FYI: Janesville is Not a Small Town

Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney's running mate. Paul Ryan is from Wisconsin. Neither of these facts are lost on the mainstream media.


Despite being from Wisconsin, Ryan is not the small town boy made good, the son of a dairy farmer who fought his way into congress. The dude's from Janesville.

Charles Pierce (one of the finest foreign-born scholars of our fair state, I might add), brings this point home:
Janesville is not a small town. Luck is a small town. Unity is a small town. Independence is a small town. Janesville is a small-to-middling size city of about 65,000 people, and once was a not-inconsiderable manufacturing center. Janesville is not a small town simply because it happens to be in Wisconsin. [Emphasis mine]
Seriously. This week, I've read everything I'd care to read. I've even read that Ryan is from Janesville, population sixty-three thousand. I could feel the contempt dripping off each syllable in that number. It's as if the author thought to add "and four hundred thousand cows" before considering the redundancy of hir writing. [By the way, have you checked out Flyover Feminism yet?]

Just because Janesville is home to a massive fiberglass cow, doesn't mean it's a cow town. My ancestors are from a town of less than 1,000 in Taylor County (population 20,000-- for the county). They didn't live in a cow town either-- that part of Wisconsin deals in wood. Wood and frozen pizzas, to be exact.

As Pierce says, the media is making Janesville (and Wisconsin) into something it's not, so that it can make Ryan into something he's not. That's only half the problem.

In the process of helping Team Ryamney (please let that catch on) sell a fake story, the media is missing what I consider the real story of Ryan's origins.

Janesville is perhaps the westernmost point in the rust belt, the northern United States' necklace of company towns whose companies have failed them. For close to a century, Janesville was home to a massive General Motors plant. Now all that's left is the husk of a factory bathing in the light of the world's most ironic billboard. (Seriously, whoever thought it would be a neat present to buy Governor Walker a "Thanks for all the jobs!" billboard plunked down right in front of the Janesville Works was sorely misguided.)

Paul Ryan's high school (Janesville Craig) is arch rivals with Janesville Parker. That's Parker as in the Parker Pen Company. As a fountain pen geek, this one hurts. The iconic American fountain pen was made in Janesville (along with a variety of other writing utensils). For many decades, Parker pens were known throughout the world as sturdy, hard-working, unpretenious workhorses-- you know, the very thing that Paul Ryan sells himself as. I got through most of the nineties using the same $10 Parker pen.

I still use a fountain pen, but it's not a Parker. Among other things, they're hard to find these days. After multiple meetings in their conference room on a floor with a two digit name, the guys that bought the company that bought the company decided that while it was still profitable to make quality Parker pens, it wasn't as profitable as doing something else-- especially if that something else wasn't done in Janesville.

The offical unemployment rate in Rock County (of which Janesville is the county seat) is 9.4%, compared to 7% throughout Wisconsin.

And yet.

And yet Paul Ryan somehow pulled himself up by his bootstraps, just as he suggests other people in his hometown do. You too can grow up to be General Motors and leave this shithole!

Paul Ryan's daddy family owned a major construction firm (see more Charles Pierce). Paul Ryan inherited much of his wealth. If only other people in Janesville could do the same.

If nothing else, Ryan is the big fish in the little pond. He's the wealthy bully who's somebody in town, always kissing the ass of the corporate masters who would destroy his neighbors' livelihoods while claiming to have their best interests at heart. Status-climbing little leech. That, my friends, is your origins story. I've lived in the rust belt. It's not that Janesville (or Syracuse, or Elkhart, or Youngstown, or Utica) isn't trying. It's not that there aren't hard-working, creative, dedicated, and yeah, entrepreneurial folks willing to fight to make (or keep) their hometowns great. It's just that the jobs aren't there. And a helping hand (say, high speed rail lines connecting Janesville to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison) is exactly the same sort of thing that Ryan has spent his career fighting against. That, my friends, is what I think about every. single. time. I think of Paul Ryan. I think of the privileged asshole who wants to protect what's "rightfully" his from the likes of you.

But what do I know? I'm just some dairy farmer from Wisconsin.

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