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. After Previously Praising Her, Paul Ryan Now Disses Ayn Rand: ‘I Reject Her Philosophy’
    By Scott Keyes on Apr 26, 2012

    In 2005, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) heaped praise on Ayn Rand, a 20th-century libertarian novelist best known for her philosophy that centered on the idea that selfishness is “virtue”. The New Republic wrote:

    “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.”

    Ryan also noted in a 2003 interview with the Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.”

    But today, Ryan is singing a far different tune.

    From an interview with National Review’s Bob Costa this week:

    “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

    It’s understandable why Ryan would back off his former political muse. She described altruism as “evil,” condemned Christianity for advocating compassion for the poor, viewed the feminist movement as “phony,” and called Arabs “almost totally primitive savages.”

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