Accuracy in Media

Paul Ryan might not go down as one of the great Speakers of the House in American history, but few can say they have done as much as quickly as he did in Washington.

He graduated from college in 1992, moved to Washington and became a congressional aide shortly thereafter. He was elected to Congress in 1998, became a committee chairman in 2011 and Speaker in 2013 after John Boehner retired.

He wasn’t voted out of office; he decided to retire in 2018.

Which makes the headline on a piece about Ryan’s current line of work all the more perplexing. “Failed Politician Paul Ryan Accepts Job Teaching College Students About Politics,” reads the main headline on Jay Willis’ story on GQ. “The architect of a historically unpopular tax-reform bill will join the University of Notre Dame as a guest lecturer on economics,” reads the subhead.

The lead is even more oddly hostile. It says Ryan “is best known for his dogged efforts to pass a widely reviled tax cut on behalf of his millionaire supporters and billionaire benefactors, and for leading his Republican then-majority to its devastating, historic defeat in the 2018 midterm elections. Among the subjects he will teach are political science, economics and ‘the fundamentals of American government.’ For the sake of tuition-paying students who hope to glean something of value from enrolling in one of his courses, I hope the syllabus does not draw heavily from personal experience.”

The tax cuts have set off the strongest economic recovery in decades, with labor force participation near all-time highs, unemployment at 50-year lows and unemployment for women and minorities at all-time lows. Wages have grown 3.1 percent over this period, the highest jump in a decade, as jobs outnumber job seekers for the first time in American history.

Willis doesn’t seem to know this.

“The driving force behind Ryan’s political career – besides a bank vault of conservative-donor money and a treasure trove of Heritage Foundation white papers – was his staunch, quixotic belief in a fantastical economic worldview whose adherents believe the key to alleviating poverty and inequality, somehow, is cutting corporate tax rates and making rich people richer,” he wrote.

The phrase ‘fantastical economic worldview’ links to a piece in which Willis got wrong nearly every prediction he made about the tax bill, saying against all evidence it was depressing real-time wages and had not engendered the growth in business activity the legislation’s authors had promised.

Trump is a heavy favorite to win the 2020 election because of the success of the tax legislation in revitalizing the economy.

If Ryan is unqualified to teach economics based on the tax bill, he is even less qualified to teach political science, Willis wrote. Before the tax bill “salvaged the 115th Congress from being a total loss for the Republican Party, Ryan was the primary architect of the party’s many doomed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Taking health care away from poor people had long been a dream of Ryan’s, as evidenced by his oft-repeated origin story in which he fondly recalls standing around a key with college pals, pining for the opportunity to one day cap Medicaid’s growth rate … It turns out, however, that people like having access to affordable medical care and do not like politicians who would eliminate that access in order to pay for – you guessed it – greater tax savings for the rich.”

“There is great irony in the fact that he realized them only because of his willingness to abandon his carefully curated wonky-professor image, swallow his distaste for Donald Trump and embrace the role of servile MAGA drone.”

Politicians often rehabilitate their images, and teaching in college is a familiar path, he wrote. “Yet even now, unbound by any of the practical constraints associated with being the GOP’s most recognizable face on Capitol Hill, Ryan is still out here stubbornly lauding Trump as the unquestioned leader of the conservative movement.”

He does not mention who Ryan should “laud” as the “unquestioned leader of the conservative movement.”

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