In an attempt to overcome the chaos that has gripped House Republicans in recent weeks, they are trying to draft Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to run for Speaker of the House. Ryan, who is seen by many in the House as the Republican savior, has previously said he doesn’t wish to run for Speaker. But now he is considering changing his mind and has put forth his own list of demands and conditions that must be agreed to by ‘all’ Republican members of the House before he will run. Ryan’s list of demands includes a set of conditions that need to be agreed to by the rogue Freedom Caucus, a group of 40 hard-right Republicans. However, most notably, Ryan has said if he takes the new job, “I cannot and will not give up my family time.”
As Think Progress notes, “Ryan has three young children who live in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin with his wife Janna Ryan, and he travels back every weekend to spend time with them…His demands may do a credit to parents across the country by making visible the challenge of juggling jobs and children.” This demand, at least on the surface, seems admirable. He is able to afford, and has a job that allows him, interestingly, at public expense, to be a husband and family man. However, consider Ryan is the Republican budget wonk who has put forth budgets that are antithetical to his own demands. His budget proposals have taken aim, looking to cut many of the programs that attempt to help parents in similar situations.
Many parents cannot afford childcare, so it’s great that Ryan has a safe and nurturing place to leave his kids. However, Ryan has put forth budgets that cut deeply into programs to aid poor parents who need child care subsidies so they also can leave their children in a safe, nurturing environment while they work. His budget cuts will “leave poor parents to face a tough choice between continuing to work and simply staying home because the cost is too high.” If that isn’t bad enough, Ryan puppets the Republican talking point blaming the poor for being poor. “At the same time, however, he’s often said that more poor people need to be in the workforce and combat what he sees as a ‘culture problem’ where they don’t value work.”
However, what is most noteworthy about Ryan’s comments is the fact that they are an extension of the Republican ‘war on women’. Ryan, undoubtedly, understands that the majority of parenting falls on women, which forces many poor and single mothers to have to decide to cut back on work to care for their families. In addition to the aforementioned budget proposals that look to cut federal childcare aid, Ryan, who is demanding family leave time, voted against a bill in 2009 that would give federal employees four weeks paid paternity leave. He also voted against President Obama’s attempt to adopt paid parental leave in both the public and private sectors. In fact, according to Pew “more than 40 percent of mothers have cut back on work to care for family and 39 percent have taken a significant amount of time off; just 28 and 24 percent of fathers, respectively, have done the same.” The same study suggests that “more than half of working women say being a working parent has made it harder for them to advance in their job or career. By comparison, only 16% of men with children say being a working parent has made it harder for them…”
Ryan continues to wage the Republican war on women by hypocritically advocating budget cuts that make it more difficult for poor working mothers to compete in the workforce, while seeing them as responsible for their own plight. Ryan finds himself in a very enviable position – given the chaos in the House, he can make demands as a father for which he is being praised, for which a woman in the same position is likely to be seen as less competent and committed.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.