Domestic, Opinion — August 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Paul Ryan’s First Love

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photo from Wikimedia Commons

On September 6, 2011, Tom Nielsen, a retired 71-year-old plumber, interrupted Paul Ryan’s “pay per view town hall” at the Greenfield, WI, Rotary Club. Nielsen, enraged by Ryan’s crusade against entitlements, yelled out, “I’ve paid into that for 50 years, for my unemployment, and my social security, and my Medicare! And now you’re gonna-”. The old man was not allowed to finish. Three security guards pummeled the retiree to the ground and dragged him to a different room to hand cuff the insurgent plumber. To this dramatic display, Ryan coldly laughed, “I hope he’s taking his blood pressure medication.” But considering Ryan’s big, “bold” plans, I doubt the senior citizen will even be able to afford blood pressure medication.

Mitt Romney recently called his running mate a devoted Catholic, yet even the conservative US Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned his controversial budget plan. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, issued a statement calling people “to resist for moral and human reasons unacceptable cuts to hunger and nutrition programs. He went further and called the cuts “unjustified and wrong.”

As the bishops made clear, the severe Ryan Budget contradicts the most basic premises of Catholic social teaching. The philosophy behind the draconian cuts instead comes directly from Paul Ryan’s high school sweetheart, Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged.

As writer John Roger puts it: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

When Paul Ryan was in high school he fell in love with Rand’s industrialist-romance novels. Like I and many other delusional teenagers, he was swept away by its grandiose notions of “individualism” and “the virtues of selfishness”. Unlike most kids, however, he never outgrew Rand’s “Objectivist Philosophy”, widely derided in philosophical circles. He even forced his interns to study her and handed out Atlas Shrugged copies as Christmas gifts for his staff.

As Ryan gained national prominence, he realized his radical teacher was at odds with the GOP’s nominally Christian base. A statement issued by 90 professors at the nation’s foremost Catholic institution, Georgetown, attacked the congressman for “continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families.” And concluded that, “In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In response, Ryan quickly organized a puff piece with his friends at The National Review to clarify his clear rejection of her “atheist” philosophy and to claim any past associations with her were “an urban legend.”

Such hypocrisy and cowardice is not surprising. After all just like Rand, who signed up for Medicare and Social Security as soon as she was eligible, Paul Ryan happily saved up the Social Security aid his family received after his father’s death to help pay for college. Now that the congressman has reached the height of success, he seems to have no qualms with kicking the ladder out from beneath him. Throughout his congressional career, he has advocated privatizing social security, eliminating Pell grants, and taxing the middle class to guarantee higher tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans. And in his budget plan, he has won praise from right wing pundits for destroying the foundations of Medicare and leaving seniors with measly vouchers to pay for ever increasing insurance premiums. At the same time, he advocates billion dollar oil subsidies, which directly benefit his family’s own stock options, and increased defense spending to help out his supporters in the ilitary industry, thereby exacerbating the “debt crisis”. Did I mention his Medicare voucher scheme will transfer dollars right into the hands of his insurance industry friends, who coincidentally give him more money than anyone else in the House? His “big solutions” are not an answer to our debt problem. They are simply a “Starve the Beast” excuse to destroy the safety net the public has fiercely supported since the New Deal.

Ayn Rand earned her reputation as a cold, unfriendly sociopath. But Paul Ryan seems like a likable guy. Over the years, he has cultivated a reputation as an earnest Midwesterner, looking to put forth serious policy prescriptions. While many revile his policies, they find it hard to condemn the sheer brutality of his ideas because of his friendly demeanor. Perhaps one incident, reported on by John Nichols of the Nation, best captures the man behind the shiny face and slicked back hair. At a Labor Day parade in his hometown, a worried constituent came up to him and said, “Look, I’m really concerned about the fact that our GM plant has closed, that our pen plant has closed. This town is de-industrializing. We’re losing jobs.” Ryan bluntly replied, “Here, have some candy.”

Well Mr. Ryan, thanks for at least saving us that.


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  1. A very funny and clever article about a serious, potentially catastrophic issue- Paul Ryan and his potentially dangerous budget plan. While I do not think all aspects of his plan are wrong ( it’s hard to refute the need for reforming entitlements that are approaching bankruptcy), there is certainly a threat to the social safety net of many poorer people. In a battle of two men with two first names, point George Joseph.

  2. And just what the **** do you and liberal Georgetown professors know about the issues that concern devout Catholics? If anything has alienated the Catholic church in this country, then its the contraceptives insurance mandate from Obamacare and tax funded abortions from planned parenthood along with the ever imperious advocacy of the Gay Rights movement! There’s a reason Joe Biden is refused communion by Catholic Bishops and why Notre Dame (not g-town) is actually “the nation’s foremost Catholic institution.”

    • is that really the only thing you got out of the entire artical? whether or not Georgetown is the leading Catholic university….okay.

  3. Firstly Josh, I don’t think a devout Catholic would start a sensible response with such an childish ad hominem. Having gone to a conservative Hungarian monastic school, mass every Sunday, and taken 6 years of Theology, I think do know about issues that concern devout Catholics. Most of your comment is a partisan allegation under the assumption that I have affiliation with a certain party (which I do not). By the way, a quick google search will show you Notre Dame professors also condemned the budget along with the bishops who are much more of an authority to the faithful than you…

  4. Thanks T

  5. Wow! This article was way ahead of the curve. Only about a week after reading this did the other major news sources try their hands at similar articles. Josh: I don’t think you can be a devout catholic, or christian for that matter, with out caring about others.

  6. The link to Bishop Dolan’s Letter to Paul Ryan is pasted below. The key line is here: “I appreciate your assurance that your budget would be attentive to such considerations and would protect those at risk in the processes and programs of such a transition. While appreciating these assurances, our duty as pastors will motivate our close attention to the manner in which they become a reality.” It is not an endorsement, but not a condemnation either.

    Here is Bishop Dolan putting this issue in the prudence, not principle, category: “It is clear that all of this correspondence reflects recognition of the foundational principles at work. Within the given parameters of such principles, people of good will might offer and emphasize various policy proposals that reflect their experience and expertise. The principles of Catholic social teaching contain truths that need to be applied. Thus, one must always exercise prudential judgment in applying these principles while never contradicting the intrinsic values that they protect.” Bishop Dolan is saying his view and Ryan’s view are both within the parameters of CST’s principles, though there is a prudential disagreement.

    On a final note, you and Ryan are not as far apart on this issue as you might think. He too believes in the need for safety net, but he has concerns about the sustainability of our safety nets (e.g. Social Security, Medicare). Ryan’s position would be the “mend, not end” view which at least shares some ground with you.

  7. I usually do not drop a great deal of responses, but i did a few searching and
    wound up here Columbia Political Review – Paul Ryan

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