News & Politics

Ayn Rand Would Be Proud: Soup Kitchen in Paul Ryan's Photo Op Loses Funds, Gets Attacked By Conservative Trolls

Ryan's political theater has jeopardized donations to the food bank.

Last weekend, Paul Ryan demonstrated his compassion for the poor by rolling up his sleeves at an Ohio soup kitchen  and faking a photo op. The VP candidate waltzed into a Cleveland-area Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society well after everyone had eaten and left, and washed some pans that may or may not have already been cleaned while reporters took pictures. 

In addition to widespread mockery, Ryan's half-assed attempt to simulate concern for the poor for 15 minutes drew an angry response from the President of the facility, Brian J. Antal, who told the Washington Postthat Ryan's slimy political theater might jeopardize donations to the food bank. “We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” he said. " ... we "can’t afford to lose funding from these private individuals.” 

As it turns out, the privilege of being Ryan's background scenery has already taken a toll on the organization. Antal told the Huffington Post that many donors have fled, leading to a loss of funds. 

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 "It appears to be a substantial amount," Antal told the Huffington Post. "You can rest assured there has been a substantial backlash."

On top of all that, deranged conservatives have been harassing volunteers, Antal claims:

Ryan supporters have now targeted Antal and his soup kitchen, Antal said, including making hundreds of angry phone calls. Some members of Antal's volunteer staff have had to endure the barrage as well, he said. "The sad part is a lot of [the callers] want to hide behind anonymity," he said, adding that if someone leaves their name and number he has tried to return their call. 

It's almost as if Ryan has staged an elaborate tribute to Ayn Rand, whose philosophy denigrates people who help the needy; people like Antal, who told the Huffington Post that his job does not come with a salary. But David Gibson, writing on Commonweal, makes the great point that the entire sorry episode actually undermines one of the main tenets of Ryan's other religion. The VP candidate's interpretation of the Catholic social gospel, notes Gibson, is that faith-based groups and individuals should be the needy's safety net instead of government. As Gibson writes, the exodus of donors from the Ohio food bank shows just how misguided that is in the real world:

People, even people of faith, don’t consistently fulfill that responsibility. They — we — are flawed human beings who nurse grudges and lash out when angry. We can go blithely on our way, to the next task, the next meal, the next campaign stop — and the vulnerable suffer. Private charity is not a safety net. Government support is indispensable. The parable of Paul Ryan and the soup kitchen should demonstrate this if nothing else.

To make a donation to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, money can be sent to P.O. Box 224, Youngstown, Ohio 44501. Donations also may be made online. Online donors should specify that their donations are for the Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen.

Tana Ganeva is a reporter covering criminal justice, drug policy and homelessness. Follow her on Twitter @TanaGaneva.