The Only Way Paul Ryan Wins Is if Millions of Americans Lose

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The Only Way Paul Ryan Wins Is if Millions of Americans Lose

The GOP Tax Bill is the culmination of a dark, dangerous dream.

"Jesus God Almighty, what a fake." (Photo: Getty)

"Jesus God Almighty, what a fake." (Photo: Getty)

If you want to be a good American citizen, and an American citizen that likes to believe that we are a nation that has progressed at all in establishing social justice, a viable social-safety net, and at least a passing attempt at achieving social and economic equality, here is what you have to do now.

Ignore any news report that calls what the Congress did “historic” in any sense except the ironic.

Ignore any news report that prioritize what a “win” this is for the Congress and for the president*.

Ignore any news report that describes what the Congress did on Tuesday as “keeping a campaign promise.”

Ignore any news report that describes without the appropriate scorn the fact that this bill culminates a decades-long dream of Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin. This culmination is roughly akin to the New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878’s having been the “culmination” of a successful breeding program for the Aedes aegypti.

Ignore all of this and concentrate on what’s really happening to the country.

Paul Ryan dreamed of this day because Paul Ryan dreams of plutocracy. And now, with this bill, he has successfully arranged the first piece of his career-long effort to turn the clock of the American economy back to the 1890s. When he comes for what he calls “entitlement reform”—which he will, as soon as this idiot bill explodes the deficit—that will be the second piece. The Supreme Court (through Citizens United, McCutcheon, and Shelby County) already has cooperated in this great project. The president* is on board because he’s basically made of greed and ignorance. The large media conglomerates will go along for the ride because they are conglomerates first, and news-gathering entities second. This state of affairs could well be generational, and there’s no indication that the Second Gilded Age will be as vulnerable to progressive ideas as the first one turned out to be. The franchise is under assault. Citizenship itself is under assault.
 
This is the world about which Paul Ryan has dreamed since he was a young lad, heir to a substantial fortune, yet going to college on Social Security survivor’s benefits that you and I and our parents paid for. You’re welcome again, dickhead. This is the world about which Paul Ryan dreams in his 13-room Georgian mansion in downtown Janesville, Wisconsin. He was born well and he married well. He has had few moments in his adult life in which the government wasn’t picking up his tab. Golden bootstraps, this guy had, and we paid for most of them.

So now he gets his chance and, by god, he’s making the most of it. Go to the end of this video and look at him, with his shit-eating grin as some protesters are hustled out of the gallery. (Dammit, you have to be a Republican congressman from South Carolina to get away with that!) Notice the coy way he drops one foot behind the other while the members of his brainless caucus, many of them with utterly no clue about what they’re actually voting for, chuckle and applaud like kids at the circus. Listen to the retrograde language of disenfranchisement and oligarchy:

"Here is what it speaks to, in what I truly believe is a generational and defining moment for this nation. Our tax code is so broken that it undermines the very thing that makes our nation exceptional in the first place. It punishes hard work. It discourages our entrepreneurial spirit. It dims freedom and free enterprise. It limits our potential of our own people…The mission that drives us here today is to restore this beautiful American idea."

Jesus God Almighty, what a fake. His tax bill, his defining generational moment, guarantees that his grandchildren, and those of the president*, and those of the Republican donor class, which is this bill’s only true constituency, never will have to work a day in their lives. The defining generational moment maintains the egregious carried-interest deduction, which every single presidential candidate on both sides of the aisle in 2016 agreed was nothing more than a goodie bag for a singularly non-productive industry that nearly killed the economy entirely.

Why didn’t his Social Security payments discourage his entrepreneurial spirit? Why haven’t four decades at the public trough destroyed his work ethic? Why hasn’t his freedom dimmed? (No, I know freedom can’t dim. It’s not my fault the guy’s a hack with words as well as with numbers.)

Getty

Of course, the farce wasn’t complete until the early hours of Wednesday morning, when the Senate passed this dog’s breakfast by the customary 51-48 margin. (Other casualties included Susan Collins’s reputation, Bob Corker’s integrity, and the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, courtesy of Lisa Murkowski.) And there even was a final, extra layer of burlesque. It seems that, in his haste to ensure his immortality, Speaker Ryan had rushed the bill through while it still contained provisions that were illegitimate under Senate rules. So, the House had to vote on it again before shipping it down to the president*, whose signature would make the heist complete and the getaway, clean.

This, of course, comes as the economy is still recovering from the damage done to it when the entire American entrepreneurial spirit was dedicated to developing more sophisticated financial instruments to steal the nation’s wealth, something that this tax bill makes even more likely in the future. This is the final commitment of the national economy to the magic asterisks on which the conservative economic folly has been based ever since the 1980 campaign. The whole megillah depends on ludicrous growth projections and ridiculous faith in the essential patriotism of the American corporation. This bill will give the plutocrats more money to sit on, period, and that’s because it’s what the bill was designed to do, if it was designed to do anything at all, having been slapped together on the fly to draw all those “needed legislative victory” stories that we’re going to be reading over the holidays.

This is the world about which Paul Ryan dreams in his 13-room Georgian mansion.

This was an appalling day in the United States Congress. And all I can add to it is something seasonal, something written the last time self-government handed itself over to plutocrats, sharpers, and raiders of the public purse.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”

If the spirits are about, I know a lovely 13-room Georgian mansion in Wisconsin they might want to drop by for a bit of a chat.

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others.

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