Yeah, about that.
It turns out, that touching story is actually from a book about a kid in New York City in the 1980s, and the lunches he was getting for free were not from the government, they were from an ad sales rep who befriended him. And this story, repeated by trustworthy Republican wonk Paul Ryan as told to him by Wisconsin cabinet member Eloise Anderson, is taken just about word for word from that book. Except for the small detail about who was paying for the lunches:
“Look, Maurice, I don’t want you out there hungry on the nights I don’t see you, so this is what we can do. I can either give you some money for the week–and you’ll have to be really careful about how you spend it–or when you come over on Monday night we can go to the supermarket and I can buy all the things you like to eat and make you lunch for the week. I’ll leave it with the doormen, and you can pick it up on the way to school.”So the story about a kid saying that lunch in a paper bag means someone cares about you was true. But where and when the kid lived, the person to whom he said those words, and—and this is the really important part—his circumstances and the source of his free lunches and as a result the entire political message available to be drawn from his story even for a committed distortionist like Paul Ryan are all untrue. In fact, the Miss Laura and now-adult Maurice of the story are advocates on child hunger, and let's just say they are not out campaigning against free school lunches. No, they're partnering with No Kid Hungry on a mission that includes "connect[ing] kids in need to effective nutrition programs like school breakfast and summer meals."
Maurice looked at me and asked me a question.
“If you make me lunch,” he said, “will you put it in a brown paper bag?”
I didn’t really understand the question. “Do you want it in a brown paper bag?” I asked. “Or how would you prefer it?”
“Miss Laura,” he said, “I don’t want your money. I want my lunch in a brown paper bag.”
“Okay, sure. But why do you want it in a bag?”
“Because when I see kids come to school with their lunch in a paper bag, that means someone cares about them. Miss Laura, can I please have my lunch in a paper bag?”
So the truth behind Ryan's story is that Eloise Anderson heard an interview with Maurice Mazyck in which he told that story, and she decided to repackage it in congressional testimony as something a child had told her. A spokesman for Anderson now says she "misspoke." Yeah, she misspoke a mistruth. Then, Paul Ryan couldn't be bothered to look into the story at all before trotting it out before a national audience, because it was too damn convenient for him. As a little bonus, it even let him refer to "my buddy Scott Walker."
But it's nothing more than the kind of compassion, respect for others' lives, and honesty we've come to expect from Ryan.