If you look at polls from the past six years, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has reached new levels of unpopularity. Over half the people asked about Ryan said they found him unfavorable in YouGov and Economist polls in 2017. Meanwhile, anyone who posts a picture of the guy on social media will get a few dozen (minimum) hostile responses.
That sounds about right for a politician with a 29% average favorability rating. However, following passage of the GOP tax plan, the hate for Ryan seemed to reach a crescendo. Maybe it’s the stories of Ryan dreaming about this day since college, or the round of talk-show appearances where the speaker misled the public or simply lied through his teeth.
Whatever’s in the air, Ryan’s become the type of guy even middle-school kids avoid when he visits. That’s remarkable for a man who is third in line for the most important job in America. So we decided to dig into this phenomenon. Here are some of the many reasons why people hate Paul Ryan.
15. Those weightlifting photos
Why are there photos of Paul Ryan lifting weights with a red baseball cap on backwards? Many people have wondered about this since they started circulating late in 2011. The answer is Ryan posed for them while Time Magazine was considering him for its “Person of the Year” issue. (He placed second that year.) Regardless, no one ever wanted to see such images, and folks normally use them to mock the speaker. Call it a self-inflicted wound.
Next: He’s no working-class hero, but he pretends sometimes.
14. His ‘working-class hero’ pitch is baloney
If you asked most Americans, they might tell you Paul Ryan came from humble beginnings. After all, he’s that guy with his sleeves rolled up always talking about hard work. However, as a 2012 Los Angeles Times report illustrated, Ryan never wanted for anything as a child and has lived most of his adult life as a millionaire.
In fact, Ryan hails from one of Janesville’s “most prominent families,” according to the Times. His father was an attorney and his mother’s family has supported his campaigns with very generous donations. Yet there he was, during the 2012 campaign, talking about “flipping burgers” and manning the “big Hobart machine.” They were probably summer jobs for extra cash rather than a necessity, and people see through the fiction.
Next: America has to watch his pained expressions every year during the SOTU.
13. Every State of the Union address
Who is that man furrowing his brow, hoping to send signals to the audience from behind the President of the United States of America? Why, that’s Paul Ryan. The speaker’s place behind the president never became so obnoxious as during the Obama years. His pouting and other pained, forced expressions make this speech a tedious ritual for most Americans. We don’t expect that to end until Ryan exits the scene.
Next: Ryan lost a bunch of fans during the Mitt Romney presidential campaign.
12. The Mitt Romney campaign
When Mitt Romney chose Ryan as his running mate in 2012, it pitted the long-serving GOP House rep against Vice President Joe Biden. That wasn’t a fair match, and during the VP debate, Biden landed punches in Ryan’s weakest spots. “Stop talking about how you care about people,” Biden said. “Show me something. Show me a policy.” Americans have been asking for the same from Ryan for years. With the new tax law, they’ll have to keep asking.
Next: Ryan refuses to follow the age-old advice to “Never tweet.”
11. He’s terrible at social media
If you find Paul Ryan irritating, do not check his Twitter feed. Whichever staffer runs the account seems to amplify the most annoying aspects of the speaker’s character there, and Twitter has noticed. In fact, one study proclaimed Ryan the most hated person on Twitter. During the AHCA (“Trumpcare”) debate in May 2017, Ryan was frequently brutalized online by Republicans and Democrats alike. The new tax law only made things worse.
Next: With a Republican majority, Ryan fails to achieve much.
10. He can barely unite Republicans
Everyone who follows politics knows the Republican party has several splinter groups, and as House speaker, Ryan has mostly failed to unite them. His historically bad poll numbers from April 2017 reflected that, with Republican voters hating Ryan almost as much Democrats. At the end of the year, under Ryan’s leadership, Republicans actually lost the confidence of voters on every issue Pew Research polled.
Next: Ryan’s TV appearances are cringe-worthy.
9. He makes a fool of himself on TV
If you caught Paul Ryan’s CNN town hall during the health care debate, you may wonder why he was “dabbing” on live television. You see, Ryan wanted to show the world how to dab properly after one by a Congressman’s son disappointed him. We’ll file this one under “things high-ranking public officials should never do.” Dignity in government office died a little bit that night.
Next: Ryan shares this unattractive trait with many politicians.
8. He lies as much as other politicians (maybe more)
Politicians will lie to advance their agenda, and the seemingly squeaky-clean House speaker lies with the best of them. How about the one where Ryan said, “every single person, every rate payer, every bracket person gets a rate cut.” Ryan admitted that was a lie a few days later, but his people said he “misspoke.” For such a “policy wonk,” you’d think Ryan would know the difference between “everybody” and not everybody.
Then there was the time he said GOP tax reform plan was about the middle class, “not about people who are really high-income earners getting a tax break.” That’s another big lie. Or you could also point out the one where Ryan said people would choose not to pay for health care rather than lose it (via Trumpcare). Because Medicaid cuts were part of the deal, it was either another big mistake or a lie. Politifact has so many examples, but we’ll only include a few here.
Next: Fake photo ops get under people’s skin.
7. The fake photo ops
While campaigning with Romney in 2012, Ryan stopped by a soup kitchen after hours so he and his family could be seen washing dishes. You see, they wanted a charity photo op, so his team told workers to save a few dishes after everyone left. So that’s what Ryan did: He posed for pictures and recalled his days washing dishes as a young man. One of the charity’s employees called the visit “the phoniest piece of baloney” she’d ever seen.
Next: Policy experts should actually know policy well.
6. Paul Ryan is not a policy ‘wonk’
Over the years, Ryan’s press team did a great job convincing everyone he was an expert policy guy deep in the numbers. He was this “wonk” who had the stats to prove you wrong. Then we saw his biggest piece of legislation in 2017: Trumpcare. That failed proposal would have exploded the deficit. Later, when he managed to pass the tax bill, he again supported a plan that adds $1.4 trillion to the deficit. For a policy wonk, he’s made several huge mistakes.
Next: Members of the Catholic clergy wonder why he cares so little for the poor.
5. He doesn’t care about people less fortunate than him
Joe Biden hammered this point home, and Ryan’s fake soup kitchen photo op made it clear for everyone. Though he calls himself Catholic, Ryan does an awful lot to make poor people’s lives miserable. So there he was in his CNN town hall being asked by a Catholic nun why Republicans seemed “not willing to stand with the poor and working class.” His long, rambling, light-on-the-facts response tells you everything you need to know.
Next: We’ve seen far more competent House speakers in recent history.
4. He’s no Nancy Pelosi
Most conservatives hate Nancy Pelosi, but few deny she was effective as House speaker. Pelosi shepherded numerous major laws through the House during her two years with Congress and the White House. When you’re in that position, you wear a lot of hats, and Ryan never learned how to wear them like Pelosi. That’s probably why she (along with House Speakers Newt Gingrich and John Boehner) polled so much better than Ryan in their first years on the job.
Next: Likable people usually don’t dream about making wealthy people wealthier.
3. His dream was to cut taxes for rich Americans
Certainly, no one likes taxes, but most people realize we have to pay for certain things. So when you cut taxes for billionaires and CEOs, you need a backup plan for seniors about to lose Medicare and the folks aged 50-64 who will pay higher premiums every year until Congress fixes it. Ryan never crafted that backup plan, but he made sure corporate tax cuts were permanent. That’s a hard guy to like.
Next: Who does keg stands while dreaming about cutting health care?
2. His even bigger dream was to cut health care
“So Medicaid, sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate, we’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg,” he told the National Review’s Richard Lowry. We won’t comment much on this one. Among other things, Medicaid exists to help Americans who lose their jobs, survive natural disasters, or need nursing home assistance. People who dream about cutting it sound a little sick.
Next: Hypocrites are easy to hate.
1. He’s among the biggest hypocrites D.C.’s ever seen
With the GOP tax law, Paul Ryan exposed himself as one of the biggest hypocrites Washington D.C. has ever seen. Forget about blowing up the deficit with his tax law — something a “fiscally conservative” wonk would never do. Just look at the number of public hearings he had on the tax bill: zero. After criticizing Pelosi and Democrats for years on procedure (when they actually had hearings), Ryan now looks like a shameless liar.
“I don’t think we should pass bills that we haven’t read, that we don’t know what they cost,” Ryan said in 2009, referring to Obamacare. Well, no one could find a member of the GOP conference who read the tax bill before voting “yes.” So for his only major law getting passed, Ryan did exactly what he said no one should do. (He did the same with the failed Obamacare repeal.) It’s the definition of hypocrisy, and it’s why so many people hate him.
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