With his speech to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Paul Ryan attempted to reposition himself as someone other than the millionaire son of privilege and career politician that he is.
The Republican vice presidential nominee made the break with himself by talking about “guys I went to high school with (who)worked at that GM plant" in Janesville.Like a lot of other guys, and gals, across America, those guys lost their jobs when a multinational corporation shuttered a productive plant.
The problem is that Ryan's has never taken the side of those guys, and of all the working Americans who will march Monday in Labor Day parades from Janesville to Detroit to Toledo and Pittsburgh.
Technically, Ryan has represented Janesville in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1999. But the House Budget Committee chairman's real designation has always been: Paul Ryan, R-Wall Street.
Janesville used to be a major manufacturing center. Now it has fallen on hard times. Like so many manufacturing communities in the Great Lakes region, it has been rocked by the outsourcing of U.S. jobs. That's not Ryan's concern, however. Since his election to the House in 1998, Ryan has voted for free-trade pacts — including the extension of most-favored-nation trading status to China — that have been absolutely devastating to his hometown and other communities in his southeastern Wisconsin district.
So how has Ryan kept getting re-elected? He's a smart politician. At election time, he spends millions of dollars collected from Wall Street speculators and CEOs to tell his constituents that he really is determined to save their jobs — or, at the very least, to find them new jobs. He cuts lovely television ads on the assembly lines of the factories that remain in operation and promises to fight for working families.
Ryan has, of course, been practicing the age-old political art of fooling some of the people some of the time.
The truth is that Paul Ryan has no interest in fighting for working families — in Janesville or anywhere else in the United States.
In 2008 -- during the presidency of George W. Bush -- General Motors announced that the sprawling plant that had been Janesville's top employer for nine decades was closing. Thousands of jobs were lost.
Unemployment soared. Working families in Janesville and surrounding Rock County are still struggling.
What was Ryan's response? He proposed schemes to gamble Social Security funds in the stock market and to gut Medicare and Medicaid.
Paul Ryan has never offered anything of value or consequence to the laid-off workers of Janesville ... until Labor Day, 2011.
As he marched with other politicians in the Janesville Labor Day parade, the congressman was confronted by Wisconsin workers who were struggling with high unemployment and bleak prospects. A man was videotaped asking what his representative planned to do to aid Ryan's unemployed constituents.
"So what should I have to work for to get a job?" the man asked. "Should I have to work the same wages as in China? Should I have to work for $1 an hour?"
Ryan tried to brush his questioner off. But when the man persisted, saying, "C'mon, we're all here to have a good time."
When he was reminded that it was Labor Day, which would seem to be an appropriate time to discuss unemployment and the condition of workers, Ryan finally offered something:
"Would you like some candy?" Ryan asked. "Would you like a Packer-Badger schedule?"
Candy or a sports schedule.
That's all job-seeking Wisconsinites ever got from Paul Ryan.
And that's all job-seeking Americans will ever get from him.