Ryan and the Poor: YOYO vs. WITT

August 12th, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Note this excerpt from an NYT editorial this AM on the impact of Ryan’s budget on vulnerable families:

More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan…come from programs for low-income Americans. That means billions of dollars lost for job training for the displaced, Pell grants for students and food stamps for the hungry. These cuts are so severe that the nation’s Catholic bishops raised their voices in protest at the shredding of the nation’s moral obligations.

Mr. Ryan’s budget “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment,” the bishops wrote in an April letter to the House. “These cuts are unjustified and wrong.”

Mr. Ryan responded that he was helping the poor by eliminating their dependence on the government. And yet he has failed to explain how he would make them self-sufficient…

What struck me was the Times’ complaint that the new VP candidate “failed to explain how he would make them self-sufficient.” Such a complaint reveals an important misunderstanding of the agenda that Rep Ryan, the Tea Party, and now the Romney ticket are embracing.  It’s there in the numbers and it’s there in the rhetoric.

The point is that they wouldn’t do anything to make anyone more self-sufficient. That’s up to the individual.  The heart of their theory of what’s hurting America is that government is trying to do things that people should do for themselves.  That extends to health care, regulation, jobs programs, college aid, even retirement security.

There’s hypocrisy and confusion here for sure.  A majority of Tea Partiers strongly support Medicare, for example, and as I wrote about here, Ryan’s WI district has benefitted from lots of government help.  And then there’s all those tax breaks for wealthy people, oil companies, multinational corporations, and so on.

But to understand the rhetoric, the policy positions, the thrust of the R’s campaign, it doesn’t make sense to ask them, “OK, I see the cuts in spending and taxes that rob the government of the oxygen it needs to function, but what are you going to do about X?!”  They’ll invoke “market forces,” supply-side fairy dust, the great American entrepreneurial spirit, and the magic that happens once government gets out of the way.

I call it YOYO economics (you’re-on-your-own) and contrast it with WITT economics (we’re-in-this-together) and Ryan’s entry into the race very much amps up this dimension of the debate.

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5 comments in reply to "Ryan and the Poor: YOYO vs. WITT"

  1. Joe Sixpack says:

    Of all the columns I have seen, this gets close to one that I never see discussed and should be.

    We all say education is good, it can help lead to a better job. That is true, but what of that job’s replacement. For instance, say that a janitor works hard, goes to school or job training, and learns to become an IT professional. Good for that person. But someone will have to replace that janitor, because that is a job that needs to be done. Every enterprise needs people to clean the office building.

    So as a matter of social contract, what should that janitor have in terms of health care, housing, food, eduction, and retirement security: the necessities of a stable society?

    All full time jobs should be able to pay a living wage. Even the low skilled ones. People in them work hard too. It is a right wing canard that they are lazy. You see them saying this, because they cannot acknowledge that people in non-skilled jobs work hard too.

    Its great to have education so people can do better jobs. But we need to have people do those jobs which they presumably would be promoted out of.

    What do they deserve?

  2. Charles Bean says:

    You would think the Catholic Church would address the high amount spent within the Pentagon. Telling some one that cuts to low income support programs as they did is only have the job. Without them addressing the military, it is difficult for me to place any value in what they say.

    • procopius says:

      I thought the tone of the Times’ editorial was hilarious. Clearly, they think that it is remarkable that the Catholic bishops would object to mistreatment of the poor and vulnerable, so their objection is a mark of just how extreme Ryan’s proposal is. I have a similar opinion of the Catholic bishops, but I’m an agnostic, leaning toward Buddhism, and have strong negative feelings toward the Catholic establishment.

  3. Rima Regas says:

    The Nuns On the Bus tour is about to get renewed prominence in the news cycle and may stay there through Election Day. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bishops get back into the fray. This is Ryan’s Achilles’ heel, as far as I’m concerned. He cannot self-identify as both a Catholic and an Ayn Randian at the same time. Cannot.

    The nuns and Bishops have always been active politically, and with so much misery out there (after all the economy affects the church too), they’re out to get Ryan. He’s a threat to Catholicism in America, if he rises to VP status and gains even more national attention. His economic views clash with Catholic Canon.

    The Church has always been vocal about wars and the death penalty. Neither is a threat to it as directly as Ryan’s policies and underlying views.

  4. ramsey says:

    Okay, but YOYO-WITT is a continuum, not a binary choice. Nobody is advocating pure YOYO (anarcho-libertarianism), just like nobody is advocating pure WITT (communism). The question is what’s better at the margin.

    Nothing in Romney’s rhetoric or record indicates he’s a hardcore libertarian. He picked Ryan to help secure his base, precisely because they suspect that he’s really a moderate.

    I think they’re right. This election isn’t between two different philosophies of government. It’s between two pragmatic moderates. Do you want the serial liar with the successful business career, or the likeable and rhetorically skilled incumbent with the bad economy?