According to Psychology Today, here are some of the defining characteristics of sociopathic behavior:
Superficial charm and good intelligence
Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
Untruthfulness and insincerity
Lack of remorse and shame
Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
General poverty in major affective reactions
Specific loss of insight
Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without.
Keep these behavioral traits in mind whenever you read a current events article or watch a newscast. I’ve felt more motivated to re-visit my old psychology textbooks this past year than my government texts. Whatever I thought I’d learned in U.S. Constitutional Law class makes zero sense to me anymore, but my Abnormal Psych notes, now more than ever, seem infinitely practical, as well as frighteningly sobering.
Case in point: House Speaker Paul Ryan’s recent actions illustrating the behaviors of a classic sociopath.
Paul Ryan, at the stroke of a pen, wants to destroy Meals on Wheels, environmental protections, arts funding, foreign aid, and, of course, obliterate the A.C.A. (Obamacare) in order to institute a program which effectively prices the poor out of the private health insurance market. To make certain he gets his way, Ryan must make certain the Republican budget avoids being filibustered in Congress. Never fear, by using his charm and intelligence, Ryan has worked it out so much of the whittling away of social services and protections can be accomplished through a process known as budget reconciliation. This maneuver requires only a simple majority in the Senate and House, and, with Republicans occupying a majority of seats and many corporate Democrats asleep at the wheel, these heartless measures appear to be well on their way to becoming law.
Consider some of the traits of a sociopath, specifically untruthfulness and insincerity, a lack of remorse and shame, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, and a general poverty in major affective reactions. How does shutting down programs such as Meals on Wheels, which serve nutritious food to millions of senior citizens, veterans and disabled persons, demonstrate that Paul Ryan (who advertises himself as a “Christian”) has the capacity for love or even a sense of shame? Can you imagine any sane, moral person walking up to my late mother while she was receiving meals from Meals on Wheels during her horrific cancer treatments and taking the food out of her mouth (what little she was able to keep down)?
I don’t think most of us could imagine anyone less than a “monster” taking life-saving/life-affirming nutrition from those who are elderly and/or suffering from medical conditions which make buying and preparing food difficult, if not impossible. The “monster” in this case would correctly be termed a sociopath by mental health professionals. In other words, casually allowing senior citizens, veterans, and the disabled to starve isn’t a sign of good mental health. Some might even term such behavior as “evil.”
Before you jump to conclusions and say I shouldn’t label the Speaker of the House a sociopath based on one small program cut, consider the last behavior trait listed and compare it to Ryan’s boast in a recent video: “So, the health care entitlements are the big, big, big drivers of our debt. There are three. Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare. Two out of three are going through Congress right now. So, Medicaid—sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg.”
In his own words, Ryan dreamed of depriving his fellow Americans of government aid since he was a party-loving frat boy. What’s ironic is these “big, big, big drivers of our debt” are nothing compared to our bloated military budget of $604.5 billion. Somehow the $3 million saved by cutting Meals on Wheels is supposed to help pay for a $52.3 billion increase in military spending? “Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without,” describes both college-aged and current Mr. Ryan’s actions well.
Probably what convinces me the most that Paul Ryan and others like him are sociopaths is their enthusiasm for “Trumpcare.” The new “American Health Care Plan” (Trumpcare) penalizes the elderly, once again, without any signs of shame or remorse on Republicans’ part. A 64-year-old with an income of $26,500 currently pays $1,700 yearly for health care insurance premiums under Obamacare or the same as a 21-year-old frat brother with the same income. However, under Trumpcare a 64-year-old with a $26,500 income would pay $14,600 in premiums instead.
You read that right–it’s eight and half times as much as it is currently under Obamacare, more than half of the 64-year-old’s total income. Why the huge difference? Trumpcare sets premiums based on age, not income, severely punishing older people, especially the poorest of the poor. These poor senior citizens, who more than likely will need health care coverage more than younger citizens, will not be able to afford it at all under Trumpcare. Age and income discrimination would effectively act as a “death panel,” which is ironic considering Republicans have claimed Obamacare would do the same.
Do you see the sociopathic traits of “incapacity for love” and “general poverty in major affective reactions” apparent in the Republican’s health care program? Proponents of Trumpcare don’t seem to care how their actions could lead to the premature and preventable deaths of a large portion of the American population. How does this behavior differ from the fascists of Hitler’s Germany who didn’t care about the premature–and entirely preventable–deaths of Jews, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally and physically challenged, among others, in their Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers?
Congressman John Conyers of Michigan has submitted H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, to the House. This act would implement a single-payer health care coverage for all Americans. Senator Bernie Sanders is about to submit a similar bill to the Senate. Let’s hope sane and moral thinking will prevail and Medicare-for-All will come to pass.
One good thing can be said for implementing a fair and equitable Medicare-for-All program–it will cover mental health care and therapy. Sociopaths could make good use of that provision.
Bio: Cindy A. Matthews is a freelance writer, novelist and editor of Our Revolution Continues blog: http://bernie2016.blogspot.com.