Who’s Shrugging Now?: A Post about Rep. Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and the GOP Path to Prosperity

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin claims he has a “knack for numbers.” Not long ago, he unveiled his GOP budget proposal titled “Path to Prosperity.” Rachel Maddow criticized members of the media for their fawning coverage of Ryan and his financial “magnum opus.” Said Maddow: “If the Beltway media could stop making out with Paul Ryan for long enough to look at what’s actually in his budget proposal, they might notice that some of the important numbers in it appear to be made up.” She added: “I doubt that actual numerically based fact based information will penetrate the smoochy smoochy love bubble surrounding Paul Ryan right now…there’s this cult of him being brave and bold and doing this difficult workout every morning. What he’s just introduced is not a feature on grit versus glamour in today’s GOP. It is not a pinup. It is not the brave story of a strong boy in a tough environment. It’s the official Republican Party budget for 2012, and the numbers in it are so wrong they are occasionally funny.”

Anne Lowrey summarizes Ryan’s proposal in an article in Slate titled Model Misbehavior: Why Paul Ryan’s budget numbers don’t add up: “Tax cuts to wealthy Americans foster prosperity that moves millions of (less wealthy) Americans back to work, with increasing wages. High earnings and employment bolster tax revenue. When combined with huge cuts in domestic spending and radical changes to Medicaid and Medicare, the budget balances out in about 20 years.” Lowrey goes on to explain, however, that Ryan’s plan relied on numbers provided by the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis—which have been exposed “as a bit fantastical.”

Harold Meyerson wrote the following about Ryan’s budget proposal: “The cover under which Ryan and other Republicans operate is their concern for the deficit and national debt. But Ryan blows that cover by proposing to reduce the top income tax rate to just 25 percent. He imposes the burden for reducing our debt not on the bankers who forced our government to spend trillions averting a collapse but on seniors and the poor. The reductions in aid to the poor, says the budget blueprint that Ryan released, will be made ‘to ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.’ That’s a pretty good description of America’s top bankers, but Ryan’s budget showers them with tax cuts.”

Ryan claims his budget proposal is a “compassionate” one—but Pat Garofalo begs to differ. Garofalo says that the “Path to Prosperity” would “double health care costs for seniors, endanger vital Medicaid services, and likely increase taxes on the middle-class to finance tax cuts for the rich.”

E. D. Kain thinks that Ryan’s budget is not serious one. He says that it’s ideological—and suspects “that its intention is to shift the debate and make the Ryan budget the leaping off point for further budgets.”

There are many who would agree that Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” is indeed based on ideology. One might ask what the ideological foundation of his thinking was when he prepared the 2012 GOP budget.

Jonathan Chait provides us with an explanation of why Ryan’s budget helps those at the very top while hurting the middle class and the less fortunate in his Newsweek article titled War on the Weak: How the GOP came to view the poor as parasites—and the rich as our rightful rulers. In the article, Chait wrote about what has motivated both Paul Ryan and the Tea Party:

“In fact, the two streams—the furious Tea Party rebels and Ryan the earnest budget geek—both spring from the same source. And it is to that source that you must look if you want to understand what Ryan is really after, and what makes these activists so angry.

“The Tea Party began early in 2009 after an improvised rant by Rick Santelli, a CNBC commentator who called for an uprising to protest the Obama administration’s subsidizing the “losers’ mortgages.” Video of his diatribe rocketed around the country, and protesters quickly adopted both his call for a tea party and his general abhorrence of government that took from the virtuous and the successful and gave to the poor, the uninsured, the bankrupt—in short, the losers. It sounded harsh, Santelli quickly conceded, but “at the end of the day I’m an Ayn Rander.”

“Ayn Rand, of course, was a kind of politicized L. Ron Hubbard—a novelist-philosopher who inspired a cult of acolytes who deem her the greatest human being who ever lived. The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites.”

A couple of weeks ago, Tom Ashbrook moderated a discusson about Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan on his radio program On Point with Jonathan Chait, senior editor at The New Republic, Anne C. Heller, journalist and author of “Ayn Rand and the World She Made,” and Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks. The program was titled Ayn Rand’s Resurgence. In his summary of the program, Ashbrook wrote: “The American budget battle so far is really a battle of ideals. And at the back of a vocal chorus on the Republican/Tea Party right sits the philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand.” Ashbrook and his guests talked about “what it means to have “Atlas Shrugged” in the middle of the budget debate.”

Click here to listen to the program.

In an article for The New Republic, Jonathan Chait wrote more about Ryan, his budget, and Ayn Rand:

Ryan would retain some bare-bones subsidies for the poorest, but the overwhelming thrust in every way is to liberate the lucky and successful to enjoy their good fortune without burdening them with any responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens. This is the core of Ryan’s moral philosophy:
“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.” …

At the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand’s writings when he told his audience that, “Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill … is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict–individualism versus collectivism.”

The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers.

There is no doubt that Ryan has been impressed by the words and works of novelist/philosopher Rand. He declared his admiration for her in Facebook videos that he posted in 2009.

Facebook Videos Posted by Paul Ryan
Ayn Rand’s Relevance in 2009
Ayn Rand & 2009 America, Part 2

The Truth about GOP Hero Ayn Rand (Think Progress)

So there you have it—a GOP budget proposal for 2012 brought to you by Rep. Paul Ryan, acolyte and admirer of Ayn Rand. It’s a “path to prosperity” for those who are already prosperous.

War on the Weak: How the GOP came to view the poor as parasites—and the rich as our rightful rulers. (Newsweek)
Paul Ryan And Ayn Rand (The New Republic)
Rachel Maddow Tears Into Beltway Media For Paul Ryan Budget Coverage (Huffington Post)
Who’s hurt by Paul Ryan’s budget proposal (Washington Post)
Model Misbehavior: Why Paul Ryan’s budget numbers don’t add up (Slate)
Paul Ryan’s ‘Compassionate’ Budget Would Gut The Food Safety Net (Think Progress)
Paul Ryan And The Republican Vision (The New Republic)
The Man Behind Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan Got the Tax Cuts Wrong, Too (The Atlantic)
Paul Ryan’s Budget Proposal Would Increase Public Debt Relative To Extending Current Law (Think Progress)
Paul Ryan’s Multiple Unicorns (New York Times)
What’s wrong with Paul Ryan’s budget? (Washington Examiner)

Tea Party Embraces Ayn Rand (Frum Forum)

163 thoughts on “Who’s Shrugging Now?: A Post about Rep. Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and the GOP Path to Prosperity”

  1. Paul Ryan: The Republican budget isn’t unpopular, just misunderstood
    by Joan McCarter for Daily Kos

    Earlier this week a “senior Republican strategist” declared that the problem wasn’t that Republicans wanted to end Medicare, but that “Republicans haven’t messaged it well.” See, just fix the message on abolishing Medicare and it’ll be fine.
    Apparently that’s the narrative that Republican’s have settled on to explain away their Medicare debacle.

    Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that Republicans are running into a “communications challenge” in selling their 2012 budget proposal to Americans.

    Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee who authored the 2012 budget, acknowledged the GOP faces obstacles but pushed back against the notion that it is losing a communications battle against Democrats, who have assailed Ryan’s proposal to significantly reform Medicare.

    “I wouldn’t say we’re losing the communications battle — but we have a great communications challenge,” the Wisconsin Republican said on Fox News….

    “Anything this big takes a while to sink in for people to understand,” Ryan said. “As soon as people realize just how dire our fiscal situation is, and what our drivers are — namely, our entitlement programs — the more they’re supportive of this.”

    This sort of echoes Ryan’s happy talk in the midst of the confrontational town meetings Republicans faced last month.”The crowds are overwhelming supportive. I’m very excited.”

    There’s a parallel narrative among Republicans who are doing their best to run away from their own budget and Medicare debacle: they’d be all for it, except that it’s not “politically feasible” because of those darned Senate Democrats. At least that’s how Ryan sees it: “All that Dave Camp is acknowledging is, when you do entitlement reform, you have to have budget reconciliation that goes to the Senate. The Senate isn’t even passing a budget, so we can’t pass this into law if the Senate doesn’t give us a budget.”

    No, no disarray here. And their plan to abolish Medicare really isn’t fatally unpopular. It’s just misunderstood.

  2. “we have seen several cases of arrested development on this blog.”

    I only can wish that this time Prager is right about something. however, as you say the is enough evidence in this blog and in political/economic society to show that this is not the case.

  3. “Most people grow out of it”


    I certainly hope so, but we have seen several cases of arrested development on this blog. All from the, “Don’t confuse me with facts, my head is made up,” crowd.

  4. Mike S.

    “…but because this belief of its followers that it is a viable political/social/economic plan is logically one that would take humanity back perhaps 50,000 years to the time when cro-magnons battled neanderthals for bi-pedal supremacy.”

    Love it!

  5. As usual Elaine keeps providing us with insightful articles demolishing both the villainous pseudo-philosophy of Rand and the lockstep march of her supporters who’ve totally swallowed the insane party line. Insane is not an adjective chosen lightly out of anger in opposition, but because this belief of its followers that it is a viable political/social/economic plan is logically one that would take humanity back perhaps 50,000 years to the time when cro-magnons battled neanderthals for bi-pedal supremacy. As is best surmised that was a time where humans existed in small tribal/familial units and basically fended only for themselves.

    Staying alive via eating was the prime desire of humanity then and we can assume there was little time for philosophizing. This at base is the model of the society that Rand would have us create. The closest working construct to it would be the time of the feudal ages in both Europe and Asia. While there were defined countries, led by various titles of nobility, essentially it was a time of every human for them-self. The heads of the putative monarchs lay insecurely on their necks as intrigues at court and outside ran rampant. Despite the religious patina asserted to give credence to the system, it was indeed each person looking out for their own interests, with little thought given to others except for how they could be used to further ones’ own gain.

    Stripped of its feeble attempts to use Aristotelian logic aimed at adding legitimacy to blatant ego-maniacal wish fulfillment,
    this is a belief that given legitimacy would result in a societal organization akin to Capones’ Chicago or Luciano’s
    Cosa Nostra. There simply is no way around this occurring should
    Randism become universal. Human history has proven time and again that such a system resolves itself into a top down hierarchy, where no one is safe, not even its leaders. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing time and again and expecting different results. Long human history has displayed that the Randist viewpoint has had many iterations, all of which resulted in misery for all but a small subset of each discrete system.

    The truth of this is shown by the repeated challenges to the Rand supporters, on these varied threads, to provide even one instance of their belief working well in any society in history. Their silence, or avoidance of replies is telling. They can only offer the weak retort, untrue in itself, that it has never been tried. However, we’ve never tried many possibilities of governance and human behavior on anything more than a small tribal level. Cannibalism as a method of resolving food issues for one, yet we know it is a methodology doomed to failure.

    The Randists have whined on many occasions, that those of us (myself included) have unfairly accused Rand and her followers of being sociopathic in outlook.

    “David T. Lykken proposed psychopathy and sociopathy are two distinct kinds of antisocial personality disorder. He believed psychopaths are born with temperamental differences such as impulsivity, cortical underarousal, and fearlessness that lead them to risk-seeking behavior and an inability to internalize social norms. On the other hand, he claimed that sociopaths have relatively normal temperaments; their personality disorder being more an effect of negative sociological factors like parental neglect, delinquent peers, poverty, and extremely low or extremely high intelligence. Both personality disorders are the result of an interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental factors, but psychopathy leans towards the hereditary whereas sociopathy tends towards the environmental.”


    The sociopathic designation certainly fits the arc of Rand’s life and my belief is that it has provided her with followers who display many of the features of each disorder. This is why I originally stated that I think people like Ryan are true believers, rather than just phony politicians. As such it makes them far more dangerous to us all. Irrational belief structures that lend justification to the feeling that the world revolves around ones own needs are grasped onto firmly by those needing to justify their own non-empathic and egocentric behavior.

  6. Cenk Uygur discusses Ryan’s budget proposal with Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy and Dana Milbank of The Washington Post. He talks about redistributing wealth to the top, shifting of the budget battle to the right, and the raising of health care cost for seniors.

  7. Elaine-

    But Elaine- He’s SO pretty! If only he had Shirley Temple’s dimples! He already knows how to tap dance.

  8. Who is Ayn Rand and why does she matter?
    By Michael McGreer
    Clark County Environmental Policy Examiner
    May 10th, 2011 8:03 pm PT

    Some Republicans and their Tea Party colleagues have adopted Russian born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, (aka Ayn Rand) as their intellectual and cultural center of their party.

    Russian born and educated Rand (1905-1982) came to the United States in 1926 and developed a philosophy she called Objectivism.

    On the surface, this philosophy emphasized the basic tenants of a free society including individual rights, property rights and laissez-faire capitalism, enforced by a constitutionally limited government.

    In fact, Ms. Rand’s philosophy goes well beyond democratic tenants and creates a pseudo-intellectual cult holding that doing for others is contemptible; that doing for self is the purpose of human life; that altruism and service are somehow pathologies pushed by collectivists and should be subordinated to selfishness and greed.

    Those holding with Rand’s views oppose welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. They insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts are the only appropriate areas for government and that all taxation should be purely voluntary.

    Conservative groups such as Freedom Works, the Heritage Foundation, and individuals such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, John Stossel and Sean Hannity aggressively push Rand’s philosophy to the Tea Party, conservatives and libertarians.

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) quotes extensively from Rand’s novels at Congressional hearings. His father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), argues that Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged tells the truth. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas references Rand’s work in his autobiography. Ronald Reagan dubbed Rand as the unofficial “novelist laureate” of his Administration. Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP’s budget guru, cites Rand as the inspiration for his 2012 Path to Prosperity budget plan which recently passed the republican controlled House by a vote of 235-193. Nevada Republicans Dean Heller, and Joe Heck joined the Republican majority by voting yea. Every Democrat, including Shelley Berkley, voted no.

    Ryan described Social Security as a collectivist system and his Prosperity Plan guts Medicare, Medicaid, and a host of housing, food, and educational support programs, leaving the country’s middle-class and most vulnerable citizens devastated. By transforming Medicare into a vouchers system he undoes Medicare’s ability to shoulder risk. This approach transfers that risk to individuals while leaving insurance companies with the ability to deny services and raise prices faster than inflation. His plan uses approximately half of the freed money to reduce taxes on the most wealthy Americans.

  9. Paul Ryan takes aim at AARP, but misses
    By Steve Benen

    With the House Republican budget agenda imposing new burdens and hardship on the elderly, it’s not surprising that AARP opposes the GOP vision and has said so. Given that Republicans want to end Medicare and gut Medicaid, the nation’s leading advocates for seniors should be expected to fight back.

    But House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), responsible for shaping his caucus’ agenda, appears to be have been rattled by all of this. He lashed out at AARP this week, blasting the organization as “a left-leaning pressure group with significant business interests in the insurance industry,” which is “intentionally misleading” the public. As Ryan sees it, AARP is in insurers’ back pocket, making it both corrupt and unreliable in the debate.

    After Ryan’s political action committee pushed the attack, AARP spokesperson Jim Dau released a statement in response.

    “We make decisions on policy based on what we believe will be in the best interests of Americans over age 50. A recent attack on AARP from a political action committee erroneously suggests otherwise. The truth is that the budget plan passed by the House probably would present more opportunities for AARP to strengthen its finances, since every older American would be forced into private Medicare plans, including those that AARP brands.

    “But we opposed the legislation nonetheless because we believe the goal should be to strengthen Medicare, not upend it, just as we’ve expressed concern about alternative plans that could use unelected boards to cut Medicare benefits. That has been AARP’s long-stated position, and the well-being of those who need Medicare is the only ‘interest’ we have in this debate.”

    That’s a pretty mild way of putting it, but the point is important here. Ryan is arguing that AARP opposes Medicare privatization because the seniors’ group is siding with the insurance industry. But that’s just bizarre on its face — if Medicare became privatized, the insurance industry would stand to make an enormous amount of money from its new customers who would be forced out of a socialized system and into the marketplace.

    In other words, if AARP was looking out for insurers instead of seniors, wouldn’t the group endorse the Republican plan?

    In the bigger picture, I wonder if Paul Ryan is starting to wilt in the heat. The far-right Wisconsin lawmaker is used to being treated as his party’s Golden Boy — a telegenic media darling who rarely hears a discouraging word. In recent weeks, however, Ryan has been booed by his own constituents; he’s seen polls showing overwhelming opposition to his agenda; and he’s seen his own caucus’ leaders back away from his Medicare plan.

    Ryan is starting to seem a little desperate, and he’s not wearing it well.

  10. GOP chokes on own Medicare Kool-Aid

    A funny thing happened along the Roadmap for America’s Future. Ordinary citizens smoked out its actual impact on their lives while much of the Washington celebrity pundit class were still uttering hosannas to Rep. Paul Ryan’s, R-Wis., alleged intellectual honesty and courage.

    As a result, congressional Republicans unceremoniously abandoned their crackpot scheme to privatize Medicare within three weeks of voting almost unanimously to endorse it. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., explained that there was no point wasting time on a plan that had zero chance of passing in the Senate, and was certain to be vetoed by President Obama if it did.

    Camp also acknowledged that as the same logic applies to the GOP’s attempts to repeal the 2009 Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare,” his committee wasn’t going to fool with that either.

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, breathing smoke and fire two weeks ago, lamented that Republicans seeking budgetary consensus would need to look elsewhere after President Obama “excoriated us” for suggesting that Medicare health insurance be replaced by a voucher plan requiring seniors to comparison shop for private health insurance.

    Poor babies. Here they’ve been so generous and cooperative, and Obama trashes them.

    Actually, the president’s exact words are worth repeating. The GOP roadmap, he said, asks Americans to accept that “even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it … They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.”

    No it’s not, and it never was. The mystery is why congressional Republicans chose to cast a purely symbolic vote in favor of such a deeply unpopular idea. Every available poll shows that strong majorities oppose sharp Medicare cuts, let alone the GOP plan to ditch guaranteed health insurance for citizens over 65.

    Yet House Republicans, who came to power in 2010 partly by accusing the Obama administration of trifling with Medicare, committed themselves to a deeply ideological revision of America’s social contract, reducing the top marginal tax rate on multimillionaires from 35 to 25 percent and paying for it by converting seniors’ medical insurance to a mandated voucher system.

    And, yeah, you read that right. If enacted, Rep. Ryan’s excellent plan would have required seniors either to buy private health insurance or pay a hefty tax penalty as well as forfeiting a lifetime’s Medicare tax payments.


    Roadmap to Big Rock Candy Mountain is more like it. Ryan’s scheme relies upon magic asterisks, insupportable economic projections and Orwellian euphemisms from beginning to end. When is a voucher not a voucher? When you call it “premium support,” his supporters insist.

    To make the numbers work, Ryan’s plan relies upon the proverbial “player to be named later” — cutting tax rates while promising to eliminate “loopholes” it fails to specify. Bruce Bartlett, the one-time GOP budget expert who clings to an unfashionable belief in arithmetic, puts it succinctly: “I learned long ago that when someone says everything is on the table that really means nothing is on the table.”

    Absent Medicare privatization, however, the savings from Ryan’s plan add up to a big fat zero, which constitutes progress when you come to think of it. Most GOP miracle cures take years to unravel.

  11. Of Ayn Rand, I am reminded of what Shepherd M. Dugger put on his wife’s tombstone. Mr. Dugger was a well known writer from western North Carolina back in the 1930’s. The epitaph on his wife’s stone reads:

    “She was a woman, but now she is dead”

    That seems appropriate for Ms. Rand as well. She is dead. Her ideas would be too if it weren’t for the intellectually vacuous keeping them on life support.

  12. @Henman
    Except Any is not irrelevant nor resting in her well-deserved obscurity.

    “The evil men do in their life lives after them.”

  13. After perusing this excellent topic entitled “Who’s Shrugging Now”, I will add the musical subtitle “Who’s Sorry Now” to cleanse the minds of those who want to rid the hideous thoughts and images of Ayn Rand by supplanting Connie Frances’ beauty and voice—both antithetical to Rand’s.

    Indeed, Ayn Rand, the consummate hypocritical ideologist—who ‘is’ sorry now?

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