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The Radical Agenda of Rand and Ryan

I will admit, it when I read Atlas Shrugged several years ago, I got caught up in the scrawling epic with bigger than life characters. Apparently, Paul Ryan enjoyed it too; so much so that in 2005, at a banquet honoring the author, he said, “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.” While he has since tried to walk back from those remarks, it’s clear that the Vice Presidential candidate’s political ideology has been heavily influenced by Alisa Rosenbaum, the Russian immigrant otherwise known as Ayn Rand.

What I initially missed in Atlas Shrugged was the underlying themes of superiority of the successful and a disdain for the less fortunate. In Ms. Rand’s novels, the poor are basically lazy dullards who deserve their lot in life. Actually, they deserve worse, if only the government would get out of the way and stop propping them up with hand-outs. The Paul Ryan budget proposal, which propelled him to national prominence, reflects the same basic belief system. If the Ryan plan were passed, it would deny eight million people food stamps, thirty million people access to healthcare, and send two million kids into poverty; all the while giving even more tax cuts to the wealthiest in society.

Behind Mr. Ryan’s budget is the ‘Ayn Randian’ notion that taxes and regulations reduce the incentive for the best and brightest in our society. What we have actually seen is that reduced tax rates on the upper end of the economic scale have only created wider ‘wealth chasms.’ We got a tiny taste of laissez faire capitalism when an under-regulated financial industry nearly took down the whole economy. And post-Katrina New Orleans gave us a glimpse of life without government intervention. While the notion of carving out our destiny without government interference may sound rugged and romantic, in the real world, it would be a pretty chaotic place.

Even more difficult to defend than the economic feasibility of Paul Ryan’s budget is its morality, or lack thereof. When Mr. Ryan (a Catholic) spoke at Georgetown University, 90 Georgetown professors wrote a letter protesting his “continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.” Mr. Ryan responded by saying, “I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government.” That begs the follow-up question, if not from the government, from where will the needed assistance come?

That question, at least in part, is what prompted four nuns, who have devoted their lives to working with the poor, to get on a bus and take their message to the heartland of America. It was outside of Ryan’s office in Wisconsin that Sister Simone Campbell told her audiences that if every church and synagogue and faith community in the nation were to try to do what federal programs now do, it would cost them each an additional $50,000 a year for the next 10 years. While Ryan would not want to admit it, the only logical conclusion to his plan is that millions of struggling Americans will slip through the cracks.

Ayn Rand was much more open and honest about her belief system; publicly condemning the notion of ethical altruism, preferring her own “virtue of selfishness.” A self-described atheist, she accepted this was contrary to Christ’s teachings to ‘take care of the least of these.’ Her religion was capitalism, and she unabashedly wrote that the individual “should exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others, nor sacrificing others to himself.” Of course, Jesus did not “shrug” off the world like the heroes of Atlas Shrugged. Instead, he became the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life for everyone. That’s a very different message than the one you will find in Ayn Rand’s books or Paul Ryan’s budget.

This article was originally posted on August 12, 2012 on Buzz Flash.


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14 Responses to “The Radical Agenda of Rand and Ryan”

  1. Joy Scudder says:

    Thanks for an excellent article, Jeff. A quote from your writing: “If the Ryan plan were passed, it would deny eight million people food stamps, thirty million people access to healthcare, and send two million kids into poverty; all the while giving even more tax cuts to the wealthiest in society.”

    In addition, the GOP candidates do not support gun control and are even taking away the right to vote from these same people.

    Hmmm! Let’s give all those folks you intend to strip of any assistance automatic weapons. Sounds like a plan to me.

  2. Karen Langford says:

    Jeff, you did it again! You always cut through all the…um….stuff that most people don’t and/or refuse to see. I just cannot understand how so many people have become so brainwashed into not wanting to help take care of our fellow beings? They don’t realize that if this all comes to pass, they will be the fellow beings who are not being taken care of!

    Thanks, Jeff! Great job!

  3. Phyllis says:

    Jeff – I’m glad you wrote about this. Learning about the influences of our leaders (current and future) is important. It tells us how they came to their life philosophies and core value systems. It’s also telling that now Mr. Ryan is choosing to “distance” himself from his own statements about this influence.
    That says something about him too don’t you think?

    • Jeff says:

      Hey Phyllis, thanks for dropping in. I don’t think Ryan had a choice about trying to distance himself. The more you know about Ayn Rand, the scarier she is… Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he didn’t some of the more unsavory things about her (which I didn’t mention here). Never-the-less, he has been greatly influenced by her overall philosophy of survival of the fittest.

  4. Rand also lived on social security for the remainder of her life. Interesting, huh? Great article.

    • Jeff says:

      There was a lot of hypocrisy – and irony… She lambasted the government’s attempt to warn the public about the dangers of smoking….until she died of lung cancer. (Glad you enjoyed the article).

  5. Mark says:

    Another great essay, Jeff.
    Tending to the neediness of our own brother has always been an intensly sore topic for me, so Ryan makes me a bit nervous.
    In one of my own essays, I once wrote –
    “I believe nothing so angers the god of this bountiful green and blue planet as does the death of a child for want of sustenance. On one side of Mother Earth, children are famished, and on the other, scientists strive to burn corn in automobiles. 
     And I hear God tapping his foot.”

    Ask not for whom the foot taps, Paul. It taps for thee…

  6. Sharon Hines says:

    Very thought provoking article and comments. I think it’s a very fine line between making sure the truly needy are taken care of, and being helpful to the point where you enable those whose “needs” are ever-expanding (as in Rand’s Starnesville, WI – p.661+). The current political discussion is all about where that line is.

    • Jeff says:

      You’re absolutely right. In my very limited experience with the Mission or working with kids from a disadvantaged background, I would hate to see the line move past their reach for very basic assistance. I already think we’re close to that in many areas.

  7. Just passing thru this blog and thread and felt to register a disagreement about the mis perceptions of ‘ Rand agenda.
    She had a prophetic gift to see and understand some 50 ears out. Her book had no agenda.To believe otherwise misses the point of the book and covers the timely fact that the book has recently made it to the sceen( It is about time!)
    Ryan’s politics like the national one playing in the US is a primary characterisitic of the message of the book and is not just on US soil but global. It is just that the US is the trending edge.
    Rand was a Russian immigrant. Her roots stem from the tribe of Judah.(
    She merely was just sharing what the Holy Spirit revelealed to her based upon her own personal experience given her tribal roots.( see Bible tribes Judah)
    If anyone looks at it thru the bias of a political party or a preference based upon the(*’ founding father’s’) the rest of the message and thinking of Jesus is likely to be limited.
    * founding fathers sealed the tribe of Manassah and used a sealed bilbe to create the nation. Daniel 12:4 and Revelation 7 makes mention of seals to be opened.What if they are open and many fail to see?

    • Jeff says:

      Garry, I have to disagree…Ayn Rand clearly had an agenda. She would say she had an agenda – and that was to free capitalism (and mankind) from government interference.

      I’m not sure how you can say Ayn Rand was a prophet of God when she rejected Christianity and denied that Jesus was from God. Ist John 1:7 says, “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” There are many such warnings (in 1st John) about the spirit of the anti-christ, and Ayn Rand seems to fits the bill, not only in her personal beliefs, but in her political ideology as well.

      This doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but I find it interesting… When the “Satanist” Anton LaVey was asked to come up with the 10 commandments of Satanism, he copied copiously from Ayn Rand’s Virtue of Selfishness, as well as Nietzche. As I point out in my article, her beliefs are often diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus or anti-Christ.

      Be careful who you choose to follow Garry.

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I grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, where I attended a charismatic church that sincerely tried to follow Christ's teachings and actively sought the gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the summer of 84, I interned in DC with the Reagan-Bush Re-Election campaign and was indoctrinated in the dark arts of neo-conservatism. After graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I worked in the financial services industry in Atlanta; then I drifted back to Southern California for a few introspective years before eventually moving home to Tennessee. Along the way, I began to question some of my longstanding beliefs and attempted to reconcile my political and religious views. Increasingly, I became saddened and angered with how Christianity was so often misrepresented for personal and political gain. Hometown Prophet was written out of that frustration.

- Jeff Fulmer