This is rather personal for me. From Crooks and Liars:
In Paul Ryan’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last week, he fretted over our social safety nets becoming hammocks.
Ryan is the guy, as you probably know, who is hell bent on destroying Social Security and Medicare. But in turns out, as Crooks and Liars (quoting these folks) points out, that someone should ask him whether he spent his time after 10th grade in a hammock:
One day as a 16 year old, Ryan came upon the lifeless body of his father. Paul Ryan, Sr. had died of a heart attack at age 55, leaving the Janesville Craig High School 10th grader, his three older brothers and sisters and his mother alone. It was Paul who told the family of his father’s death.
With his father’s passing, young Paul collected Social Security benefits until age 18, which he put away for college. To make ends meet, Paul’s mother returned to school to study interior design. His siblings were off at college. Ryan remembers this difficult time bringing him and his mother closer.
That was me, only I was younger (9) when my father died of a heart attack, leaving 6 kids behind, all of whom, plus his wife, received social security benefits. Who knows what would have happened to us without them. Along with that we received other benefits, such as VA benefits. I know I was getting a check every month while I was in college, so the benefits continued at least until I graduated. My mother is still collecting, more than 50 years on, so I’m fairly sure that we have collected far more in total than my father ever paid in.
Apparently, either Ryan believes he didn’t deserve that money, or has made himself believe that somehow it doesn’t count in his case. I suspect the latter, as I have a right wing brother who rejects the very notion that he has a big time debt to the “welfare state”. He simply can’t accept that he was getting government benefits; somehow it was different when he got it. I’ve always felt a tremendous debt to the Social Security program. I remember in college, speaking up when some affluent radicals in a history class I was taking insisted that the New Deal, not being socialistic enough, had made no real difference in the country. I said I wouldn’t have been there, at a top flight liberal arts college, if it weren’t for social security, so it had made a hell of a difference to me. Those kids didn’t know better, since it was all theory at that point in their lives. What’s Ryan’s excuse?
Right now I don’t need social security, and it’s entirely possible, thanks to the boost I got when I did need it, that I will never really need it again, though I’ll certainly take it when my time comes. But I’m acutely aware that I owe a debt to the sons and daughters of all those folks who paid into the system so that Paul Ryan and I could get a decent start in life.
Ryan has presumably convinced himself that he made it on his own. No one does. We’re all in this together.