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Monday, July 16, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. — Paul Ryan is known for his devotion to a fitness regime called P90X, which involves “working out 6-7 days per week, with each workout lasting about 1-1½ hours,” according to WebMD. The website adds that “the workouts are so rigorous that you’re asked to take a fitness test before ordering the P90X system, to see whether you’re up to the challenge.”

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey will never be caught doing P90X. (Nor will I.) But on Tuesday night, Christie offered his own brand of toughness. “I believe we have become paralyzed,” he declared in his keynote address to the Republican National Convention, “paralyzed by our desire to be loved.” Who knew that the desire to be loved was a national liability?

Something odd is happening in Mitt Romney’s Republican Party. The GOP is marketing the concept that a great many Americans need to suffer before they can prosper. The government needs the equivalent of a P90X regimen — and never mind checking first whether it will actually be good for the country.

This approach is ingenious because it dismisses all challenges to P90X government as soft and lacking in courage. I’d argue that the country should be rebelling against the idea of showering more riches on the already strong and wealthy while those in the middle or at the bottom are lectured that they should simply work and try harder. Yet anyone who dares say this is accused of failing to understand the magic of self-punishing rigor.

There is one famous Paul Ryan quotation that is not being widely cited in Tampa. “We are at a moment,” he said in response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, “where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.”

A hammock? What, pray, is any liberal proposing that will allow any American to live in such complacency? Trying to make sure that more people have health insurance? Allowing the elderly to retire on that vast $1,230-a-month income provided by the average Social Security check? And then there’s welfare, which in all 50 states leaves recipients with an income equal to less than half the poverty line. Where’s the hammock?