Take a Look at What Paul Ryan Did to His Own Congressional District, and Be Very Scared for Your Country
Before Paul Ryan was anointed as the Republican vice presidential candidate, Ryan reigned as the GOP’s resident economic genius and “leading intellectual.”
However, this praise from major media outlets has long been divorced from the reality 1,000 miles away back in Ryan’s 1st Congressional District in southeastern Wisconsin. Even while Beltway media — and even President Obama — heaped kudos on Ryan for his bold economic proposals and “intellectual audacity,” the productive base and social health of his constituents have been severely deteriorating under the impact of the very policies he has aggressively championed.
Ryan trumpeted the $1.2 trillion in Bush tax cuts showered largely on the richest 1%, pushed for the deregulation of Wall Street financial manipulations, opposed 2007 efforts to rein in the financial industry’s increasingly risky practices but then voted for a virtually unconditional bailout of the big banks after the meltdown in 2008 in order to “save the free enterprise system.” Ryan also voted for the auto bailout without any provisions to prioritize US jobs including those in his district. Further, Ryan has been a consistent supporter of the “free trade” deals with low-wage, repressive regimes that have fueled the offshoring of jobs.
In recent years, Ryan’s home district has lost thousands of family-sustaining jobs. Its economic foundations have been dangerously hollowed out: Delco in Oak Creek shut down at a cost of 3,800 jobs, mostly going to Mexico; Chrysler in Kenosha had 850 jobs sent to Mexico with the help of auto industry “bailout” funds; and General Motors in his hometown of Janesville eliminated 2,800 jobs directly with its pre-Christmas 2008 plant closing, while GM kept open a low-wage plant with parallel capacities in Silao, Mexico. The GM shutdown in Janesville wiped out another 3,000 jobs in nearby supplier plants.
The three major industrial counties in Ryan’s district have endured devastating manufacturing job losses since 2000, with Kenosha County losing 30%, Racine County 33%, and Rock County an astonishing 54%.
PREDICTABLE RESULTS OF JOB LOSS
The results of Ryan’s policies and the resulting economic wreckage havebeen grimly predictable. The persistently high unemployment has been accompanied by rising signs of social disintegration and distress throughout most of the district.
• Foreclosures in Rock County — home to Janesville and Beloit — have quadrupled since 2000. They have nearly tripled throughout the entire district.
• In Janesville, the GM shutdown created such a surplus of workers begging for jobs that the average wage fell from $23.27 in 2007 to $18.82 in 2010.
• Within three months of the GM closing just before Christmas in 2008, the number of battered women seeking shelter at the YWCA’s Janesville family violence center nearly tripled.
• Janesville has been afflicted by a major increase in child abuse and neglect.
• Janesville’s rate of child poverty has nearly doubled to 47.1% since 2000. The percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches ranges from 43% to 69% in the major cities of his district.
• Janesville has also experienced a near-doubling in suicides over the first two years since the GM closing.
OBLIVIOUS TO SUFFERING
Yet Ryan has remained oblivious to this massive suffering, seemingly driven by his embrace of Ayn Rand’s ideology of anti-social capitalism (which he recently and unconvincingly renounced in the face of complaints about her atheism). He has advocated and voted for cuts to the government protections and the social safety net desperately needed by families in his district trying to hang on to their cars, their homes, and their dignity.
Ryan, always readily willing to bestow bailouts on major banks and corporations, but worries that workers and the poor will lose their motivation to work if the government directs meaningful help to workers, the jobless, and the poor. Ryan claims that the US safety net, pitifully thin compared to other advanced nations, is already in danger of seriously undermining the will to work: “We don’t want to turn this safety net into a hammock that ends up lulling people in their lives into dependency and complacency.”