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'Takers versus. Makers;' Why Paul Ryan's Words Still Ring

Updated on July 17, 2013

Paul Ryan's Comment

Paul Ryan has been in the news, lately. The Wisconsin Representative, and the former Vice Presidential Candidate for Mitt Romney, has been having fun eating lunch with the President and unveiling ambitious budget plans that have not a chance in the world of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate (or President Obama's veto pen), and being called a "wacko bird" by none other than John McCain, who once ran for President himself. Representative Ryan is being hailed, once again, as the Republican Party's policy wonk, though his policies have very little appeal with the public. Since Ryan happens to be the Republican Party's policy wonk, he has been given the very high honor of proposing budgets that have next to no chance of passing, which allows Republicans near and far the chance to imagine that they actually won last year, and which presents an appearance that Republicans are actually proposing something. Anything.

Indeed, one must always give Mr. Ryan points for honesty, even when it comes inadvertently. In October of last year, Mr Ryan said, "Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. So we're going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They'll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves." He has, in fact, been using the phrase "takers versus makers" for years. It means something like this; "The United States of America is on its way towards a future nanny state, like those in Europe, where honest, hardworking, taxpaying Americans are required to pay for those who are unable, or unwilling, to work." Takers versus makers, you see? Get it?

Given that this was said in the context of a Presidential campaign, one might wonder what relevance this quote has after the campaign. Surprisingly, it makes a lot of sense, but not in the way Mr. Ryan wants us to understand it. You see, there is, in fact, a clash between takers and makers going on in this country. Here are some facts to consider, and then after those, an analysis of what they might mean.

The State of the United States

The first fact is that, by some estimates, the average American works 40 hours per week, amounting to 2,000 hours a year. These numbers transcend race, gender, political ideology and, in most cases, class. The average Congressman works about 80 hours per week, but that is only because they have so much time on their hands to spend with their constituencies. This is hardly a bad thing.

But then again, the average American has a total salary of $50,875 (more or less) while our good Congressman has a total salary of $174,000, which nicely sums up the second fact.

Then, there is the fact that members of Congress will get a total of 239 days off of work this year. Most Americans, meanwhile, will spend all of two weeks off of work, (or even just one) and consider themselves lucky for the vacation.

Taxpayers could save up to $39 million dollars a year if Congress lowered their pay by $100,000 dollars.

The United States of America is the most overworked nation in the industrialized world, much more so than any European country, or China, or even second place Japan (which used to be first).

In the United States, wealth inequality is a growing problem. The wealthiest top 1 percent of Americans owns more wealth than all of the bottom 100 million Americans put together. A majority of Americans believe that wealth inequality is worse than it has been in a long time, and they're right. But the problem is even worse than most Americans think it is.

Historically, the United States has been at its absolute best when it spent money on improving infrastructure, increasing Americans access to a decent education, and other investments vital to any nations economic growth. In the midst of a shaky economic recovery, many school districts are having their funding cut. And American infrastructure, once the envy of the world, is currently in a state of disrepair.

Many Americans, who are otherwise eager to work, will end up facing chronic unemployment, because of the recent budget cuts forced by the sequester.

The United States Congress

And through it all, Congress (the entirety of Washington, really, but mostly Congress) remains staunchly divided on even basic issues, like raising the debt ceiling. Congress is so divided that those like Congressman Paul Ryan simply offer a budget plan that could not possibly pass the Senate, even if it were a serious plan to balance the budget, which it will not do until after 10 years. Congress is so divided that members of the body no longer meet with, talk to or even run into other members (cocktail hour has long been a thing of the past, you see). And it seems that no one in Congress these days really wants to get to know anyone outside of their own political party. Might this be a reason for the gridlock?

So, Americans are generally overworked, increasingly underpaid, and have a certain portion of their tax dollars going to a Congress that is so divided that it really cannot do anything other than vote for a pay raise for itself, and that gives itself extra time off work. American infrastructure is falling apart, education is facing spending cuts, and again, Congress is inept in the face of these troubles.

So, in a way, Mr Ryan's campaign words do make a sort of sense after all. In this world, there are takers and makers. Why, Congress does indeed take what Americans make.

Maybe more people should question whether or not they are getting their dollars worth...

Is Congress out of touch with the needs and wishes of the Average American citizen?

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Who is to blame for the gridlock in Congress?

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    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 4 years ago

      I appreciate your response, Nathan Orf. I don't mind wordy responses - especially yours, which always contain lots of relevant content. But I know what you mean because sometimes I go on endlessly... but sometimes it is hard to make one's point with a short response.

      Anyway, at this juncture, both Republicans and Democrats have put forth proposals for a budget which merely state their ideologies. That's it. This is what they've decided to do for now - quit slugging it out and retreat to their corners for a little while. But soon, everything will be presented before Congress, and frankly, Republicans already know they will get nothing. Honestly, my Party is deeply concerned with our massive debt and the huge amount of increased taxes that people are and will be paying even more of. More taxes means less money to live on, and more reliance on government help, which in turn, taxes people even more, and stretches their budgets even more, and so on.

      Also, it is very important to know that, Pre-sequester, Boehner actually offered a quite lot of revenue to Obama, without the knowledge of his Party! He went out on a limb - big time, because he wanted a budget passed. Initially, Obama agreed and then backed out at the last minute. He wanted even more taxes. Thus, the frustration of Boehner, who was willing to give ample revenue for the sake of passing a budget, yet still, Obama snubbed his nose at him.

      Republicans already know they don't stand a chance in hell of getting anything they feel is really needed for Americans, so Democrats needn't worry that Republicans will "win."

      Personally, I will always maintain that if someone like Bill Clinton or LBJ were the President right now, we would have balanced the budget long ago. They both knew how to reach across the aisle and give the other party some dignity and some slack for the sake of getting things done. Obama does not have this ability; he has a habit of constantly pointing fingers at Republicans. Yet, as we all know, "it takes two to tango." My point is that I've seen Obama do this blaming thing on television over and over and over again. It gets old, and it is not very presidential, in my opinion. Furthermore, I personally believe that is the primary reason why Congress is deadlocked now more than at any other time in the history of the United States.

      In closing, know that it is not my intention to disrespect you or Democrats in general - as I mentioned before, my own father is a die hard Democrat. My goal is to explain why Republicans are not budging right now. They tried and they got screwed (pardon my french).

      Enough said. I'll try to make my comments much shorter. Seems I'm becoming a chatty Cathy :)

    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago

      savvydating, thanks for dropping by.

      That is a fair argument, I think, and I would be willing to credit Mr. Ryan for using his budget as a starting point. I don't really think that Democrats would have accepted any budget from the Republicans anyway. That's the nature of Congress.

      But Ryan has done two things; One, he has presented a watered down form of the same plan he offered two years ago (and the same plan that a convincing majority of voters turned down at the polls last year).

      Two, he has assumed that Obamacare will be repealed. But that doesn't look like it will happen in the next ten years. My thinking is that Mr. Ryan simply wanted to make a political dig at Mr. Obama. He sparked a debate, which is great, but it doesn't seem to be a particularly constructive debate so far.

      The thing about taxes is that the government needs new revenue at some point, and Republicans have put their foot down on that issue. They won't accept any new revenue, even though Obama offered to give them cuts in Social Security (and Medicare, coincidentally). We need new revenue, because we need to spend money if we are to improve crumbling infrastructure. There are actually quite a lot of ways that we could be spending money to help grow our economy, but we need revenue, which Republicans refuse to consider.

      Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to debate this with you. Sorry about the wordy response, though...

    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago


      Yep. It's a real pickle, ain't it? Thanks for commenting!

    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago

      Thanks, GuitarGear. I do want divided government, because historically, at least, that is what leads to both sides coming together and compromising. But this is insane. Compromise cannot work, and our government cannot work either, when one or both sides refuse to even spend their time off in each other's company. (And Congress gets WAY too much time off!)

      Neither political party is blameless in this, but Republican's behavior in the last few years has been unprecedented. Like I said to Junko, let's keep our fingers crossed!

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 4 years ago

      In Ryan's defense, he has proposed budgets as a starting point, knowing they will not pass the Senate, but with the request that the President come up with a counter offer that has more give and take - in short, less tax increases and more willingness to tackle Medicare, so that it may be sustained for those who need it.

      At any rate, I continue to admire your writing style, which always lays out your research quite well. Indeed, Congress is having a difficult time communicating, on both sides of the aisle - and there are many reasons for this problem...

    • profile image

      Dorf 4 years ago

      Nathan, thank you for writing this hub. This is something that has made me very angry. In the past Congress worked (really worked 8 hours a day) 48 weeks out of 52. Most politicians moved their families to the Washington DC area and enrolled their children in schools. They worked together across the aisle and talked to each other because they saw each other every day. The current Congress has worked 32 out of 52 weeks, and the work week consists of going to the Capitol in the evening for a vote and possibly having to come in the next day to finish their "work". Then flying back home to their respective states to pander to their constituents. This, while the American people pay their salaries of $174,000 plus benefits, plus official expenses (such as staff, travel, office equipment supplies, totaling around $1.5 million per year). These are dollars that come out of our salaries that most of us work up to 8 hours a day 52 weeks a year to earn. We should expect that our representatives work at least as hard as we do and learn to compromise in the best interests of the people who elected them. Great hub, Nathan (as usual)

    • GuitarGear profile image

      Walter Holokai 4 years ago from Youngstown, Ohio

      Great hub Nathan. The Congress really is getting paid for doing nothing. Is there anything we can really do about it? We can wait for the Tea Party to get voted out if they don't destroy the country before they come up for reelection. It's possible that the American people may become apathetic as they become used to the stalled government and political banter. I think that is what the Republicans are hoping for. I hope we Democrats regain the Congress, otherwise we are doomed to a plutocratic oligarchy.

    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago


      Agreed. The Republican Party boxed itself in by letting the extremists become the face of the party. Perhaps the Republican Primaries did more to win Obama his second term than anything Romney did later on...

      Its not just what Republicans are saying either; It is also the policies they are promoting, and putting into practice in some states, that don't end up endearing them to the general public. Let's keep our fingers crossed for 2014 and 2016!

    • junko profile image

      junko 4 years ago

      Ryan words still ring because there is no other words of leadership except teaparty obstructionism, that took over the GOP after Obama was elected in 2008. They took the Republican Party so far to the right that if they change directions or speech now they would have to move to the left and admit failure by doing so. Its dog eat dog in the republican party and one Republican Government admitted they are the Stupid Party. Than he continued the stupid talk. They have painted themselves in a corner and that was a stupid move that cause them to lose the 2012 and most likely the 2014 and 2016 elections also.

    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago


      Amen to that! Thanks for commenting!

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Some of your stats make you wonder why Anericans aren't protesting in the streets!