I have voiced my contempt for Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and his hypocrisy and utter contempt for millions and millions of Americans. Ryan claims deep religious faith, yet acts in manners that are diametrically opposed to the Gospel's social message. His budget proposals time and time again seek to shift money from the lower classes and give it to the wealthiest Americans. Yet incredibly, many in the media act as if Ryan is a serious and decent individual. But Ryan is not alone in his hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy. The same behavior and character flaws extend throughout the Republican Party. Indeed, they have intensified as the Christofascists have risen in power within the GOP. A piece in Salon looks at both the despicable aspects of Ryan, but also identifies the sick psyches of "conservatives" that incline them to care nothing about others. Her are article highlights:
Republican Paul Ryan, like most other members of the United States Congress, is a millionaire.
Christa Patton is 68 years old. She is frail and no longer able to leave her home. She lives on a fixed income. Patton told Van Jones on a recent episode of his CNN show “The Messy Truth” that she would not be able to eat without the Meals on Wheels program.
Paul Ryan is the speaker of the United States House of Representatives. By his own account, in college he used to hang out with his friends and drink beer while sharing his dreams of cutting Medicaid. When Ryan was 15 years old, his father died from a heart attack caused by alcoholism. Ryan and his family then received his father’s Social Security survivor’s benefits. Ryan used that money to attend college. This was not the only money that Paul Ryan received from federal government. His family built its wealth from receiving government contracts.
Paul Ryan has combined meanness, cruelty and callousness towards the weak and the vulnerable with gross and unapologetic hypocrisy.
Republicans like Ryan — along with the millionaires and billionaires who comprise Donald Trump’s Cabinet and inner circle — literally want to take food, shelter and health care away from poor people like Christa Patton. Today’s Republicans view these Americans as useless eaters to be disposed of by means both passive and active.
It is normal to feel aghast at and disgusted by the Republican Party’s war on the poor. The more challenging and perhaps even more disturbing task is to ask why today’s conservatives feel such antipathy, disregard and hostility towards poor and other vulnerable Americans. Certainly greed and a slavish devotion to a revanchist right-wing ideology are part of the answer. But they may not be sufficient
Conservatives are more likely to exhibit social dominance and bullying behavior. This is a function of their authoritarian tendencies. The election of Donald Trump exemplifies this phenomenon.
Conservatism is a type of motivated social cognition that by its very nature is hostile to those groups located on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy.
Conservatives are more likely than liberals or progressives to believe in what is known as the “just world fallacy,” where people who suffer misfortune are viewed as somehow deserving their fates. Conservatives are also more likely than liberals or progressives not to use systems-level thinking as a means of understanding that individuals do not exist separate and apart from society. Conservatives are also more likely to defend social inequality as “fair and legitimate.”
Social psychologists have shown that, in effect, poor people are invisible to the rich and upper classes.
The psychological dynamic known as the “diffusion of responsibility,” in which individuals tend to ignore people who are in crisis — especially if they are perceived to be a member of a different social group, race, ethnicity or class — also encourages a lack of empathy and concern. It undercuts policies meant to offer direct assistance to vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities. A perverse corollary to the “diffusion of responsibility” can also be used to legitimate punitive policies that target specific individuals and groups.
Conservative media — and sometimes mainstream media as well — routinely uses false and misleading information to discuss the social safety net. For example, President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society as well as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives were extremely successful in terms of alleviating poverty and improving the general welfare of the American people. Yet right-wing media consistently tells its public that such programs were failures, a narrative that intentionally ignores the Republican Party’s efforts to undermine the effectiveness of those programs.
Among evangelical Christians, what is called the “prosperity gospel” has become increasingly influential. This grotesque interpretation of Christian doctrine assures its adherents that poor people deserve their circumstances because God has chosen not to bless them with money. Conversely, rich people have more money because God has deemed them worthy. Christian evangelicals — especially those who believe in the prosperity gospel — were a key constituency in Donald Trump’s winning coalition.
Conservatives are capable of being empathetic. However, conservatives focus those feelings on their in-group such as immediate family and community. Liberals have a different biological inclination: They are able to feel empathy for those people and groups who are not part of their close social circle and community.
On the level of practical politics, there have been no substantial negative electoral consequences to Republicans’ decades-long war on the social safety net and the common good. Thus, there is no reason in terms of electoral calculus for the Republican Party to stop pursuing such policies. Moreover, it is unlikely that conservative red-state voters will “wake up” and stop supporting a political party that actually leaves them less economically prosperous and financially secure. Here, poor and working-class Republican voters are like Pavlov’s dogs, seeking out abuse from their masters in the hope that the latter will hurt other Americans even more so.
Unfortunately, the Republican war on the poor is but one sign of the deep moral rot at the heart of American society. This crisis extends well beyond the election of Donald Trump and the cruelty both promised and so far enacted by his cadre and the Republican Party. If a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable and weak, America is a country in decline, a country whose citizens should be ashamed of their leaders — and, in some cases, ashamed of themselves.
At least for now, passage of the repeal of Obamacare has been delayed. Sadly, given the sickness of so many in the GOP, the effort to throw millions off of health insurance coverage and to deprive needed aid to the needy in order to further enrich the wealthy will not be abandoned.