Will Paul Ryan Be Next in Line?


“To understand Paul Ryan’s budget plan, you only need to know two numbers: A $35 billion dollar increase in handouts to military contractors and a 47% cut to education and job training.” — Becky Cooper, Peace Action Operations Wisconsin

Toward the end of a quaint, if often rote address given to convene the new Republican Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan in passing listed “taking care of our troops” among his priorities for the term – his mellow demeanor a departure from the brimstone and fire conservatives who hog camera time to make the same point.

Indeed over the course of his political career, Ryan has claimed an equally robust if tamped down support for America’s military – a claim reinforced by successfully landing multiple Pentagon contracts for corporate suppliers in his home state, Wisconsin.

Ryan showed his political chops when addressing the new session, correctly calibrating and seizing the occasion by applying humor and gently challenging his deeply divided colleagues to practice respect for one another. So calm was his mood, anyone unacquainted with his conservative inflexibility, corporate ties and ruthlessness on the issues would be shocked to learn his track record in the service of his agenda and party.

In reality, the Speaker is an uncompromising defense hawk, especially when it comes to the Navy. He foresees a South China Sea dotted with artificial islands constructed by the Chinese to fortify claims to what are now international waters, and we’d better prepare a response.

Ryan has been largely successful in selling this dark future, influencing congressional power brokers to award Navy contracts to his inland state, including a builder of combat ships that are by coincidence designed to function in waters like the South China Sea.

Ryan has likewise led efforts to maintain Wisconsin’s contracts once awarded, even when as in the case of some large warships, naval high command no longer wants the finished products.

But the real jaw-dropper during Ryan’s terms as US representative was his 2013-2014 effort to free up defense dollars by reneging on inflation adjustments for veterans.

Calling Ryan to account in a December 2013 article published in Business Insider, Air Force veteran and veteran’s advocate Tony Carr points out that Ryan and his fellow hawks helped create the monetary drain the now Speaker tried to stanch with veterans’ pensions:

“What Ryan...doesn’t mention is that part of the reason money is running short these days is that he voted to authorize and expand the two wars whose costs have now finally become so inescapable that he and others can no longer deny them.” 

Ryan has consistently denied the core of these accusations, responding with different versions or flat denials. Meanwhile he’s been publicly praising the House and Senate committee chairs, who’ve been funneling the Benjamins to Wisconsin’s corporate contractors. And his once sagging Wisconsin favorability ratings are headed upward again.

For all the veiled ambition and kill-them-with-kindness tactics, there is an undeniable charisma about Ryan. Despite these instances of ingenuous behavior, he has crafted a persona of calm authority and approachability.

Which given the temperament of the man about to ascend to the presidency, may be enough to make Paul Ryan next in line.

Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister and substance abuse counselor living in Blacksburg, Va. Email donaldlrollins@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2017


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