Paul Ryan and the Irony of Saving the ‘Social Safety Net’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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I don’t subscribe to it, but there is a theory that Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism.  According to the theory, by co-opting the left, FDR prevented the real radicals and socialists from gaining power at the national level.

It is, to say the least, an ironic theory — which makes me think of the irony currently surrounding House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget.

Whether for pragmatic political reasons or sincere belief that America must preserve a social safety net (if for no other reason than that Americans have ostensibly paid into the system and have grown to expect it),  Ryan’s budget proposals could ultimately do more to preserve a social safety net than anything liberal Democrats could pass.

“We ought to have a social safety net to help people who are down on their luck and people who cannot help themselves,” Ryan said at a Tuesday morning press conference.  “The problem is, our social safety net is fraying at the seams.”

“The sooner we tackle the problems, the better off all of us are,” Ryan added. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”

Ryan, of course, is right — in the sense that the welfare state that FDR helped inaugurate (and subsequent presidents like LBJ enhanced) is fraying.

And it could be that, by injecting individual choice and free market reforms into the process, the safety net will ultimately be made more efficient, and thus, preserved, due to the reforms of a conservative Republican named Paul Ryan.

(In fairness, though Ryan seeks to preserve New Deal and Great Society programs, his budget also repeals Obamacare.)

Of course, along the way, he will be demonized and accused of destroying the very programs he is seeking to preserve by the very people who claim to want to preserve them.  As Alanis Morrissette sang, “Isn’t that ironic?”