I have been thoroughly enjoying Pope Francis' recent comments on many things including his attacks against capitalism because it highlights how horrendous conservative policies have been for the majority of people in America and in the world. You know he's being effective because his words have been freaking out the conservative paparazzi on talk radio and Fox News. The latest politician to try to explain Pope Francis' views is none other than Rep. Paul Ryan, a Catholic whose own theories about the economy now put him solidly against the Pontiff's beliefs. Here's some of what one of the conservative presidential hopefuls for 2016 had to say to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Ryan, who is Catholic, was asked about Pope Francis' recent sharp critique of capitalism. Ryan stood up for the free enterprise system as a way of alleviating poverty as well as being consistent with Catholic teaching. "People need to get involved in their communities to make a difference, to fix problems soul to soul," Ryan said.
Ryan added, "What I love about the pope is, he is triggering the exact kind of dialogue we ought to be having."Ryan said he did not consider Francis a Marxist, as talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh alleged. Ryan said Francis grew up under the Peronist movement in Argentina, where the state took a leading role in the economy."The guy is from Argentina, they haven't had real capitalism in Argentina," Ryan said. "They have crony capitalism in Argentina. They don't have a true free enterprise system."
If you need a translation, basically, Paul Ryan is saying that the Pope is an economic fool and doesn't know a f*&king thing about capitalism. Why do these conservatives all believe that a man like Pope Francis would be so ignorant about the policies he's discussing in public? He's carefully trying to steer the church to a better place than it has been for decades now, blocked in by the conservative factions.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel — somewhat amusingly focused on Ryan's support for a casino in the state — Ryan offered his response. "The guy is from Argentina, they haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina. They have crony capitalism in Argentina. They don’t have a true free enterprise system." And one certainly can't critique another country's economic system without having lived there for an extended period of time, as Paul Ryan suggests.
This is not a small problem for American conservatives. Earlier this month, NBC and The Wall Street Journalpolled Americans on their views about the new pope. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats approved of the job he's doing; fewer than half of conservatives did. (See data at right.) Religion is central to much of American conservative philosophy. Having the leader of one particularly influential religion directly critiquing the party's economic plans is causing people to be a bit unsettled.
For Ryan, it's particularly bad. As 2016 approaches, he's trying to reposition himself as a champion of the poor, even earning a laudatory profile in BuzzFeed for his efforts. As Jonathan Chait points out at New York, Ryan's born-again commitment to the poor isn't a new talking point. Or, in Chait's words, "It might seem odd that Ryan’s determination to keep his love of the poor quiet would nevertheless leak out in the media, over and over again."
[I]t’s impossible to disprove the suggestion that Ryan has grown obsessed with helping the poor. But what exactly does this mean? His entire career has been devoted to policies that would, as first-order effects, increase the incomes of the rich and decrease the incomes of the poor. Ryan has always argued that the first-order effects are less important than the deeper incentives he would unleash — cutting taxes for the rich and reducing subsidies for the poor will make both of them work harder.
Those are the sorts of policies Pope Francis was explicitly critiquing. To which Ryan feebly responds: "Yeah, well, Argentina's lame." As he puts together his presidential campaign team, expect to see a staff member whose only job is to keep an eye out for white smoke coming from a chimney in St. Peter's Square.