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Posted at 2:02 PM ET, 01/27/2011

Charade of the week: What 'hammock' is Paul Ryan talking about?

By Matt Miller

Before we leave the State of the Union to focus on whatever squabbles will preoccupy us next week, it's worth pausing on a curious observation made by Paul Ryan in his response -- a sentiment sure to come back in the battles ahead. "We are at a moment," Ryan said, "where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency." (Italics mine).

My question is: What hammock is he talking about? The only thing slated to grow the size of government in the years ahead is the retirement of the baby boomers. The doubling of the number of people eligible for Social Security and Medicare is what is driving all the increase in federal spending -- along with the spiraling of system-wide health-care costs, which afflicts Medicare along with all privately financed health care. But if those programs for seniors haven't been a "hammock" until now, simply doubling the number of people eligible for them can't turn them into a "hammock" tomorrow. When its comes to fiscal policy, we have an aging population challenge and a health cost challenge. We don't have a "hammock" challenge.

I suppose it's possible Ryan thinks all those seventy-something slackers living large on their $14,000 in Social Security benefits should get off their complacent, dependent butts and start pulling their weight. But I think his comment is more likely a tic of the conservative mind -- which mindlessly views any increase in spending as putting us on the slippery slope to European-style decadence. Or maybe its just a rhetorical ploy to invoke that slippery slope. Either way, Ryan's "hammock" is a charade -- and the press and the Democrats need to call him out on this.

By Matt Miller  | January 27, 2011; 2:02 PM ET
Categories:  Miller  | Tags:  Matt Miller  
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Comments

Paul Ryan said "social safety net", not social security safety net. It appears the "charade" here is your comprehension.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | January 27, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, Matt. Ryan, along with about everybody else with functioning neurons, is correct in saying that deficits are an enormous problem. But Ryan's instinctive "government-is-by-definition bad" "starve the beast" core conservatism makes him overlook or discount many of those things which most Americans agree must be done and which most of those who agree understand that only government can do or at least must have a leading role in. If a reflexive and instinctive "government should do most everything" stance is bad (I think it is), then a "government should mostly do almost nothing" stance is bad as well. Unless, of course, one is in favor of laissez faire, robber-baron-age capitalism. Would that be Paul Ryan?

Matt's right, Mr. Ryan. What you think is a hammock is a safety net for millions of Americans, and a substantially frayed one for some. Repair it? Fine. Even reconsidering who gets to "lounge" in that "hammock" and for how long may be necessary, as long as we're not cutting the hammock down completely or knocking people out of it arbitrarily.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | January 27, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

What don't you understand? Unending unemployment compensation, 30-40M more people, working or not, with government subsidized health insurance, thousands more attending school on government loans, welfare, tax rebates, and increases to the earned income tax credits are as much a part of the social safety net as senior programs but contain a moral hazard.

Where were you when we ended welfare as we know it? Weren't we worried about something similar?

I thought the analogy was spot on.

Posted by: flyover22 | January 27, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

RYAN'S BLUEPRINT TO NOWHERE SAYS IT ALL. Increase taxes on those making $20k-200K, privatize Medicare and give seniors coupons (we all know how old folks LOVE to redeem a coupon)and GOOD LUCK buying your own insurance policies, and make sure people work into their 70's,..you know...all those worthless slackards over 70 living off the government dole. Meanwhile, HUGE tax breaks for those making over a quarter million.

YEP, this is PURE GOP at it's best.

Posted by: mrtimmaulden | January 27, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

RYAN'S BLUEPRINT TO NOWHERE SAYS IT ALL. Increase taxes on those making $20k-200K, privatize Medicare and give seniors coupons (we all know how old folks LOVE to redeem a coupon)and GOOD LUCK buying your own insurance policies, and make sure people work into their 70's,..you know...all those worthless slackards over 70 living off the government dole. Meanwhile, HUGE tax breaks for those making over a quarter million.

YEP, this is PURE GOP at it's best.

Posted by: mrtimmaulden | January 27, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

How about Ryan and his repub buddies get to work creating all the jobs they said they would. Then we wouldn't have to worry about safety nets,would we? Alomst a month on the Hill and not one mention of jobs. But they can waste time and money pushing a failed healthcare repeal bill, can't they. GOP=Group Of Phonies.

Posted by: mikel7 | January 27, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

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