The other day, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) posted a tweet extolling the virtues of the Republican tax cut, in which he raved about a high school employee getting a pay increase of a whopping $1.50 a week. Apparently, Mr. Ryan is so out of touch or had a brain freeze or just plain didn't care about how utterly thoughtless and empty-hearted this was -- until it started getting so much national ridicule that he or a quick-witted staffer quickly deleted it.
Thanks to the magic of technology, though, the Internet means never having to say goodbye, so the Ryan Tweet was rescued from oblivion.
While being pre-occupied with other Republican outrages the past week like the Nunes memo release and more, the deletion had slipped under my radar, so thanks to Eric Boardman for pointing this out to me at a Super Bowl gala yesterday. So, I not only got a deep dish pizza flown in from Chicago at the party, but something to write about on top of it.
Now, I know that people can do stupid things, as I've proven myself many times, but this is still a hard one to figure out. When you're Speaker of the House, after all, and leader of Republican Party in the House of Representatives, you have an agenda to deal with that impacts the direction of the nation. So, your responsibility is great. And typing a figure like "$1.50 a week" is hard to miss. And typing "Costco membership" is hard to miss. And the basic math is so easy to do that you don't even need a calculator -- it's 52 plus half of 52, which works out to a pay increase of $78 a year.
But forget for a moment that Paul Ryan seems to think that a $78 increase is life-changing. It still doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that a yearly bump of $78 is a great deal less than $50,000, which is the increase a top-earning household making over $730,000 will get (according to the Tax Policy Center).
I could get into detailed numerics here to demonstrate that a wealthy person gets a higher percentage of their money returned than a low-income family, which actually has a need for money. (Or that some middle-income families will bizarrely get a tax increase.) But numerics can get us lost in the weeds. Comparing $78 to $50,000 is so much more basic, visceral and clear.
And Paul Ryan deleting what he thought, wrote and posted doesn't change that he thought, wrote and posted it. That he thought an increase of $1.50 a week was worth crowing about. And let's go further -- that breaks down to getting 21-cents more a day. Children can make more than that a week by simply checking the sofa cushions after their dad had his weekend nap and the loose change spilled out.
People do screw up and post things they got completely wrong. And sometimes they do make deletions when they realize their mistake and try to make mistakes go away. But, speaking from experience, usually they either apologize or explain how they messed up their thinking when their gaffe is brought to their attention. Which Paul Ryan has not done. And it got A LOT of attention. And I suspect he hasn't done so because -- a) there really isn't a good explanation, because increases of $1.50 a week are usually related to a bigger allowance for 12-year-olds, not wage earners, and b) given all the other comments and tweets that Paul Ryan has made on the subject (not to mention those made by other Republicans and the president), it seems that this is actually what he thought, as does his party and president. That low-income Americans should be happy and grateful that they got any increase, and $1.50 a week more money is A Good Thing for them and what they deserve since, after all, they're so less productive than those who deserve their $50,000 a year financial increase.
To be clear, a tax benefit from the government of 21-cents a day is the sort of thing you'd expect to read in a history book about the Great Depression. Or a Disney comic book about Scrooge McDuck who got $50,000 a year and is swimming in a bathtub of gold coins. Or an ad for Costco explaining why you should take out a membership. Not from the leader of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives defending the tax cut they pushed through without any hearings, so that their wealthy donors and president could swim in bathtubs of gold coins.
And deleting the tweet not only doesn't change Paul Ryan's thoughts on the subject, without explanation, it doesn't change the reality that a high school secretary is getting a pay increase of $1.50 a week.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor