The video posted below is of an interview with former vice presidential candidate Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Meet the Press in which he discussed entitlements and the “Makers versus Takers” argument that now appears to have fully survived the presidential election. I suppose that could be attributed to President Obama mentioning it – albeit without a direct reference to Ryan – in his inaugural address. David Gregory shares a clip of the president touching on the campaign talking point in the speech.
I’ve posted the clip of the interview below, but here’s Congressman Ryan’s response. Some may disagree with me, but I do believe it reads like a general policy statement most would adopt.
We don’t want a dependency culture. We want a safety net that makes sure people don’t fall through the cracks; that gets people on their feet. People want the American Dream. They want lives of opportunity. They want to reach their potential. Our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able-bodied Americans are becoming dependent upon the government than themselves for their livelihoods. We want to make sure we don’t continue that trend…
No one is suggesting that Medicare or Social Security makes you a “Taker.” These are people like my mom who worked hard, paid her taxes, and now is collecting a benefit that she paid for. No one people like my mom [are] “Takers.”
Gregory, of course, pushes back ignoring the fact that Ryan’s response made the following excerpt from Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine Blog Tuesday carelessly inaccurate and completely off the mark.
“Obama is arguing that misfortune can strike in all forms – a disability, a storm, illness, or merely outliving our savings – and we have some obligation to each other. Ryan’s budget imposes savage cuts to food stamps, children’s health insurance, and other mitigations of suffering for the least fortunate. Oh, and Ryan also voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. By Ryan’s definition, if the government is rebuilding your destroyed home, you’re a taker, too.”
They had the slide ready; so they used it. Whatever. No harm, no foul – especially considering Ryan used the second bite at the apple to hammer home the broader principles at the core of the debate.
“This the straw man argument. The president said the week earlier that we have suspicions about Medicare, taking care of the elderly, and feeding poor children. When he sets up these straw men, which is to affix views to his adversaries that they don’t have to win the argument by default, it’s not really an honest debate. Here’s the point we’ve been making all along. We want to have a safety net. A safety net that’s there for the vulnerable, for the poor, for people who cannot help themselves. We don’t want a culture that creates dependency that saps and drains people of their ability to make the most of their lives. We want opportunity.”
Again, completely agree. As I said above, Ryan’s response reads like a general policy statement most would adopt… and the president knows it. Folks like Gregory and Chait know it. And that’s why they create straw men to debate. Republicans don’t want to put starving children on the street and granny in the ground so we don’t have to provide her with hospital care; we just don’t want able-bodied people gaming the system rather than contributing to it. And we understand that if we don’t take steps now to solve the problems underlying our current financial situation, there won’t be a safety net there for future generations to even debate the finer points of.