Paul Ryan: Overrated Fraud
Representative Paul Ryan, House Budget Committee Chairman, speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference on March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland
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Beltway writers have recently tried to outdo themselves with breathless profiles of a “new” Paul Ryan, deeply concerned about the poor. I’ve warned repeatedly that Ryan’s views on poverty are just warmed-over Reaganism, and now we have proof. McKay Coppins’ piece “Paul Ryan Finds God” should have revealed that his God is no longer Ayn Rand but Charles Murray, the man who put a patina of (flawed) social science on Reagan’s lyrical lie, “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.”
But let me explain all of what it means to cite Charles Murray in 2014. Murray is so toxic that Ryan’s shout-out must be unpacked. First, Rep. Barbara Lee is absolutely right: Ryan’s comments about “inner city” men who are “not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work” are, in fact, “a thinly veiled racial attack,” in the congresswoman’s words. “Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’”
Ryan denied that Wednesday night. “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race. It never even occurred to me. This has nothing to do with race whatsoever.” On Thursday morning, he issued a statement saying he regretted being “ inarticulate” in trying to make his point.
A tip for Ryan: If the racial subtext of your remarks “never even occurred to me,” as you cite a writer who has been repeatedly charged with racism, who is categorized as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (I’m not sure I’d go that far), well, that in itself is a problem. As Murray himself told the New York Times about his landmark book “Losing Ground:” “A huge number of well-meaning whites fear that they are closet racists, and this book tells them they are not. It’s going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say.” Apparently Ryan is one of them, if we give him the benefit of the doubt and call him “well-meaning."
But Murray proves you can embrace noxious racial stereotypes about African-Americans, and also hold contempt for a lot of white men, and women. He demonstrated that in his last book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” Murray argues that white people have developed the same character problems that claimed African-Americans 50 years ago, which he outlined in “Losing Ground”: They prefer shacking up to marriage, they don’t go to church, they’re lazy and dishonest and enjoy the government dole. After all, the same percent of white children are now born to single mothers – just over 25 percent — as were black children back when Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued his alarms about “the Negro family.” And the reasons are largely the same: promiscuity, laziness, women who insist on equality – and lower IQ.
“Coming Apart” relies on the same ugly genetic fatalism and bogus notions of genetic differences Murray’s been peddling for years – this time among upper- and lower-income whites. In his awful book “The Bell Curve,” he relied on explicitly racist (and mostly discredited) scientists to argue that blacks and Latinos lagged behind whites and Asians in wealth and income because they had lower IQs, and the basis wasn’t centuries of oppression and deprivation but genetics. This time around Murray told his reviewers he was going to dodge the racial trap, and talk about white people. And again, he finds an IQ gap between the “cognitive elite” and lower-class whites that he says helps explain our winner-take-all society.