With Paul Ryan taking the gavel, he becomes the youngest Speaker of the House since 1869. His party seems to have chosen him as a consensus builder—a figure who can bridge the moderate wing of his party and the Freedom Caucus (a little group of hyper-conservative Members that rebranded the “tea party” movement when it started polling poorly). However, while Paul Ryan might bring the Republican Party together—his policies will tear America apart.
I don’t mean this in any way to be an attack on Paul Ryan’s faith. From what I can tell he seems to be committed to his family with a deep sense of public service. Yet his understanding of our nation and our larger sense of community is deeply flawed.
Budgets are a moral document. They reflect our priorities as a nation. They should demonstrate what we value, who we value, and where we believe our resources should be spent. Unfortunately, his priorities could not be clearer.
During his Chairmanship of the House Budget Committee he advocated for policies that gutted programs aimed at supporting children and the middle class, while restacking the deck to support the wealthiest Americans. In fact, his budgets have taken 62% of their cuts from programs that support the lower-income among us. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops even said that the Ryan budget failed a “basic moral test.”
His past leadership should give us a clear picture of what we can expect from a Speaker Ryan: doubling down on the failed notion that supporting the rich, will allow everyone else to prosper. This has not only been disproven countless times—but is at stark odds with who we are as a people of faith.
We are reminded in the gospel of our obligation to care for the “least of these.” Pope Francis tells us that “inequality is the root of social evil.” Yet the Republican Leaders in Congress have made it clear that they have no interest in bringing our society together. Instead, they intend to keep supporting those at the top, while those at the bottom struggle to make ends meet.
Paul Ryan and the Republican Party all subscribe to the same myth: that we are a frontier nation, founded by pilgrims, obsessed with pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. However this vision of America is more grounded in Western Films than in reality. Our history is shared with that of the immigrant, the union worker, and the middle class family. The notion that our nation was built by “rugged individualists” is false—we are built on communities who looked out for each other.
I believe this is what Americans so deeply crave: a return to strong, caring communities. We share a vision for policies that bring people together, rather than pit them against each other. Unfortunately, no one could be further form that vision than Speaker Paul Ryan.