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker.... the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.

... over closely held coversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform....
In a subsequent CNN report, this was denied :
According to people close to Ryan, the idea that he would resign immediately after tax reform, because it's all he's ever wanted, is not accurate....

Ryan vehemently denied the [Politico] report, telling reporters that he is here to stay.
Among the reported reasons Ryan might leave: He doesn't like the work, and he fears an early death, according to Politico:
Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intraparty debates over “micro-tactics," and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center. On a personal level, going home at the end of next year would allow Ryan, who turns 48 next month, to keep promises to family; his three children are in or entering their teenage years, and Ryan, whose father died at 55, wants desperately to live at home with them full time before they begin flying the nest.
You might think this is Ryan making excuses because he worries about either a personal defeat or the loss of majority-party status after the 2018 elections. I'm sure that's part of his thinking -- but his inner circle has mentioned the fear of death in the past. I don't know if that's an idea that genuinely haunts Ryan, but worries about mortality are clearly part of his narrative of his own life. In the past, I've quoted a (now paywalled) 2014 National Journal profile of Ryan in which friend and mentor William Bennett brought this up:
“I’M NOT GO­ING TO be in Con­gress 10 years from now,” Ry­an tells me one Septem­ber af­ter­noon. “I can be defin­it­ive about that.”

“You won’t be in Con­gress in 10 years?”

“No. God, no. I’ve already been there 16 years. I don’t want to be a ca­reer guy. Even though I’ve been there a long time, where you could already say that ... ” He stops him­self. “It’s just, I don’t want to spend my adult life in Con­gress.”

... This is a per­son who has been in Wash­ing­ton for nearly a quarter-cen­tury and says he doesn’t want to be there much longer; who sees Amer­ica ca­reen­ing to­ward fisc­al col­lapse, and is des­per­ate to re­form the tax code and en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams be­fore it is too late; who found his 55-year-old fath­er dead, and who knows that neither his grand­fath­er nor his great-grand­fath­er lived to see 60.

... “I think mor­tal­ity weighs on him,” says Bill Ben­nett, the former Edu­ca­tion sec­ret­ary and drug czar who has grown in­to something of a polit­ic­al fath­er fig­ure to Ry­an. “That’s the first ques­tion the doc­tor asks: ‘How old was your fath­er when he died? How old was your grand­fath­er?’"
Am I being too flippant about this? After all, Ryan did watch men in his family die young. But so did I -- my father died at 45, when I was only 9, and yes, we collected the same Social Security checks Ryan did. But unlike Ryan, I don't want to deny future families the same benefits my family received. Unlike Ryan, I didn't have the option of quitting my day job before the age of 50 and then retiring on a full pension -- and remenber that Ryan can do that after spending a lifetime championing the capitalists who've taken defined-benefit pensions away from most working people in America, and he may do that after gutting, or at least trying to gut, the inadequate government pension that's now the only retirement money a lot of Americans manage to collect.

Ryan will probably continue to work, or "work," at some sinecure handed to him by a fat cat who's grateful for tax and regulatory cuts. But basically he'll have a soft life. It's not an option for the rest of us, even those of us who, like me, have shared with Ryan the fear of early death. I think I've beaten the odds -- my mother's people are long-lived -- but I might not have been so lucky, and I'm still not 60. I still have to punch in at a day job. So I have no sympathy for Ryan and his death fears. Hey Paul, imagine if you'd ever had to work real jobs under the economic regime you and your party have built. Then you'd know fear -- economic fear.

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