Tuesday Reads: Learning about Paul RyanPosted: August 14, 2012
I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading about Paul Ryan. There was so much information out there! I guess that’s what happens when you start rolling out a big news story late on Friday night and early Saturday morning.
Late Friday is the time that politicians generally use to release stories that they don’t want too many people to hear about. I have no idea why Romney chose that time, but it seems that it allowed writers to dig up lots of background over the weekend to publish on Monday. So I’m going to share some of the more interesting Ryan pieces I came across yesterday.
Still, the NYT article is worth reading to get the adoring media perspective on the mysteriously popular Ryan. The story reveals that Ryan and his wife are each quite wealthy through inheritance. Other than losing his father when he was in high school, which is tragic, Ryan seems never to have experienced a single setback along his education and career tracks.
Ryan studied under a conservative professor at Miami of Ohio–he paid for his college education with Social Security survivors’ benefits–and
that professor pulled strings to get Ryan a political job. recommended Ryan for an internship with Wisconsin’s then Republican Senator Bob Kasten. Ryan has been sucking on the government teat ever since.
Mr. Ryan’s trickle-down economic theories were already in place, said Professor Rich Hart, who would help Mr. Ryan hone his political persona.
“I think Paul came to Miami University with these core conservative beliefs from an economic standpoint,” said Professor Hart, an outspoken libertarian who taught an intermediate macroeconomic theory course that Mr. Ryan took in his junior year. “He was reading Locke and Hayek, and I don’t know if he was reading Ayn Rand, but I had certainly read Ayn Rand, and I talked to him about it.”
The two would often meet outside class, not to talk about the course, Mr. Hart said, but to discuss political philosophy. “We had these discussions about the role of government. We both believed in the conservative view that government should be limited, because the most important thing is individual freedom, individual liberty, and along with that freedom goes individual responsibility.”
Professor Hart helped Ryan get a job working for Republican Senator Bob Kasten, and through Kasten Ryan met his “mentor,” Jack Kemp. They became close, and when Ryan ran for the House in 1998, Kemp campaigned for him. I’m sure Ryan worked hard, but he has certainly never had to worry about where his next meal was coming from. And where did the family money come from? Charlie Pierce found out via the Rude Pundit:
Where does the family dough come from? A construction company founded by Great Grandpa Ryan. The Rude Pundit went a’wandering through Googlestan, and what did he find? Among other great nuggets, this thing right here:
“The Ryan workload from 1910 until the rural interstate Highway System was completed 60 years later, was mostly Highway construction.”
IOW, Ryan’s multimillion dollar nest egg was built on taxpayer funds from We the People. So much for all that self-reliance Ryan is always touting.
There was another interesting tidbit in the NYT piece that Sam Stein wrote about at HuffPo. Here’s the relevant quote from the NYT:
Mr. Ryan is a strict supply-side budget expert and social conservative who counts fans across the Republican spectrum. He has been a driving force, if not always a visible one, in the party’s biggest fights with President Obama, including last year’s budget impasse that took the nation to the brink of default.
Mr. Ryan’s enormous influence was apparent last summer when Representative Eric Cantor, the second most powerful House Republican, told Mr. Obama during negotiations over an attempted bipartisan “grand bargain” that Mr. Ryan disliked its policy and was concerned that a deal would pave the way for Mr. Obama’s easy re-election, according to a Democrat and a Republican who were briefed on the conversation.
So did Ryan oppose a bipartisan deal for political reasons–fearing that it would help Obama? It’s an interesting question.
Here are a couple of interesting pieces on the Ryan plan for Medicare that I found helpful–both are relatively brief and informative.
I loved this piece at the Guardian by Giles Fraser about Ryan’s Ayn Rand obsession.
When I was a teenager, my American girlfriend at the time gave me Ayn Rand’s cult novel Atlas Shrugged to read. It changed her life, she said. It changed mine, too. She was not my girlfriend by the morning. It was the most unpleasant thing I’d ever had the misfortune to read.
As a work of literature, Atlas Shrugged is drivel, and not simply because it is so up itself with its own perceived radicalism; fundamentally, all propaganda is drivel, even if it is propaganda in a good cause. Rand’s cause was to celebrate what she called “the virtue of selfishness”, to denigrate the poor as scroungers and to celebrate the muscular individualism of the creative heroes of capitalism. Altruism, she contends, is “complete evil”. The question she poses: what would happen if all the bankers and captains of industry went on strike? What would happen if these Atlas-like gods, who hold up the world, decided one day to shrug and refuse to support everyone else? Then the world would be buggered, she contends. Atlas Shrugged is cheap pornography for the nastiest side of capitalism.
Fraser discusses the obvious clashes between Rand’s philosophy and Ryan’s Catholic faith.
By your deeds shall you know them. And Ryan’s deeds, and in particular his budget plan for slashing the role of the state, are pure Rand, as a group of Jesuits from Georgetown University have insisted: “Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favourite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.” The US Catholic bishops’ conference, not well-known for its progressive politics, has said much the same.
It feels odd to be arguing that there ought to be more religion in US politics. In many ways, I’d prefer there to be a lot less. And certainly a lot less of the hard-right hogwash that borrows the wardrobe of Christianity but has no intention of being subject to its moral values. Jesus said nothing whatsoever about homosexuality or abortion. He said a great deal about poverty and our responsibility for the vulnerable. Which is why Paul Ryan is little more than Ayn Rand in Christian drag.
He also implies that Rand wouldn’t be too impressed with Ryan:
Ironically, he is a “second-hander” – Rand’s terminology for those who take their values, prêt-à-porter, from others. The trouble is that Christianity in the US has become so widely hijacked by the right that not enough people will actually notice.
Ayn Rand in Christian drag…I love it!
Just one more humorous tidbit on Ryan: In his speech on Saturday, Ryan used an aphorism that was very famous in the counterculture in the late 1960s.
Recalling words of advice offered by his late father, Mr. Ryan said, “I still remember a couple of things he would say that have really stuck with me. ‘Son, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.’ Regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem, and Mitt Romney is the solution.”
That quote is famous for its use by Eldridge Cleaver in his book Soul On Ice. Cleaver was famous as one of the founders of the Black Panthers. From the NYT Campaign Stops blog:
With Cleaver’s name attached, the phrase appeared on banners, buttons and picket signs at demonstrations well into the 1970s, and was picked up by other radical leftist leaders.
It’s perhaps unlikely that Mr. Ryan’s father, a lawyer in Janesville, Wisc., was present at a political gathering in 1968 when the Black Panthers co-founder Bobby Seale, urging his followers to smash “the American Empire,” proclaimed:
Everyone falls into two categories. You are either part of the problem – or part of the solution. Being part of the solution means you’re willing to grab a shotgun and take to the barricades, killing if necessary. Being part of the problem means you’re on the other side of the shotgun. There is no in-between.
It turns out the turn of phrase may have originated with Charlie Rossner, a graphic designer for the VISTA program in 1967, but Cleaver and the Panthers made it famous.
I’m running out of time and space, and this has been all about Paul Ryan. Oh well…I guess I’ll go with that, and let you post other news in the comments. I’ll end with this short video of Ryan’s first solo appearance–at the Iowa State Fair. It didn’t go that well.
What are you reading and blogging about today?
UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct the assertion that Professor Rich Hart of Miami University (Ohio) “pulled strings” to get Paul Ryan a job with Wisconsin Senator Bob Kasten. Professor Hart explains in a comment that all he did was write a letter of recommendation to support Ryan’s application for an unpaid summer internship with Senator Kasten. I had gotten the impression from The New York Times article that Professor Hart had been an important mentor who had been very instrumental in getting Ryan involved in politics. I apologize for the misunderstanding.