Rep. Paul Ryan Knows A Thing Or Two About 'Straw Men'

November 03, 2011 11:45 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Today on MSNBC, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeated his claim that President Obama is "preying on resentment and envy" and "pitting people against each other" by campaigning for his jobs bill. "I just reject his view that one person's gain necessarily must come at the expense of another person's loss," he added. "And what it does is stokes resentments within our society. This also hurts jobs."

Later in the interview, Ryan continued complaining about an alleged "horrible rhetorical broadside" from Obama and the Democrats. "We should have a legitimate policy debate about our different ideas, and we're not having that legitimate policy debate," Ryan said. "We're having what I call scapegoat, blame-game, straw-man arguments, where you're affixing positions to your political adversaries that they don't have to try to win the debate by default."

Ryan has been having a problem lately with projecting his own behavior onto Democrats — and this interview was no exception. In fact, Ryan's description of the president's belief "that one person's gain necessarily must come at the expense of another person's loss" is a perfect example of a straw man. It's also an accurate description of Ryan's budget plan — tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of social programs for the needy — as well as the trend in recent years that has resulted in historic income inequality.

Mother Jones chart on income inequality

Ryan's answer to the problem is to keep throwing money at the mega-rich and hope they will suddenly start using their prosperity to create jobs for the rest of America. But he doesn't want to address the evidence that his approach does not work, so he's attempting to "win the debate by default" by inventing positions that President Obama doesn't actually hold.