1. A few comments:

    As a person who moved into Janesville at the start of high school, I can say your observation about GM/non-GM people prior to the plant closing is spot on. Janesville was highly divided along those lines in all aspects.

    Working for the company your family controls is hardly easy. Throughout highschool I worked for thYMCA where my father was the executive. I wasn’t “some kid”, but “the boss’ kid”. It brought a lot of pressure to perform and act at a level above the rest of the kids working there.

    While I tend towards conservative views on many issues, I too have a hard time reconciling what Ryan says the government should do against his professed beliefs. There seems to be components missing to the Republican narrative of smaller government. Smaller government has become confounded with less government. TO my mind, they are two separate things. Smaller government does everything it needs to simply, quickly and efficiently. Less government decides not to do something. Sadly, neither political party has embraced the ‘do more with less’ mentality that has propelled productivity in the business world for the last 30 years.
    Similarly, the Republican agenda fails to provide anything to replace the services they claim to cut. Our history is full of examples of the truly wealthy embracing individual altruism as a key (but not the only key) to promoting the common good- Carnegie, Rockerfeller and so on. I don’t know if they lack the vision to find ways to promote this through the tax code, or if they fear it being seen as one more hand out to the rich. Without providing alternatives, it is hard to see how ‘compassionate conservatism’ really accomplishes anything.

  2. Thanks for linking my reflection of Paul Ryan to your post. I moved to Janesville 9 years ago, so do not have the perspective you provide and appreciate your insight of the earlier GM years.

    I also have strayed from my Catholic commitments, but still embrace the social justice message I developed in Church teachings. Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Matt. I don’t listen much to Paul Ryan. But in the little I’ve seen, he does seem to use his Janesville roots as code for something. It’s interesting to see what those roots really are.
    I like what you say about Catholicism. Although I have no religion, I’ve long thought that there was some hope of radical goodness–through charity, love, or compassion–in Christianity (the idea, not the institution). From this angle, Ryan does not seem Christian to me. Don’t forget that another well-known influence on Ryan is Ayn Rand. He’s more recently distanced himself from her (ironically, because her philosophy is atheistic). However, her views make much more sense of his positions than Catholicism. From what I can tell, her views are dangerous, and not in a good way. She seems to endorse some kind of pathological individualism. If this is not evidence of impoverished sociological imagination, I don’t know what is.

  4. I, too, grew up in Janesville, although I no longer live there. I am familiar with the Ryans and the rest of the “Irish Mafia.” I’ve wondered whom Paul Ryan thinks he represents. Thanks for the thoughtful post, shared with me by a friend from Janesville. I’m apprehensive about his role and influence.

  5. I see the rise, ruin and fall cycle of the ultra conservatives in the GOP as a wish for “simple times”. A time when white males lived a life of unquestioned privilege. A time were economic expansion and social mobility were greater possibilities than today for many. In short, I see many in the GOP living in the past unwilling to govern in a modern age.

  6. I believe you can be a member of any religious group and not support all of its public or political stances – or even its religious ones. I also believe it is not contradictory to believe that it is our moral obligation to help the poor, but not believe it is the government’s job to support them. The government’s job is to “promote the general welfare” not “provide the general welfare.”

    1. Spot on Gina. It’s funny how the intent of words can be misunderstood even by people who study words, their intent and implications… It makes me think it is intentional. 😉 People who intentionally use their position of power to lead people who are young or those don’t read or listen with an open or even skeptical mind to trust people they shouldn’t. Ex., To me “all people”, means all people, including
      the poor or underprivileged helping themselves, not being held enslaved by people who know best for them. For me, having young adults in college, it has been a challenge to have my children be heard by professors, such as this one, who have no qualms about suppressing conservative ideas in their classrooms. The abuse of power by the left wing of the liberal educators in our institutions is unapologetic, constant and appalling.

      1. Hi Mareeda,
        I think you’ve intentionally misread my post, but I’m happy to share your comment here. I have significantly less influence over young people than you think I do, and you have zero experience in my classroom. Quite frankly, students get conservative view points everywhere, and in this case, I’m sharing the teachings of Catholic Bishops, far from folks who suppress conservative ideas.

      2. Correct Matt, I’m intentionally grouping you into lump with other professors the rest of my friends, family, acquaintances and myself have experienced. If you do not present yourself this way to your classes, I apologize. You would be a true rarity. I’m just saying as a general rule, conservative students have a hard time in college swallowing what they are force-fed. In general, professors seem to think that students do indeed swallow it without losing respect for the person dishing it up. For my kids, that had not been the case. While I’ve always encouraged my kids to seek out both or many sides to an argument, I’m not sure all kids have had that advantage nor do they seem to receive that encouragement or exposure in school. How many conservative or liberal guest speakers are invited to your classes, campus, etc.? Is there not value in open discussion? Why is it either or? I believe most people want the best for our world. Why make someone out to be evil who is not? We are not rooting for the Packers vs the Bears here, we are supposed to honestly trying to decide good things for the benefit of our society.
        Signed, Jaded.
        P.S. Lol I am seeing your sense of humor though, “intentionally misread”. Clever guy.

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