"Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Sunday suggested that Pope Francis had been touting the same "free market" principles opposing the "welfare state" that the Republican Party has been pushing for years.
Late last year, Ryan, who is Catholic, was asked how the pope's criticism of capitalism squared with the Republican Party's message. Paul had argued that the pope didn't really understand the U.S. economy because the "guy is from Argentina, they haven't had real capitalism in Argentina."
During an interview on Sunday, ABC host George Stephanopoulos asked the Wisconsin Republican if he had been "a little too flip" in criticizing the pope.
"No, not at all," Ryan insisted. "They have crony capitalism in Argentina, where you have exploitation. That is not the free market, that's crony capitalism. We're starting to see some crony capitalism here in America."
A couple of offhand thoughts: Mr. Ryan is a Roman Catholic, so I know he wouldn't lie. I think he just misunderstood the pope. Or maybe he's just so convinced that his party's positions are so correct that he is willing to risk the ire of the Church to correct this pope.
Anyway, remember that the surprise defeat suffered by the Republican party during last year's presidential election caused them to regroup and reconsider their mistakes. They decided it wasn't their message that was wrong, it was their communication of it that failed.
But just in case their message is still not getting through, let's examine the issue a bit more closely.
According to Paul B. Farrell on Market Watch, the pope said, ""Inequality is the root of social ills ... as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems."
Mr. Farrell goes on to identify ten major points in the pope's treatise, 'Apostolic Exhortation,' a 67-page manifesto published by the Vatican around Thanksgiving:
1. Economic inequality is the root cause of all problems in the world 2. Trickle-down economics of the rich is a failed ideology. 3. The "Invisible Hand' of free market capitalism cannot be trusted. 4. New tyranny of capitalism rejects the public good, imposes own laws. 5. Capitalism's worship of money is a new golden-calf idolatry. 6. Capitalism promotes excessive consumption, undermines society. 7. Competition and survival the fittest is killing public solutions. 8. Capitalism treats humans as leftovers in a throwaway culture. 9. Conservative individualism is undermining the common good. 10. Capitalism rejects ethics, favors the relativity of individualism.
Well it seems to me that this pope is pretty knowledgeable about capitalism and the U.S. economy, so Mr. Ryan's initial premise is very shaky. Secondly, if he thinks we are just now beginning to see crony capitalism and exploitation in America, either he hasn't been paying attention or he's been AWOL for a while.
As much as he seems to know about Argentina, maybe he was there with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford when he disappeared for a while in 2009.
Oh, the ugliness of it all: Human weaknesses and politics!
Well, Mr. Ryan is joined by lots of Republicans as they attempt to make their ideology sound consistent with this pope's beliefs. But what it really sounds like is a great deal of rationalizing the failures of capitalism to spread the wealth evenly.
Some evidence? World's 85 richest people have as much as poorest 3.5 billion. Sorry folks. A system that promotes this, is broken.