I attended Ryan's Townhall in Janesville and for the most part walked away with nothing new or substantive to report from his presentations.
But Ryan has changed his demeanor somewhat. Not that he's done an about-face from his usual brash and cold snark-poopery, but he has backed away incrementally from his heavy partisanship and demagoguery of President Obama and Democrats in much of his presentation. At least that is how it appeared in Janesville.
He did however answer almost every question with a long and drawn out explanation oftentimes deluding its core premise to the point where few people probably remembered what the question was in the first place.
For the most part, he was playing to the audience and each questioner individually, giving them exactly what they wanted to hear but without offering a clear answer. For instance, he was asked whether he thought corporations are people. Instead of giving a simple yes or no with a supporting reason, he attempted to teach the audience why corporations should be treated the same as people.
Only one question was handled short and swift by the congressman. It happened early in the session when a constituent asked Ryan about whether his oath to Grover Norquist was before or after he entered office. Ryan replied he's been in office since 1998 and signed the pledge later. End of story. Next!
Another interesting question, or statement, came later on from someone who thought it was unfair that public sector workers make 30% more and usually have better benefits than private sector workers. Ryan replied that he agrees, that it's not right taxpayers are funding employees compensation and benefits better than what the taxpayers get. Of course that's nuts. But soon afterwards came a question about his speeches referencing class warfare, resentment and class envy.
"I don't think it's healthy for us to be stoking the flames of envy and resentment, I don't care about rich people, because they are already rich. What I worry about is making it easier for people to become successful, who's never seen it before... -- Paul Ryan
Doh! So, it's okay to fuel wage envy, resentment and division between taxpayers and public sector workers, but not okay if one of the sides is rich? He wants to make it easier for people to become successful, but is a proud member of the anti-union party? Oh well. This is typical Ryan.
But it doesn't end there. Ryan said he doesn't care or worry about the rich. Then why does he worry about their feelings?
"Don't tax them so much and don't regulate business so much, because that causes uncertainty, and that feeling keeps them from creating jobs." -- Paul Ryan
Oh poor dears.
In between, Ryan mockingly complained about the run-around he recently got from hospitals and insurance providers on costs and billing after one of his kids had their tonsils removed. Soon after again, in response to a question about how he intends on turning patients into consumers shopping around for a double by-pass, he brags about how his health care proposal would help that because everyone would have the same plan he now enjoys as congressman. So you wouldn't really have to shop because hospitals would be competing for your business automatically with costs and prices set by a shopper's consumer market. Like Best Buy. That's about how most of the Townhall went. His responses were loaded with simple hypotheticals and overly agreeable answers loaded down with deliberately convoluted talking points that were often irreconcilable with each other. In other words, his answers were double-loaded. That's Paul Ryan in a nutshell.
Lastly, possibly an extension from his recent Heritage Foundation speech, Ryan takes on a populist tone by explaining that government rigged a system of tax shelters and exemptions in favor of the 1% and the only way to correct this outrage is to "broaden the tax base and lower the rates," as outlined in his proposals.
Hmmm. It's mirror time!
Ryan has also opposed efforts to close offshore tax loopholes, a record 51 times since he took office. He voted against an amendment in 2006 that would have barred funding for government contracts with U.S. companies incorporated offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes. In 2004, he opposed an amendment that would have prohibited the Export-Import Bank from approving direct loans to U.S. companies incorporated offshore to avoid U.S. taxes.
He's like a broken record.
He backed away from the heavier rhetoric about his schemes to destroy Social Security and Medicare. However, any support Ryan gives these programs seems to come providing only if they are transformed into pure welfare programs for the destitute. But as far as an actual jobs plan? Ryan doesn't have one unless you think the rich need the certainty of more taxcuts and deregulation so they "feel" better about creating jobs - is a jobs plan.
The more I thought about this townhall, the more I realized that there was absolutely no reason for Ryan to have one unless he wanted to divert public opinion away from his Kill Medicare proposal and the damage he incurred at his recent Rotary Club Townhall where seniors were tackled and handcuffed for speaking their mind. Which seems to be the only logical conclusion.
Note: The Janesville Police Department had 30 officers assigned to work Ryan's Townhall at the Pontiac Convention Center. There were about a dozen protesters carrying signs outside at the parking lot entrance. No seniors or demonstrators were arrested.