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Paul Ryan holds up a copy of his "Path to Prosperity"
Since becoming Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan has been running with the "you did build it" line. If you're rich, it's all due to your own individual virtue, the line goes, not due to the public education you or your employees received, not enabled by your access to roads and bridges and sewer systems built by the government, not protected by public police and fire departments. But what has Paul Ryan personally built and how did he build it?

First off, Social Security built Paul Ryan. Ryan's father died when he was 16, and Ryan then received Social Security survivors benefits until he was 18. He was able to save his Social Security to help pay for college. Ryan likes to talk about how he used loans to pay for college, but the fact that he went in with a big chunk of savings thanks to Social Security is something he doesn't emphasize quite as much.

The next part of Ryan's origin story as he tells it is that he worked three jobs to pay off those loans. What he doesn't so much say is that he worked three jobs in much the same sense any kid who's spent a summer with a paper route, mowing the occasional lawn, and babysitting on Friday nights has worked three jobs.

Ryan has been in Congress since he was 28. Before that, he worked for Wisconsin Sen. Bob Kasten and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback. The sum total of his work experience outside of Congress is a couple part-time or summer jobs as a waiter, fitness trainer, and Oscar Mayer salesman, stints as a speechwriter for a Republican advocacy organization and for Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, and one year doing marketing for his family's construction business. That's it. The guy who will be Mitt Romney's running mate in a campaign founded entirely on the message that only private sector experience counts and that President Obama isn't a fit leader because he hasn't run a business hasn't worked in the private sector beyond what the average kid a year out of college has done.

So Paul Ryan looks at his education made possible by Social Security and student loans and his work experience made possible by Congress, family connections, and Congress, and the lesson he draws is that the government isn't responsible for anything good? For any part of anyone's success in life? It's much more clear that the government built Paul Ryan than that Paul Ryan has ever built anything beyond a budget that would end Medicare as we know it, leave 22 million kids hungry, attack Social Security, and cut Pell Grants for a million students. And hell, the government paid him to come up with that.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 06:19 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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