Paul Ryan claims to be a huge fan of novelist Ayn Rand, the libertarian favorite whose books and essays celebrated bold and unexpected acts of rebellion against autocrats and authoritarians
The House Budget Committee chair positions himself as such a Randifarian that he requires his staff to read the Russian immigrant’s objectivist tracks.
But, while Rand at her best celebrated creative dissent, Ryan’s got a big problem with it—a big-government problem.
The congressional prima donna was set to take his star turn Friday, with the easy passage of a plan that begins the process of privatizing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—not for the purpose of balancing the budget but rather to steer federal funds into the coffers of the Wall Street speculators who have funded Ryan’s rise to political prominence.
Conservatives of a more genuinely libertarian bent proposed a set of far deeper spending cuts than Ryan and his corporate benefactors desired. The Wisconsin Republican and his corporate compatriots decided to let the plan for draconian cuts advanced by the right-wing Republican Study Committee go to a vote—along with proposals by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus for more humane budgeting. The presumption was that the game was rigged so that only Ryan’s proposal would prevail.
But that presumption relied on an assumption: that House Democrats would vote against the Republican Study Committee (RSC) proposal. In that calculus, the combination of “no” votes from completely corporate Republicans like Ryan and dissenting Democrats would stop the more genuinely conservative plan from advancing.
But the Democrats decided not to play the part Ryan had scripted for them.
Instead, toward the close of the vote on the RSC proposal, the Democrats started switching from “no” votes to simple declarations that they were “present.”
As a result, it looked for a few moments like the RSC proposal was going to pass—putting the House Republicans on record in support of the sort of sweeping cuts in government programs that the GOP’s more libertarian members imagine are necessary. That’s quite distinct from the scheme advanced by Ryan, a key backer of the 2008 bank bailout, to begin steering all that Social Secuirty, Medicare and Medicaid money to Wall Street, speculators and profiteers who are his political base.