MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT
It's been some time since it has been revealed that Paul Ryan, presumptive vice presidential candidate, paid for a good portion of his college tuition through social security.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s most outspoken advocate for cutting and privatizing Social Security, has already benefited from Social Security himself, in the form of survivor benefits he received after his father’s untimely death.
From the age of 16, when his 55-year-old father died of a heart attack, until he was 18, Ryan received Social Security payments, which, according to a lengthy profile in WI Magazine, he put away for college. The eventual budget czar attended Miami University in Ohio to earn a B.A. in economics and political science, and landed a congressional internship as a junior.
Ryan’s congressional ascent, all the way to the top spot on the Budget Committee, began with his Social Security-funded college education.
In addition, Ryan's grandmother, a beneficiary of Social Security and Medicare, moved back into the Ryan family home when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
No one, even Ryan, argues that young Paul returned all this government program money – the very programs at the epicenter of his plan for destroying their current structure and leaving seniors to the vagaries of Wall Street gamblers. Nor, now since he is in an adult in a better financial position due to having a taxpayer funded job, a wealthy wife, and an extended family business that has now prospered, not even now has Ryan offered to repay the government for the assistance his family benefitted from. (His mother almost certainly also received social security benefits when Paul's father died.)
In fact, Ryan's family business is a prime example of one that could not have thrived without government assistance: in the form of roads that allowed it to move its heavy equipment from site to site, government contracts (it cites "highway interchanges and entrance roads" as one of its earth moving projects), and government zoning approval and incentives to businesses whose projects the Ryan Incorporated Central Works on. That, by the way, is only what can be gleaned in likely government financial benefits to Ryan's extended family firm from their website. Lord knows what an actual audit would turn up in government money adding to the firm's profit.
But the biggest hypocrisy of Paul Ryan is that he has spent most of his adult life on the taxpayer payroll, first being elected as a US congressman in 1998, now serving his 14th year – and the favorite for a seat even if the GOP ticket loses because he is apparently going to run simultaneously for both VP and being re-elected congressman from Wisconsin's 1st District, located on the Illinois border.
What has allowed Ryan to become an inside the beltway and corporate media-accepted "bold thinker (when he is really an Ayn Rand economic terrorist) is his cushy taxpayer funded salary and benefits as a congressman since 1998. (He is only 42, so this has been his primary source of income for most of his adult life.) And this is what he gets from our taxes:
The current salary (2011-2012) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year….
As it is for all other federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and the participants' contributions. Members of Congress under FERS contribute 1.3 percent of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2 percent of their salary in Social Security taxes.
Members of Congress are not eligible for a pension until they reach the age of 50, but only if they've completed 20 years of service. Members are eligible at any age after completing 25 years of service or after they reach the age of 62. Please also note that Members of Congress have to serve at least 5 years to even receive a pension.
The amount of a congressperson's pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest 3 years of his or her salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member's retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.
As for medical and insurance and healthcare, most Americans can only dream of the coverage Ryan has received because we pay for most of it. According to the Annenberg Public Policy Fact Check:
Like other large employers, the government pays a large share of the cost of coverage. On average, the government pays 72 percent of the premiums for its workers, up to a maximum of 75 percent depending on the policy chosen. For example, the popular Blue Cross and Blue Shield standard fee-for-service family plan carries a total premium of $1,327.80 per month, of which the beneficiary pays $430.04. Washington, D.C.-based employees who prefer an HMO option might choose the Kaiser standard family plan. It carries a total premium of $825.15 per month, of which the employee pays only $206.29.
In addition, members of Congress also qualify for some medical benefits that ordinary federal workers do not. They (but not their families) are eligible to receive limited medical services from the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol, after payment of an annual fee ($491 in 2007). But services don’t include surgery, dental care or eyeglasses, and any prescriptions must be filled at the member’s expense.
House and Senate members (but not their families) also are eligible to receive care at military hospitals. For outpatient care, there is no charge at the Washington, D.C., area hospitals (Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center). Inpatient care is billed at rates set by the Department of Defense.
That's some fat deal on healthcare, pension, and salary that Paul Ryan has had since 1998 on the taxpayers' tab.
Ayn Rand, Ryan's heroine, calls the poor parasites. Ryan champions the takers, sort of an adaptation of the master race as defined by whoever is a "taker," a crusher of those who get in one's way to the acquisition of vast wealth and power.
Perhaps it is the supreme irony that Paul Ryan is the ultimate leech and parasite, living off the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars.