Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s tenure in Congress is nearing its end. He is scheduled to give his farewell speech Wednesday, in fact.

It feels like a million years have passed since Ryan was Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate. But a story from back then speaks volumes about his legacy today.

On the campaign trail, Ryan took some heat for “ramrodding” his way into an Ohio soup kitchen — without permission — for a staged photo op. All the patrons had been served and the kitchen had been cleaned, so the Romney team snapped some pictures of Ryan washing a couple dishes. They left after 15 minutes.

There’s no better anecdote to sum up Paul Ryan’s career in politics — masquerade as an advocate for poor people for the chance to pass policies that would hurt them most.

Still, Ryan managed to cement a reputation as a “deficit hawk,” as an earnest but ultimately compassionate policy wonk making the shrewd budget choices that would allow people across the country to prosper. But nothing could be further from the truth.

There is, of course, the issue of Ryan’s obvious hypocrisy on the national debt. The 2018 deficit ballooned under his supposedly watchful eye, thanks in large part to the disastrous tax cuts passed last year.

But it wouldn’t be fair to the millions of people harmed by Ryan’s political choices to assess his legacy based on his faux concern over the federal budget alone.

Time after time, Ryan has let his “moderate” mask slip to show the real motives for his policies — to further enrich the wealthy while pretending to have the poor’s interest at heart. He adopted the mantle of fiscal responsibility to advocate slashing social programs designed to protect the most vulnerable, while offering bigger and bigger handouts to the wealthiest.

Take those tax cuts. Just months after they passed, Ryan tried his hand at selling the hugely unpopular legislation to the American public by tweeting about a Pennsylvania secretary receiving an extra $1.50 a week in her paycheck.

How much do, say, the Koch brothers stand to gain from that bill? $1.4 billion a year, as Americans for Tax Fairness pointed out.

Look at the so-called “opportunity zones” embedded in that same tax bill, which Ryan calls a critical part of his “poverty fighting agenda.” Ryan said he’d spent years trying to enact these tax breaks for developers building in low-income communities. But it’s a recipe for increased gentrification that could displace the very low-income people Ryan promises they’ll help. Goldman Sachs is already reaping the benefits.

At one time, Ryan’s viciousness seemed literally unimaginable to some members of the American public.

The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA asked a focus group about a proposed Ryan proposed budget back in 2012, letting them know that he wanted to defund programs specifically meant to help low-income people while slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Participants “simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing,” the New York Times reported.

That was in 2012. Now, in 2018, as a politics of cruelty becomes more and more commonplace, we owe it to ourselves to be honest about the true intentions of Ryan and the people like him who mask their ill intentions with wonky language.

The charade’s up. Good riddance.

Originally published at Inside Sources.

Negin Owliaei is a researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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