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Paul Ryan's Faux Populism Isn't Going to End Poverty or Reduce Inequality

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Cross-posted from The Nation

From youtube.com/watch?v=vv51e6kJX1M: Paul Ryan Budget Plan
Paul Ryan Budget Plan
(Image by YouTube)
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Paul Ryan's fellow Republicans are quick to dismiss Elizabeth Warren as too radical, too progressive, too populist.

But Ryan is trying -- a bit clumsily, but trying all the same -- to borrow a page from the Massachusetts senator as he seeks to remake himself in anticipation of a potential 2016 run for the Republican presidential nomination. He's talking about poverty, about inequality, about shifting the focus away from meeting the demands of corporations and toward meeting the needs of Americans.

Mitt Romney's running mate is abandoning Romneyism for populism -- or what former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has referred to as "Paul Ryan's Faux Populism."

Instead of repeating the Mittnomers of 2012 -- "Corporations are people, my friend" -- Ryan is suddenly informing fellow conservatives, "There's another fallacy popular among our ranks. Just as some think anything government does is wrong, others think anything business does is right. But in fact they're two sides of the same coin. Both big government and big business like to stack the deck in their favor. And though they are sometimes adversaries, they are far too often allies."

It is hard to argue with Ryan's reasoning. Populists and progressives have warned for more than a century that corporations are "boldly marching, not for economic conquests only, but for political power." The author of those words, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Edward Ryan, asked in 1873: "Which shall rule -- wealth or man; which shall lead -- money or intellect; who shall fill public stations -- educated and patriotic free men, or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?" Elizabeth Warren confirmed Ryan's worst fears when she addressed Netroots Nation last week and declared, "The game is rigged and the rich and the powerful have lobbyists and lawyers and plenty of friends in Congress. Everybody else, not so much."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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