NORMAN — Maybe you saw the picture. Paul Ryan and his wife, Janna, are shown washing a few pots and pans in a photo-op drop-by at a soup kitchen.
It was appropriate in a perverse sort of way, given how the harsh policies championed by the GOPvice-presidential candidate and his new adoptive parent, Mitt Romney, would necessitate far more of these last resorts for the hungry and desperate.
But this event was insidious in so many ways. Such news contrivances inherently diminish human suffering to a cynical campaign ploy. This one was hastily set up as Ryan was traipsing around Ohio trying to win over the state that has become ground zero in this election. He had just finished an appearance in Youngstown when somebody in the entourage suddenly decided it would be cool to be shot at the St. Vincent de Paul dining room on his way to the airport.
Never mind that he didn’t have the proper authorization, and never mind that there was no one there to be humiliated when he showed up. He and his group, including the all-important camera person, swooped in, got the money shot and swooped out.
Exploitative? You bet. It is also part of a continuing deception by the Republicans, who try to justify their enrich-the-rich policies with the fiction that they are really designed to uplift the non-rich. It is amazing to watch Mitt at the debates continuously claim:
“I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future.”
That’s what he repeats each time someone brings up those taped remarks where he was recorded at a fat-cat fundraiser dismissing 47 percent of the population as “dependent on government,” “victims” who he might just as well ignore.
Ever since that discourse was found out, he has been in full damage-control mode. When the button is pressed, as President Barack Obama finally did in their second debate, he recites his “care about 100 percent” mantra, hoping that if he says it enough times, people will believe it.
It’s a lot like his tax- and deficit-reduction plan, where he keeps making wild promises and brushing off the evidence that they are impossible and mere subterfuges to justify even less taxes for those in his country club. It also resembles his five-point program of vague generalities that is supposed to pass as a plan to add jobs. The miraculously revitalized president called it merely a “one-point program,” offering only more cuts for his fellow 1 percenters. Mitt calls them “job creators,” which is simply flimflam, designed to confuse.
There is no job creation in it. The rationale that lower taxes mean that the ultrawealthy will use their tax savings to spend more and create more employment overlooks the fact that those at the very top can’t even spend what they have now. They don’t need more money.
What they do need is a much stronger social consciousness, a reminder that all they’ve accumulated was made possible not just by their talents but by an entire society and infrastructure. That or their inheritances. In any case, they owe it to all of us to pay back a little more for the support they received.
That has proven to be a really tough sell, given how readily they bail on the communities that made their companies flourish and leave so many unemployed back home for facilities overseas, where wages reflect the poverty exploited by greedy American corporations.
It’s easy to see, given his own nihilistic pursuit of a fortune, how Romney would be their standard bearer, along with Ryan, who is perfectly willing to use a soup kitchen for the hopeless to feed his ambition with a steady diet of hypocrisy.
Bob Franken’s column is distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.