In the video clip above we see Rachel Maddow, aggravated over Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and the tendency of the news media to portray him as a bright and earnest young man on the rise — a numbers-whiz with a sharpened pencil behind his ear who has the guts to level with Americans about the deep budgetary crisis we all face.

Maddow’s problem with Paul Ryan is that his plans and projections are largely nonsense — but no one questions them because they’re all dazzled by his “energetic young man” image.

When you look closely, though, The Talented Mr. Ripley is really more like Dagwood Bumstead — a hapless ne’er-do-well who keeps peddling the same, ill-conceived “roadmaps,” “paths,” and camouflaged ploys over and over again.

Paul Ryan has carefully crafted his “Republican rising star” image. He has famously attracted a lot of publicity to the P90X Workout sessions he holds on Capitol Hill. The book he co-wrote about himself and two colleagues is titled Young Guns.

And, ever since the minute President Obama won the 2008 election, Rep. Ryan has wanted to be perceived as a super-strenuous balancer of budgets, a conscience-driven truth-teller who loses sleep over every penny added to the federal deficit.

Let’s remember a few things, though.

This whippersnapper Paul Ryan, 41 years old, started working as an aide to Wisconsin’s Republican senator Bob Kasten almost 20 years ago. He has been legislative director for Sen. Sam Brownback (one of the members of the secretive religious and political organization known as “The Fellowship” or “The Family“) and speechwriter to “drug czar” William Bennett and Jack Kemp. He was born into one of Janesville, Wisconsin’s most prominent families, and before marketing politicians, he worked as a marketing consultant to the Ryan family’s construction business, Ryan Incorporated Central, “one of the nation’s largest site-work contractors.”

Jeepers! A fella almost wonders if Ryan is really as virginal as he tries to appear.

(Update: In appraising Rep. Ryan’s innocent image, consider the fact that Dick Cheney worships the ground Paul Ryan walks on.)

Paul Ryan has been in Congress since 1999. He was there for the entire Bush administration — and he voted for the very things that erased the Clinton surplus and turned it into the massive deficit that threatens us today.

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported last June, “Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.” Ryan voted for all of this stuff.

Paul Ryan voted for TARP (the Wall Street bailout). Paul Ryan voted for the bailout of GM and Chrysler. Nevertheless, when the TEA Party held their big rally here last September 11, Paul Ryan was a featured speaker.

Just four months ago, Paul Ryan voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, making the deficit still bigger. Doh! Simply letting those tax cuts expire would slash the deficit that Ryan claims to be so worried about.

Like the sandwiches built by Dagwood Bumstead, Paul Ryan’s budgets and roadmaps make for impressive presentations, but are ultimately hard to swallow. Last August, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman took apart Rep. Ryan’s budget baloney: “Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.”

Amusingly, the bright young man on the rise turns out to be a bush league bumbler, as both Rachel Maddow and Paul Krugman have been revealing for some time now. While Paul Ryan is busier than ever trying to be seen as keen, Krugman blogs today that the congressman in the nifty suit is the “Same As He Ever Was“:

Folks, he’s always been like this. The image of Ryan as a thoughtful, serious conservative never had any basis in reality. The original “roadmap” was just as nonsensical as the new proposal; the Ryan-led attack on health reform was crude nonsense.

Ryan the serious deep thinker was a fantasy of Beltway types who think entirely in terms of images and perceptions, and can’t be bothered to dig into the policy details.

Let’s hope Rachel Maddow’s guest Gail Collins is right, that Ryan will finally have to answer for his dunderheaded schemes.

Imagine all of America in one voice — that of Dagwood’s boss Mr. Dithers — shouting “Bumstead!


  • In his April 16 post, “Undoing Medicare: The Real ‘Death Tax’,” James Fallows quotes Merrill Goozner of “People under 55 need to know that if the plan crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan were passed, most of them will never have a cent to leave to their children. It will all go to the health care industry to support the American way of dying.”
  • On May 5, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee that seniors would be forced to “die sooner” under Paul Ryan’s plan.
  • In his May 9 post, “Ryan’s $34 Trillion Tax Folly,” Pulitzer Prize-winner David Cay Johnston points out that Ryan’s plan is “lunacy” that would result in net extra spending of between $20 trillion to $34 trillion, and should be greeted with laughter, derision, and disgust, “in that order.”
  • A May 10 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story relays news that “Millions would lose Medicaid coverage under Ryan budget plan,” according to a report by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

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