The Republican vice-Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, is a long-time follower and devotee of Ayn Rand. Rand was a proponent of selfish and possessive individualism and an opponent of altruism and “collectivism” which meant any role for the public sector regardless of how it might improve the quality of life of the population. Rand was also an atheist who saw religion as far too compassionate toward the poor. This latter inconvenient truth has recently led Ryan, a Catholic, to retreat from his lifelong fawning over Rand.
But Ryan’s budget plan, which is getting most of the attention, is very Randian in its attack on public programs and government. It is all proclaimed in the name of fiscal responsibility and addressing budget deficits, but the tax cuts in the plan will likely do little to address deficits over the short-run. What the plan would accomplish is tax benefits for the rich, the privatization of government programs so that the money can be transferred to Wall Street, and austerity which will further deepen the economic crisis.
As a political strategy, how does the selection of Ryan help Romney? We know that Romney will do anything and say anything to gain the favor of the Republican base. He has no convictions that will get in the way of this opportunism. After all, this is a man who is unwilling to even be associated with his most significant achievement as a public official – Romneycare. So, Ryan’s selection should be seen in this context – the base is energized by the choice. It is a means to an end.
Since Ryan joined the ticket, and attention has been directed toward his draconian and irresponsible budget plan [see Krugman on the details] Romney has started reminding people that he has his own budget plan. Of course, like Ryan’s, it is designed to continue transferring income and wealth to the 1% but it does not propose eliminating Social Security and Medicare as public programs, as does Ryan’s plan.