Clarity on Paul Ryan

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal does a nice, economical job of demolishing the notion that Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan is some kind of closet Objectivist:

... At Georgetown [Ryan] delivered a spirited defense of his budget. He did so notwithstanding attacks by various Catholic bishops and a letter from 90 Georgetown professors decrying 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."

Now, even a Georgetown professor ought to understand that, for the most part, we're not talking about "cuts" at all; we're talking about the rate of increase in spending. Under Mr. Obama, the increased spending would go to 4.5% a year. Mr. Ryan's "radical" reform proposes to keep it to 3%.

Of course, what drives Mr. Ryan's religious critics bonkers is not his numbers. It's his claim that his policies reflect Catholic principles. At Georgetown he summarized one of the differences he has with the protesting professors this way: "I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government."
Ryan's "radical" budget reform proposal belies that last sentence, but that's a good thing, since true reform will require clarity about what reform really is and why we need it. Returning our government to its proper purpose would entail real cuts at some point as part of a phasing-out of the welfare state. Those cuts won't come if the idea that we are our brothers' keepers goes unchallenged, and Paul Ryan isn't making such a challenge any more than he is ridding us of the welfare state.

Here's an interesting side note: The column opens with a quotations that many readers might take to be "Mr. Ryan ... channeling Ayn Rand," but which came from a Catholic columnist in the 1950's:
We believe that Social Security legislation, now billed as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the idea of force and compulsion. ... "[W]e in our generation have more and more come to consider the state as bountiful Uncle Sam.
This shows a couple of things. First, as McGurn notes, our political discourse has shifted seismically since then. Second, while Ryan, no Objectivist, may or may not have been influenced somewhat by Ayn Rand's ideas or her uncompromising style of argument, her ideas are in circulation to the point that a columnist can say "channeling Ayn Rand" and expect to be understood on some level. Although mere cuts in spending increases aren't the real article, the seeds of a serious conversation have been planted, the posturing of Paul Ryan, his critics, and some of his allies to the contrary.

The seeds have been planted, but how will we know they have sprouted? When most people don't just vaguely know who Ayn Rand is, but immediately realize that crediting the likes of Paul Ryan with "channeling" her is absurd. We're far from that point now, but every such smear offers the chance for someone who knows better to point out the discrepancy.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Excellent article, Gus. This is the most concise and clearest example of why Paul Ryan is neither an Objectivist or an economic conservative.

The more people who read and understand this post the better, because so many think of Ryan as a savior who will work to end the welfare state.

We know that Mr. Ryan is not even close; not just by his recent comments, but by even a casual examination of his past voting record on social spending.

However, he's young and there is always hope that he'll find [pardon the pun] the religion of capitalism as it should be.

I'm just not going to hold my breath.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, Rick.

Yes. There is always hope: People do have free will, but your decision to breathe in the meantime is probably a good one.