Archive for 2012

How Ryan’s Family Biz Rose on Goverment Dough

Friday, September 28th, 2012

By Fred Keeley
Special to Calbuzz

Just the other day, Paul Ryan told AARP members in New Orleans that he and Mitt Romney “believe that it’s the dreamers and the entrepreneurs, the workers and the families, not the government, who built this economy.” But the truth is, Ryan’s own family and the family business relied on and flourished precisely because of government spending.

Ryan’s assertion that government has no role in building the economy was especially ironic because he made the argument just 32 seconds after introducing his mother, Betty, and describing her brave conduct upon the untimely death of her husband, Ryan’s father, when Paul  — who now says he’s a “Catholic deer hunter” — was a young high schooler.

“I am very proud of my mom, and I’m happy she is having a great retirement.  You see, my dad died when I was 16,” he said. “Social Security survivor’s benefits helped my family. They helped my mom start a new career. She got on a bus every weekday for years and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison to go to school.  She learned new skills to start her small business.”

To fully appreciate the precious (if not sad) irony when these two statements are taken together, it’s helpful to know what Ryan knew as he uttered them – that in 1884 his grandfather, Patrick W. Ryan, founded P.W. Ryan & Sons, the family construction company that exists today as Ryan Incorporated Central. It’s a healthy business that was built on and has relied on government money for 128 years.

Patrick Ryan secured dozens of railroad construction contracts — a mix of (mostly) public and (some) private money. Feeling pretty good about how all that worked out, Ryan’s uncles, Thomas and Donald, continued to mine that vein for more and more purely government contracts to construct (deep breath required here) public transit lines, public roads and the first runways at Chicago’s iconic O’Hare Field.

In the 1950s, when Congress appropriated billions to realize President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s dream of a federal interstate highway system, the Ryan family secured federal contracts worth millions of dollars that, fortunately, employed large numbers of Ryan Incorporated Central construction workers for years.

Since Ryan’s election to Congress — thus assuring that no Ryan child would be left behind when it came to government job-creating dough flowing into the inter-generational family business — the Ryans won and have performed admirably on an additional 22 government contracts.

In fairness to the conservative congressman from Wisconsin, it’s only proper to note that in addition to youthful employment making Big Macs and driving the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, he did work in the private sector — for the family business as a marketing consultant.

On the other hand, Ryan’s serious professional life has been spent in jobs where his paycheck is signed by Uncle Sam, not Uncle Matthew Ryan. Before his election to Congress, he served several years as an aide to a United States Senator.

And let’s consider just a few facts Ryan overlooked in his AARP speech. His mother got by on Social Security survivor benefits – a vital government program. That bus Mom rode was public transit. It traveled on streets paid for by government funds. Its destination was a public college (like Ryan’s alma mater, Ohio University).  None of that diminishes Betty Ryan’s building of her own interior decorating business. It does, though, cast some doubt on the veracity of her son’s assertion that government plays no role in job creation or a vital economy.

Adding another small test of Ryan’s truthfulness in the AARP speech is his on-again-off-again romance with Congressional earmarks. To paraphrase Sen. John Kerry, Ryan was for them, before he was against them, before he was for them.

The 2008 Congressional Record shows that the bright, well-read, and obviously hard working gentleman from Wisconsin pledged to stop seeking earmarks. Perhaps earmarking is a drug best quit in stages, rather than cold turkey. Immediate compliance with his promised withdrawl from earmarks would have prevented him from successfully seeking $3.28 million for the Janesville Wisconsin Transit District, $1.38 million for the Ice Age Trail (no comment necessary about this one), another $735,000 for those needy folks at Janesville Transit and a few hundred thousand public dollars for an environmental study of the Kenosha Harbor.

Additionally, it is worthy of noting that Ryan was also willing to suspend his core beliefs when it comes to recapitalizing the nation’s banks in the heat of the recent economic meltdown.  The $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) is, whether appropriate or not, a classic example of bi-partisan privatizing profits and socializing problems. Ryan voted “Aye”.

Let’s be clear on what the point is here.  None but the most heartless would begrudge the widow Ryan for accepting Social Security survivor’s benefits, the use of public transit, earning a degree from a public college — all to keep a roof over the heads of her beloved children. A big shout-out to her for that.

As to her son, Paul . . . well that’s another story.

For the distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin, in a speech before the nation’s preeminent senior organization, to claim that the government plays no role in creating, stimulating, fostering or sustaining the economy is knowingly false.

To do so without disclosing that his family has, over four generations, operated a highly successful private sector business, dependent almost entirely on government funding is, at best, the height of hypocrisy.

Democrat Fred Keeley is the elected Treasurer of the County of Santa Cruz.  He is a former member of the California Assembly (1996-2002). 



Why State, not National, Polling is What Matters

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

If your only guidepost to the 2012 presidential election is the venerable Gallup Poll, you would think Mitt Romney, trailing President Obama by just two percentage points, still is within striking range of winning the election. But you – like the Republican spinners and some of the journalists you see on the shout and blather shows on TV – are forgetting U.S. Civics 101.

The president is not elected in a national plebiscite: the winner is the candidate who racks up 270 electoral votes in state-by-state elections. And while Romney has unbeatable leads, in whole bunches of states like Texas, where he’s ahead at least 55-40%, Obama has unbeatable leads in even more states, including California, where he’s ahead at least 56-36%.

When you tally all those solid states for each candidate – not counting so-called “battleground” states where the outcome might still be in doubt – Obama has something like 247 electoral votes in his pocket and Romney has about 191 (that’s according to Real Clear Politics; Pollster, Talking Points Memo, 538 and others show an even wider spread).

What’s worse for Romney is that in almost every one of the battleground states, Obama has – in most of the aggregated polls — persistent leads of anywhere from 1 to 8 points. That includes Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

Obama does not need to advertise and campaign like the dickens in California; according to Nate Silver at 538, Obama has a 100% probability of winning California. Likewise, Romney doesn’t have to spend time and money on Texas; Nate gives him a 99.7% chance of winning Texas.

And for all practical purposes, the Obama campaign doesn’t care much what the national poll numbers show, except to the extent that they drive a media narrative about the race. Which is why the Romney campaign does care about the national poll numbers: they need to shift the narrative and convince voters that their guy is still viable.

Practically speaking – and a Washington Post study of advertising found – the candidates are concentrating campaign firepower on Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. (see the WaPo map)

Because of this unequal distribution of resources, the national poll numbers – even when they’re favorable to Obama – don’t mean much. Romney may well be close in the tally of votes nationwide if he has overwhelming leads in some states where Obama is not contesting the race. In the battle to win the White House, it doesn’t matter.

The Big O What matters is Ohio (the Calbuzz ancestral homeland), where Obama leads 48.8-44.7 (Real Clear Politics), or 48.4-44.8 (Talking Points Memo) or 49-43 (Pollster).  No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. It’s the lynchpin of the election – part East, South and Midwest; lots of working-class, Catholic and black voters; secular Chardonnay sippers in some cities and born-again Bud Lite guzzlers in some rural areas. Bran-muffin Republicans and gun-rack Democrats. Ohio’s got ‘em all. Plus a heavy dose of voter suppression.

There are also a lot of auto and auto-related workers throughout Ohio who have been reminded that Romney advocated allowing GM to go bankrupt. But the killer for Romney in Ohio has been an ad aired by the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action political action committee featuring Mike Earnest, who worked at Ampad in Marion, Indiana, that was acquired by Bain and later closed.

Out of the blue one day, we were told to build a 30-foot stage. Gathered the guys, and we built that 30-foot stage, not knowing what it was for. Just days later, all three shifts were told to assemble in the warehouse.

A group of people walked out on that stage, and told us that the plant is now closed, and all of you are fired. I looked both ways, I looked at the crowd, and we all just lost our jobs. We don’t have an income.

Mitt Romney made over a hundred million dollars by shutting down our plant, and devastated our lives.

Turns out that when we built that stage, it was like building my own coffin. And it just made me sick.

If Obama wins Ohio, this ad – and the actual facts it represents – will be an essential component of that victory. And no matter what happens in national polling, if Obama wins Ohio, Romney is toast.