Sunday, August 19, 2012

"An Extreme Choice": Embracing Ayn Rand, GOP VP Pick Paul Ryan Backs Dismantling New Deal

by Beverly Bandler

Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's presidential running mate, is “a deep, deep scholar of and reader of Ayn Rand.” According to Ryan, “Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism.” But, Ayn Rand not only contradicts Judeo-Christian principles, she contradicts the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Rand writes that: “Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the Majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions... Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom.” Ryan has made no mention of having read James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin (or those who influenced them--a list that includes Charles de Montesquieu and John Locke), our Founding Documents (one which a federal elected official is bound by the federal oath office to “support”), or any U.S. historian. Russian émigré Rand gives no indication of having read any of these individuals either. Or U.S. history. Or our founding documents. Ryan has publicly rejected his atheist idol Rand in the face of a backlash, and now embraces Thomas Aquinas. Is Ryan running for Pope?

Just how long is it going to take for the American public, and the enabling corporate media, to understand just how extreme and detached from reality Paul Ryan and the Republican Party have become, and to recognize the latter is now a cult. (Paul Ryan's Biggest Influence: 10 Things You Should Know About the Lunatic Ayn Rand )

John Nichols, political writer for The Nation magazine and Matthew Rothschild, editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine, join Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, to discuss Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's VP running mate. (video transcript)

As Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney names Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice-presidential running mate, we speak with two Wisconsinites about the seven-term congressman’s record and how his views are influenced by the controversial philosopher Ayn Rand.

"This is not necessarily a foolish choice by Romney," says John Nichols, political writer for The Nation magazine. "It is an extreme choice. And it does define the national Republican Party toward a place where the Wisconsin Republican Party is, which is very anti-labor, willing to make deep cuts in education, public services, and, frankly, very combative on issues like voter ID and a host of other things that really go to the core question of how successful and how functional our democracy will be."

Ryan is chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee and architect of a controversial budget plan to cut federal spending by more than $5 trillion over the next 10 years. "Ryan gets a lot of mileage for understanding, so-called, the budget and economics," says Matthew Rothschild, editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine. "But if you look closely, he doesn’t really get it."

Ryan’s planned Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security reform would essentially dismantle key components of the social safety net. Ayn Rand is the progenitor of a sweeping conservative “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well for taking Social Security and Medicare benefits. Her books provided wide-ranging parables of "parasites," "looters" and "moochers" using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her wealthy heroes' labor, but in the real world, Ayn Rand herself grabbed social security and medicare when she needed them.

Almost Half of Americans Die Close to Penniless: A new economic study has found that nearly half of Americans reach the end of their lives with virtually no assets, relying entirely on government programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The results indicate that any changes to these safety net programs would indeed threaten the welfare of older Americans. About 46 percent of senior citizens in the United States have less than $10,000 in financial assets when they die. Most of these people rely almost totally on Social Security payments as their only formal means of support, according to the newly published study, co-authored by James Poterba of MIT, Steven Venti of Dartmouth College, and David A. Wise of Harvard University. - Sarah Seltzer.*

From the Democracy Now discussion:

John Nichols:

Paul Ryan is a deep, deep scholar of and reader of Ayn Rand. She is a—she was a Russian immigrant—family, supposedly dispossessed by the Russian revolution, came to the United States—and throughout her writing career was a militant opponent of what she called collectivism, but really what she meant was government, and beyond that, a critic even of helping your neighbor. She said that selfishness must be the central organizing precept of your life and that the most important thing was to take care of yourself, don’t worry about others. Paul Ryan started reading Ayn Rand as a very young man, has read all of her books. He has appeared at Ayn Rand celebrations and events. He cut a video in which he said that in these times—this was a video cut about two years ago—one of the most important things people can do is to read Ayn Rand. It’s—he said it was one of the best ways to respond to Obama’s election. So he’s been deeply into this writer.,, despite Paul Ryan’s wild attempts in recent months to very much distance himself from Ayn Rand, there was a quote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel yesterday from his brother Tobin, who said, "Oh, Paul can quote every verse of Ayn Rand." And so, I think it’s very important to understand that Paul Ryan—I don’t think he’s an atheist. I think Paul Ryan melds extreme right-wing Catholicism, particularly on social issues, with Ayn Rand’s philosophy as regards government and a very kind of selfish image of how we should relate to others.

[While Ryan] talks about really not liking government, really being opposed to government, the truth of the matter is, he voted for two unfunded wars—and put on a credit credit card, not paid for. He voted for the bank bailouts, for TARP, for the auto industry bailouts, for Medicare Part D, which was a very badly constructed initiative, very, very costly. So for all his talk about wanting to balance budgets, the fact of the matter is, what he seems to really want to do is empower Wall Street. He gets huge amounts of money from many of the same interests that we might talk about with the Fed and the banks and other folks.

People look at Ryan’s budget plan, and they say, "Well, it attacks Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security." At least to some extent it does. It begins a deconstruction of them. But what it really does, fascinatingly enough, is return full-scale supply-side economics. Ryan’s plan doesn’t balance the budget for 28 years. Ryan’s plan really is all about massive tax cuts for very, very wealthy people, for multinational corporations, and the beginning of a redistribution of federal spending from funding programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security into Wall Street and the insurance companies. His notion of using vouchers to, you know, help people, quote-unquote, "buy their Medicare" or "buy their Medicaid," what that’s going to do is make insurance companies a whole lot richer. So, the fact of the matter is, here’s a guy who gets immense amounts of money from Wall Street, the banks, the Koch brothers, who is proposing a budget under the guise—

[Ryan says:] "I want to balance your budget. I want to take care of your grandkids, make sure they don’t have debt." In fact, what he really seems to want to do is make sure that the federal government keeps collecting taxes but shifts [them] over to very wealthy people and to Wall Street.

Matt Rothschild:

[Ryan] blames FDR and FDR’s policies for making the Great Depression worse. Similarly, he blames Obama for making the economy worse in the first two years. I think any economist of any stature would say that FDR certainly helped get us out of the Great Depression by reducing unemployment from 25 percent to 10 percent and that Obama, though his economic revival in the stimulus package wasn’t nearly as big as it should have been, but certainly it created anywhere between one to two-and-a-half million jobs.

Ryan says that Medicare and Social Security are part of a collectivist system. I mean, this is really part of the whole Republican agenda now for the last 70 years to repeal the New Deal. And Ayn Rand and Ryan are just, you know, giving the ideological justification for that. [Ayn Rand signed up for Social Security and Medicare when she became eligible under the name Ann O’Connor--(her husband’s name was Frank O’Connor.]

[Ryan] would give people on Medicare, people who are over 65, a voucher to go into the private insurance market and, as John says, help the private insurance companies out by buying insurance there. But it would be a fixed amount at about $5,600. That’s how much they would get. But there’s no limit on the insurance premiums that the insurance companies can raise them to, so, you know, the sky is the limit. And as the insurance companies raise their rates, that voucher is going to be worth less and less over time. And so, elderly people are going to have to shell out more from their own pocket than they would be certainly under the traditional Medicare system that, you know, 90, 95 percent of seniors enjoy and appreciate and are in favor of.

He wants to do two things. He wants to partially privatize Social Security, so people can, instead of investing in the Social Security system, which you do now automatically, could take a sum of those funds, invest in Wall Street. Again, this would be a huge gift to Wall Street. And secondly, he would lift the retirement age from 65 to 67. And so, you know, we’d be working longer and longer, and we’d have more of our savings at risk. The problem with investing in the stock market, if the market goes down, then you’re going to be out of luck. And so, what happened, you know, back in the New Deal, we had one out of three elderly people who were in poverty. And after the New Deal and the Great Society programs, that got under 10 percent. And so, do we really want to go back to where we had one out of three, one out of two elderly people who are in poverty? I don’t think that’s the system we want to get to. But that’s the system that Paul Ryan may drive us to.

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