Interesting Buzzfeed profile of Paul Ryan by McKay Coppins, with a walk-on role by Mike Pence. I’ll have McKay on today to discuss it. Probably not Chairman Ryan however, who seems increasingly estranged from talk radio. Coppins didn’t mention that the program Ryan was on when he sparkled some controversy concerning the urban poor was Bill Bennett’s, and McKay didn’t do the obvious delineation of what sort of talk radio upsets the congressman’d friend Robert Woodson –the sort of journalistic miss that is the equivalent of referring to “something I saw on cable.” That said, it is an interesting piece you ought to read. Lots of the GOP work in and for the inner city, usually through their churches. The story is that the Manhattan-Beltway media elite don’t know it or don’t care to view it as legitimate.
My Washington Examiner column today is on the GOP bench that is taking shape in the midterms. There’s a score of rising candidates, most of whom will succeed and all of whom will re-energize the brand much as Ryan, Kelly Ayotte, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have in the past few years.
The quietly corrosive aspect of Coppins’ piece is the message that you can’t win the votes of the lower middle class or the rising poor with a Republican message, which is absurd. The emerging entitlement state will lock them out of mobility upwards as surely as a chained door, and that is a message they need to hear. Inequality isn’t the problem. The closing of American upward mobility is.
The time I spent with Arizona State Treasurer Doug Ducey last week talking about the thousands and thousands of entry level jobs he created with Cold Stone Creamery and why such experiences are necessary for the success of young adults on the cusp of entering the workforce full-time underscores the devastating impact of Obama’s jobless recovery on the poor and near-poor. Every entrepreneur the Obama economy is killing off with marginal rates and regulatory overkill is taking with him or her a handful of entry level jobs on which the rising generation depends for the first leg up.
From the Coppins piece, on a meeting with men after Sunday services at a mostly-black church, Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis. Ryan and Coppins stay after the main services are concluded for a meeting with some men who have made it from tough places to stability and employment:
Ryan begins to perk up, though, when a man named Travis stands to speak. He complains that too many of his friends get out of jail eager to rebuild their lives, only to have leads for decent jobs evaporate once employers find out they are ex-convicts. Without viable career paths, they end up settling for a part-time, minimum-wage existence before they eventually turn back to crime to supplement their income.
“We need to try to get those Fortune 500 companies to lower their expectations on background checks to hire these guys,” Travis says, as his peers nod in agreement. Ryan is nodding too, suddenly energized by a tangible problem that public policy might be able to address. “You ask any one of these cats out on the street, do you want to work? They don’t want to work ‘cause they’re gonna be making $7 an hour on pump four.”
It isn’t Ryan’s place in that setting to point out that few people work for $7.25 an hour for long, or to bring up the D.C. debate about minimum wage or its truly destructive impact on entry-level jobs for teens (and for ex-cons), or to talk about how Indiana Governor Mike Pence is in a much better position that some bureaucracy in D.C. to address the problems of unemployment in the Hoosier State. But Coppins lets the impression build that Ryan agrees with the idea that free market economics doesn’t have answers to these problems while in fact there are answers, but those answers include in part the social structures that Ryan refers to when he speaks of the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity. Not sure if Coppins gets that, but he did get a “gotcha quote” from Woodson, one that is likely to find its way into the daily prep of some talkers across the country:
“I’m probably going off message here, but it bothers me that the conservative movement is being defined by talk radio,” Coppins quotes Woodson as saying to a fund-raiser on the top of a sky-rise in Indianapolis. “Their goal isn’t to heal this nation, and that’s not what makes them celebrities. What makes them celebrities is to continue to talk about grievance.”
Coppins didn’t get the clarification that would have served Ryan here, and is silent on whether Ryan agreed with Woodson which would be remarkable given Ryan’s excellent relations with the country’s hundreds of radio talk show hosts. McKay knows a good pot-stirring line when he hears it though. Better to leave the set of radio talkers broad as possible so as to draw in as much outrage as possible. Had Coppins asked Ryan asked “Did Woodson mean Bill Bennett?”–he’d have heard something like “Of course not. Bennett is advancing the conversation, not destroying it. He should have said strident voices like some on the far right and some on MSNBC.” But McKay knows his business, which is to divide the GOP by getting them to read a profile that makes Ryan sound like a growing problem for the base. He isn’t. But that’s not going to drive traffic.
[Note: I originally read the Coppins peice as attributing the talk radio quote to Ryan, not Woodson. I have corrected that and regret the error.]