There’s absurd, then obscene, then Paul Ryan

“Chutzpah” is classically exemplified by the man who murders his parents and then pleads for mercy on account of being an orphan.

A step beyond such chutzpah is laughable absurdity.

A step beyond that is self-contradiction and hypocrisy so astonishing it becomes obscene.

And a step beyond that is this Republican Party fundraiser, casting the Apostle of Austerity himself, Ayn-Rand disciple Rep. Paul Ryan, as the defender of “the safety net for the poor.”

 

That’s from Matt Yglesias, who finds it fascinating that this fundraising appeal aimed at the GOP’s hard-core base, is premised on the idea “that conservatives are eager to develop a self-image of themselves as the real friends of the poor.”

Steve Benen also received a copy of this fundraiser, and says:

A Paul Ryan letter sent by the RNC is concerned that “the net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care”?

You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

Ryan is the one swinging the machete at the safety net precisely because he doesn’t care. Put it this way: there’s only one party in Washington trying to slash spending on unemployment aid, student loans, food stamps, and job training, and I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the Democrats.

That said, if the RNC believes concern for the safety net is likely to appeal to Republican donors, it’s probably safe to say the Occupy movement has already changed the national conversation in rather fundamental ways.

Charlie Pierce also is in awe of the “unmitigated swill” it takes to “[trot] out Ayn Rand’s Brycreem’d doppelganger to raise money based on his party’s obvious concern for ‘the safety net.’”

Pierce is particularly appalled by the ludicrous dishonesty of this pose due to having just subjected himself to covering Paul Ryan’s recent speech at the Heritage Foundation: “Paul Ryan Is Living in a Fantasy Land Older Than Ayn Rand.”

Stop running away from your constituents, and siccing the cops on them back home while you’re in Hawaii, and ask some guy who got laid off at the Janesville GM plant last spring, if his primary worry is that his unemployment check is turning him complacent and draining him of his incentive to look for a job that probably isn’t there, because unemployment in your district is running in double digits. Is that guy a maker or a taker? Speak up. Your constituents would like to know. If they can afford a ticket, that is.

The title of that piece seems like an allusion to John Rogers’ classic summary of the Randian nonsense that forms the foundation of Paul Ryan’s political philosophy and agenda:

There are two novels that can change a bookish 14-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.

Echoes of that can be heard, too, in the title of Jonathan Chait’s response to Ryan’s Heritage speech: “The Ideological Fantasies of Inequality Deniers.” Chait writes:

We’re not having a debate about how to reverse or even stop the growth of inequality. Nobody has a real plan to do that. The Democratic plan is to slightly arrest the growth of inequality by hiking taxes on the rich a few percentage points, so as to minimize the need to cut the social safety net. The Republican plan is to slash taxes for the rich and programs for the poor, thereby massively increasing inequality.

That second link of Chait’s leads to an analysis of Paul Ryan’s own budget proposal, which finds that “Ryan Gets Nearly Two-Thirds of His Huge Budget Cuts From Programs for Lower-Income Americans.” That is his agenda and that is his goal. It’s why he ran for Congress and it’s what he’s working for in Congress. He wants a massive reduction in the size and scope of “the safety net for the poor.”

Ryan says that Ayn Rand is “the reason I got involved in public service.” Rand would have regarded that term, “public service,” as an oxymoron, but let that pass. Rand’s importance to Ryan is underscored by the fact that he requires his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. Yes, the very same “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” we were just discussing.

Matt Yglesias also noted that Heritage speech, in which Ryan advocated for “equality of opportunity.” But as Yglesias notes, the actual policies Ryan supports would do nothing to promote, support or even allow equality of opportunity. And those policies that would foster equality of opportunity are opposed, vigorously, by Ryan:

This naturally raises the question of what it is that Ryan is doing to level the playing field between kids with rich parents and kids with poor parents. Is he a proponent of boosting Section 8 housing vouchers and other federal programs that might make it easier for poor parents to move their kids into high-quality school districts? Has he done anything to boost child nutrition or children’s health programs? Does Ryan think we should make it more difficult for wealthy parents to directly transfer financial resources to their children? Does Ryan support making Pell Grants more generous? Equalizing funding across school districts? Well, no, he doesn’t support any of those things. We all remember Paul Ryan’s big picture budget plan. Its key planks were:

  • Lower taxes on high income individuals.
  • Generous retirement benefits for people born in 1956 or older.
  • Deep immediate reductions in anti-poverty spending.
  • Major reductions in retirement benefits for people born after 1956.

What items on that agenda would increase equality of opportunity? The answer, of course, is that none of them would.

When that’s the case, proclaiming oneself a proponent of equality of opportunity would seem like the height of audacious hypocrisy.

Except that height was exceeded by the fundraiser above, casting Ryan as the defender of the safety net for the poor. That’s just indefensible.

You like Ayn Rand? You were inspired to run for office by The Virtue of Selfishness and you require your staffers to read her didactic novels? Fine. But at least have the courage, honesty and decency to own that and to own up to it. If that’s what you believe, then don’t talk about the safety net for the poor as though it’s something you believe in, or approve of, or want to sustain.

Just tell the truth instead.

Oh, one more point about that Heritage speech — Ryan got his facts wrong, too. In praising the equality of opportunity he supports in the abstract and opposes in the particular, Ryan also praised America as a model of “upward mobility,” as contrasted with the hidebound nations of Europe where, “Top-heavy welfare states have replaced the traditional aristocracies, and masses of the long-term unemployed are locked into the new lower class.” In contrast to Europe, Ryan said, working class Americans are not permanently “stuck in their current station in life.”

TalkingPointsMemo’s Brian Beutler points out that Ryan is simply wrong. Upward mobility is much more possible in most of Europe than it is in America.

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    There’s always this classic Bob the Angry Flower about such a subject: http://www.angryflower.com/atlass.gif  “Hard months later…this sucks.”

  • Anonymous

    I think the most amazing thing about this is that it reduced Matt Yglesias to sputtering amazement.  Now THAT’S some chutzpah.

    Congrats Paul Ryan – you just made the wonkiest wonk in all of wonkganistan blow wonk juice all over his keyboard.

    Actual conversation I had with crazy libertarian / fascist guy today:

    Him: 31% of OWS supports violence to support their radical socialst/anarchist agenda!
    Me: Are you referring to the Schoen poll?  I should think that a person who has admitted to just lying about what his poll said wouldn’t be considered an authoritative source.
    Him: Maybe – but I hear the same thing from other right-wing sources, so I’ll believe him anyway.

    W.T.F.  Really?  I’m going to stop talking to these people – they’re not operating within the same subset of reality as I am.

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to stop talking to these people – they’re not operating within the same subset of reality as I am.

    I don’t think their subset is in reality at all.

  • Lori

    You see that’s the beauty of Independence Oil Rig. They won’t have to till the soil because there’s no soil to till. They can do some growing with hydroponics, but they’d have to trade for almost everything they need to stay alive. That puts a bit of a crimp in the plan to get rich off providing a safe haven for kiddie porn. Independence, schmindependence, we can embargo your floating ass. Ineffective for stopping the flow of banned goods. Extremely effective at lowering standard of living to crushing levels. Just ask the Iraqis.

  • Lori

     W.T.F.  Really?  I’m going to stop talking to these people – they’re not operating within the same subset of reality as I am.  

     

    I swear to FSM that not all Libertarians are like that. I’ve mentioned my good friend E before. He & his wide S are 2 of my dearest friends and chosen family. E is pretty strongly Libertarian. He’s mellowed with age, but his first choice is still to solve problems with market forces. He’s the single smartest person I know and he’s also kind and generous and I love him to death. 

    Example of his way of thinking about things: he likes the idea of a simplified flat tax—that starts at 100k of income. You make less than that, you pay 0 federal taxes. I don’t remember the details of the rest of his favored plan, but I know that unlike Cain’s idiotic 9-9-9 nonsense there’s no federal sales tax on food and clothes. Because E has no desire to see poor people starving or naked and he’s not an idiot. 

    AFAIK he’s never voted Republican at the national level. He considers social issues like being pro-choice and pro marriage equality to be vastly more important than supporting the kind of failed economic policies that pass for “Libertarian” in the GOP.  His response to a resent question from his son about whether any of the likely GOP presidential nominees would be a better president than Obama was, “Oh no. No way.” 

    He & his wife routinely watch The Daily Show, Colbert and Rachel Maddow with said son  and use them as jumping off points to talk about politics and world events and such. Did I mention that I love them a lot? Because I do. 

  • Kukulkan

    There are two novels that can change a bookish 14-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.

    I’ve always liked that quote. The only problem with it is that both novels involve orcs.
    It’s just that in one the orcs are the protagonists.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah. The Tea Party kind of ruined it for them, and the Libertarian Party courting them for votes didn’t help matters.

  • http://profiles.google.com/porlockjunior Dan Drake

    “You are familiar with homepathy, right?”

    OMG, you just drove me to an amazing realization:
    David Hilbert was wrong!

    You see, he said that if you got the 10 smartest people in the world together and asked them for the stupidest thing they could think of, none would come up anything as stupid as astrology. Clearly I could have one-upped him with homeopathy. Or rather, *you* could have. But now I know your secret, so thank you.

  • Porlock Junior

    The Duc de la Rochefoucauld nailed it more than 300 years ago:

    Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    We’re number 8! We’re number 8! … yeah I can’t muster much enthusiasm for that.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    “Rand Ryan” sounds kinda cool, actually. Like some manly action hero. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I would expect the combination of ‘floating artificial structure’ and ‘lax building codes’ would do any such project in long before Somali pirates or kiddie porn havens.

    If not, you know the rest of us can actually buy shares in a Somali pirate venture, right?

  • Anonxxxxx

    “Ayn Rand Paul Ryan” – it is utterly wrong that I append “the human centipede” to that.

  • Anonymous

    He & his wide S are 2 of my dearest friends and chosen family.

    Unintentionally hilarious typo of the day.

  • Andrew Glasgow

    He sounds like more of a small-l left-libertarian, rather than a Libertarian.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Alternatively, you can marry a Canadian. In order to move the process of immigration along, however, to the extent that you are granted a work permit, you need CAN$1000 in a bank account. 

  • Lori

     If not, you know the rest of us can actually buy shares in a Somali pirate venture, right?  

    Yeah, and I’ve never quite made up my mind if that’s horrifying or hilarious. Both, I guess. 

  • Lori

    Insomnia: not a great improver of typing skill. 

  • Tonio

    Lower taxes on high income individuals.Generous retirement benefits for people born in 1956 or older.Deep immediate reductions in anti-poverty spending.Major reductions in retirement benefits for people born after 1956.

    If it weren’t for Ryan’s stated devotion to Rand, I would suspect such a platform to be aimed directly at resentful Fox News viewers. It certainly has the effect of manipulating those resentments.

    You were inspired to run for office by The Virtue of Selfishness
    and you require your staffers to read her didactic novels? Fine. But at
    least have the courage, honesty and decency to own that and to own up
    to it.

    It’s the Survivor approach to governing, treating life and society as a competition among individuals. The big problem, as I see it, is that Tea Partyers hear such rhetoric and assume that Ryan shares their views on the alleged laziness of dark-skinned minorities. I would argue that Ryan’s intentions aren’t all that relevant compared to the demagogic effect.

  • Lori

     He sounds like more of a small-l left-libertarian, rather than a Libertarian.  

    The current version of his views, mellowed by time and constrained by what’s realistically possible to get passed in our system is pretty much small-l left-libertarian. His core beliefs are still pretty Libertarian though. (It’s the one thing where I think he’s truly, persistently wrong.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The thing that always makes me wonder is … why people believe in life-as-struggle (i.e. some variant of Social Darwinism*) think they’ll be the one to avoid the “let the Devil take the hindmost” end result.

    * And as I understand it, Darwin himself heartily rejected the notion that his theory of evolution could be applied to human societies, because it was never intended to explain social competition, only how life’s diversity could result from a comparatively small sample of ancestor species.

  • Kim

    If it’s a choice between Paul Paul and Rand Ryan, I choose RuPaul.

    Heck, I’d vote for him first.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    The thing that always makes me wonder is … why people believe in life-as-struggle (i.e. some variant of Social Darwinism*) think they’ll be the one to avoid the “let the Devil take the hindmost” end result.

    Self-delusion.

  • Lori

     We’re number 8! We’re number 8! … yeah I can’t muster much enthusiasm for that.  

     

    It’s even tougher to muster enthusiasm for We’re in the bottom 15! We’re in the bottom 15!

    http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/10/29/opinion/29blow-ch.html

  • ako

    The thing is, looking at the factors actually responsible for personal success and failure is complicated and doesn’t produce reassuring results.  In reality, people succeed at things for a variety of reasons and fail at things for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes, stuff like working hard and making good decisions is a major factor.  Sometimes it isn’t.   Sometimes, it’s not even possible to go “This is definitely a good decision, and this is definitely a bad one.”   Quite often, one looks at all of the factors and is left going “Okay, these things I consider good bad behavior increase the odds of success and happiness, but not by a huge amount, and there are also things I consider bad behavior that can increase the odds of success and happiness for some people in some situations.”

    It’s much less effort and more comforting to assume that it’s all down to controllable factors and personal merit.  Then one can exercise confirmation bias and find that people who aren’t doing well have nearly all made some kind of mistake in life, and people who are doing well have nearly all done something right, and ignore that the reverse is also true.  And it becomes possible to ignore all of the messy questions in terms of whether something is a good risk or a bad one by simply judging all success as coming from good risks and all failure as coming from bad ones (you can see this happening in many discussions of student loans, in which a bad job market retroactively makes it a bad decision to have gotten a bachelor’s degree).

    At that point, it basically turns into “People succeed because of their awesomeness and fail because of their suckiness.”  And anyone who has enough of an ego to see themselves as having more awesomeness than suckiness is going to take that as confirmation that they’re certain to succeed in life.

  • Anonymous

    Bottom 5 for most of that chart.  Wooo. Go us.

    *sob*

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Well, this proves what I’ve always suspected – some Republicans really DO think their supporters are morons.

    Paypal’s founder (and professional lunatic) is planning on doing just that. Of course building a floating structure in the middle of the Pacific that has no building regulations and codes is a brilliant idea. And just how quickly do you think they’ll be in favor of welfare come typhoon season?

    Is there somewhere I can donate to this genepool-cleansing project?

    Whoops “donate” is commie talk.  I mean, “buy shares”.

  • http://sophia8.livejournal.com/ sophia8

    “just how quickly do you think they’ll be in favor of welfare come typhoon season?”
    Or a navy when the Somalian pirates decide to expand their operations?

  • Hawker40

    How long do you think it will take for a drug cartel, pirate band, or other ‘organized crime’ group to take over and become the ‘de facto’ government?

  • Lori

     How long do you think it will take for a drug cartel, pirate band, or other ‘organized crime’ group to take over and become the ‘de facto’ government?  

    In the highly unlikely event that they ever get this floating fiasco up & running I say we start a pool. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    And as I understand it, Darwin himself heartily rejected the notion that his theory of evolution could be applied to human societies, because it was never intended to explain social competition, only how life’s diversity could result from a comparatively small sample of ancestor species.

    Darwin never saw his theories as being the basis of some ruthless application of oppressing the weak.  Rather, he saw human sympathy as being the result of natural selection.  Lacking the more obvious and direct advantages of many animals, humans must necessarily work together to survive, and it is from that advantage that sympathy derives, to facilitate such organization and cooperation necessary for survival.  Indeed, to quote Darwin himself:

    The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.

    Creationists love to leave off that last sentence when trying to claim that Darwin’s theories lead to things like genocide.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    How long do you think it will take for a drug cartel, pirate
    band, or other ‘organized crime’ group to take over and become the ‘de
    facto’ government?

    I’d bet on those groups being invited in. If they’re willing to provide server space for stuff that’s illegal on land (and probably a spam operation, too), why wouldn’t they provide banking services, supplies and warehouse space for drug runners and human traffickers, and so on? There’s money to be made and no laws to get in the way.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    How long do you think it will take for a drug cartel, pirate band, or other ‘organized crime’ group to take over and become the ‘de facto’ government?

    None at all. From the first description, I thought “so that’s how Bujold’s planet named Jackson’s Whole got started”.

  • Anonymous

    How long do you think it will take for a drug cartel, pirate band, or other ‘organized crime’ group to take over and become the ‘de facto’ government?

    Yep. The drug cartels are the only organization that operates entirely on libertarian, free-market principals. And just look at how well they do with out all those stupid government regulations such as making sure that their drugs aren’t poisonous and preventing their economic competition from murdering them.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    It’s horrifying IRL. In reference to the Ayn Rand Oil Platform, it’s hilarious. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And then in response, the rich guys running their private little island will hire some private army like Blackwater to get rid of the pirates, and then we’ll see how long the operation lasts before it becomes too unstable and falls apart. Greed for money has a way of overtaking sensibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    The world keeps sending me messages that I should move to Finland. Even though I don’t understand a word of Finnish.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    The thing is, looking at the factors actually responsible for personal success and failure is complicated and doesn’t produce reassuring results.

    Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

    “1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Alliterative name+one syllable first name is a good combo for a macho-sounding name. Says the guy named “Marc Mielke”.

  • P J Evans

    I think the pirates (or whatever) will get them first. These rich guys probably aren’t too good at recognizing trouble before it’s too late to get out of the way. They also don’t have a clue how much maintenance (and maintenance staff) is involved with one of those floating rigs.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    A good chunk of my family comes from Sweden.  I’m considering returning to the motherland.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Piracy is legal if you hoist the black flag, wear an eyepatch and bearded hat, right?

    Why? No reason.

  • Lazy Shaman

    Is THAT the reason why we have people like David Cameron and George Osbourne “running” the UK? *shudder* Have some of these people been deported to England already?

  • WingedBeast

    Depends on how subtle a crime syndicate we’re taling about?  If Somali Pirates get there first, we’re talking heavy weapons and low subtlety.  Day, maybe two.  If we’re talking about drug cartels or higher ended Mafia, it could be a process of months before the oil rig would be a money laundering hub and sex-tourism location.

    Once whatever group sets their sights on this oil-rig, I won’t give them a year.  Their best bet for a happy ending is a world wide zombie apocalypse.  Even then, I’d have to spot them the massive luck to have the first people with weapons be nice people.

  • Anonymous

    The Canadian College Degree Immigration Plan is highly affordable, especially in comparison to the American College Degree Illusion of Upward Mobility Plan.

    (Six to ten thousand a year at most, two years minimum, plus a year of full-time skilled work, and you’re eligible for citizenship. Three year Co-op degrees usually meet those standards, I’ve been given to understand. It’s been my emergency escape plan since I was seventeen.)

  • P J Evans

     The drug cartels and the higher-end Mafia types are usually more subtle than the Somali pirates. The rich guys might not figure out that their guests had different ideas before those ideas went > bang! <.

  • WingedBeast

    Nah, I imagine they’d start to see the direction of things well before their positions as servants and forced prostitutes became clear.  It’ll just be at a point where they’ll be so clearly owned as to find no way out.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if Canada needs paralegals?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Even then, I’d have to spot them the massive luck to have the first people with weapons be nice people.

    These are _American Libertarians_ we’re talking about.  Do you seriously NOT expect them to be as heavily armed as possible?

  • Lori

    Are Libertarians all that well-armed personally? I know they’re big on the right to bear arms, but do many of them personally exercise that right?

    Even if they do have lots of guns it won ‘t really matter. Contrary to what the gun fetishists say having a gun does jack for you if you don’t have skill. When it comes to a fight between the floating freedom lovers and Los Zetas or a bunch of pirates who spent their whole lives in Somalia I know which way I’m betting. 


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