Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, March 16th, 2014.

Irish Amnesia

Obama Administration

The terminally clueless Paul Ryan’s crusade against free school lunches and other benefit programs is one of the issues that marks the difference between “movement conservatives” and normal people. It’s likely the rabid crew at CPAC ate it up, so to speak, but do the wingnuts really think the average suburban soccer mom voter is angry that children from impoverished families qualify for a bigger lunch subsidy than other children? It’s not like all school lunches aren’t partly subsidized, you know. Does Ryan not know that? Is he calling for an end to all school lunch subsidy? If not, how much subsidy does it take to eat one’s “soul”?

And his recent comments about the work ethic of inner city men were not only racist; they were ignorant. The fact is that entrenched poverty in the U.S. tends to be rural as much as urban. There are exceptions to everything, of course, but if you look at both patterns of poverty and where people who receive food stamps and other benefits are actually living, the highest rates of such benefits tend to be in low population density areas, especially in the South.

I’ve spent enough time in Ryan’s state of Wisconsin to know that parts of Wisconsin are poor, especially in northern Wisconsin where there is less dairy farming and a lot of the jobs are seasonal. If people didn’t get benefits they’d never make it through the winter. And off the Sioux reservations, that area is also almost all white.

Timothy Egan has written before about how Ryan’s “eat the poor” rhetoric repeats the same arguments against helping the Irish that the English made during the famine, but it bears repeating and he’s repeating it

There is no comparison, of course, between the de facto genocide that resulted from British policy, and conservative criticism of modern American poverty programs.

But you can’t help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy.

The Irish historian John Kelly, who wrote a book on the great famine, was the first to pick up on these echoes of the past during the 2012 presidential campaign. “Ryan’s high-profile economic philosophy,” he wrote then, “is the very same one that hurt, not helped, his forebears during the famine — and hurt them badly.”

Preach it, brother Timothy.

Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry, on his father’s side. “I come from Irish peasants who came over during the potato famine,” he said last year during a forum on immigration.

BUT with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod. Centuries of British rule that attempted to strip the Irish of their language, their religion and their land had produced a wretched peasant class, subsisting on potatoes. When blight wiped out the potatoes, at least a million Irish died — one in eight people. …

… the Irish were starving to death at the very time that rich stores of grain and fat livestock owned by absentee landlords were being shipped out of the country. The food was produced by Irish hands on Irish lands but would not go into Irish mouths, for fear that such “charity” would upset the free market, and make people lazy.

It’s not just Ryan. I don’t know what it is about Irish-Americans and wingnuttia, but it seems a disproportionate number of spokesmouths for the Right have Irish names. Off the top of my head — Hannity, O’Reilly, Noonan, Buchanan. Rep. Peter King used to be an IRA supporter, I understand. The Irish “made it” in America thrugh public emplyment (Irish cops and firefighters, anyone?) and labor unions, after all. Are the descendents still trying to prove they are white?

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