Ryan: Obama Shadowboxing a Straw Man in Inaugural Address


Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.) ripped President Obama’s inaugural address Tuesday on the Laura Ingraham Radio Show, calling his comments about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security not making its recipients “a nation of takers” a twist of terms and straw man argument that he employs time and time again.

RAYMOND ARROYO: The president implicitly referenced you, I think, at this moment during the inauguration. He was talking about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and how he means to continue spending on these things and strengthening them. Here’s what he had to say. Listen, I want your reaction.

BARACK OBAMA: They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.

ARROYO: Your reaction, Congressman Ryan.

PAUL RYAN: No one is suggesting that what we call are ‘earned entitlements’, entitlements you pay for, you know, like payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security, are putting you in a ‘taker’ category. No one suggests that whatsoever. The concern that people like me have been raising is we do not want to encourage a dependency culture. This is why we called for welfare reform. This is what welfare reform in 1996 was. This was what the new rounds for welfare reform we’re calling for do, which is to increase social mobility, economic opportunity, self-responsibility, those kinds of things. But earned entitlements, where you pay your payroll taxes to get a benefit when you retire, like Social Security and Medicare, are not taker programs. And I think when the president does kind of a switcheroo like that, what he’s trying to say is we are maligning these programs, that people have earned throughout their working lives. And so it’s kind of a convenient twist of terms to try and shadowbox a straw man in order to win an argument by default, is essentially what that rhetorical device is that he uses over and over and over.