At the age of 16, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) suffered the death of his 55-year-old father. Because of his father’s early death, the government made survivor payments for a few years to Paul Ryan’s family — including for Paul Ryan himself, for the two years until he turned 18.
The death of Paul Ryan’s father probably cut government spending on Ryan’s family, since his father never got to collect a dime in retirement benefits despite paying into social security for many years, and since retirees typically collect at least a decade’s worth of benefits. Thus, the Ryan family got no special breaks.
But the liberal magazine The American Prospect, and liberal blogs like Crooks and Liars, Firedoglake, and Daily Kos, are using Ryan’s father’s early death against him, falsely accusing him of hypocrisy. For example, a Daily Kos diary attacks Ryan as an “evil hypocrite” in a post entitled, “Entitlement-hating Paul Ryan collected Social Security benefits until he was 18.” Never mind that Ryan’s recent budget proposal doesn’t in fact seek to abolish entitlements, much less get rid of Social Security, and doesn’t seek to reduce the survivor benefits he once received. It merely seeks to cut the rate of growth of exploding Medicare costs by eventually giving its recipients vouchers they can use to shop around for medical care.
Not all Daily Kos diaries reflect the views of Daily Kos as a whole, but this one does, since it was briefly featured on the top of the front page of Daily Kos, and was listed as a “recommended” blog post in the sidebar on the right side of Daily Kos’s main page in recent days. 282 Daily Kos readers have commented in response to it, seemingly all agreeing with its hateful sentiments.
Even if Ryan’s recent proposal cut Social Security, rather than just reforming a different program — Medicare — there would be nothing hypocritical about his wanting to rein in the costs of an increasingly costly program simply because he received modest benefits under that program as a child, when financial decisions were presumably made for him by his parent or guardian (people who had themselves paid into that very program with their tax dollars). Social security payments have risen faster than inflation since Ryan was a child, and have increased radically as a percentage of our economy.
Liberal bloggers frequently smear conservatives and libertarians as hypocrites for seeking to collect social security and other benefits. For example, Ayn Rand was attacked by the liberal blog Balloon Juice as being a “welfare queen” for receiving Medicare benefits even though she had contributed lots of tax money in her lifetime through income and self-employment taxes she paid based on her best-selling books.
But there’s nothing hypocritical about criticizing a government program as being a bad deal for the public, and yet wanting to recover some of the tax money you were forced to pay into that program in benefits. Refusing to accept such benefits is as stupid as refusing to accept the return of stolen money. If a program is wasteful, people should be encouraged to criticize it so that the program will be reformed, not punished by being denied the same benefits that every other taxpayer receives — including people who are too lazy or uninformed to demand reforms.