As the Republican presidential campaign attempts to move on from the secretly recorded video of Mitt Romney addressing a private fundraiser in Florida, an obscure recording of Paul Ryan reveals that the Republican vice presidential nominee likewise preaches a different vision when the media isn’t watching.
The audio recording, recently rediscovered by Vincent Miller of America Magazine, is a speech delivered by Ryan to the objectivist Atlas Society in 2005. (It can be found on the Atlas Society’s website.) While the speech has been cited for containing Ryan’s declaration that Ayn Rand was the reason he got into public service, closer scrutiny shows that Rand is also the inspiration for Ryan’s policy decisions.
“It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are,” Ryan told the Atlas Society crowd.
“The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it,” he later adds, “is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”
Ryan went on to explain how he and his fellow Randians can “break the back of this collectivist philosophy that really pervades, you know, 90 percent of the thinking” in Washington. The first step is to “focus on big-ticket items,” such as Social Security.
According to Ryan, Social Security is a “collectivist,” “welfare-transfer system,” that Congress can only fix by transitioning it to “an individually pre-owned, pre-funded retirement system.” In other words, by privatizing it.
If Social Security is “personalized,” as Ryan put it (to knowing laughter from the audience), then “every laborer in America will not only be a laborer but a capitalist,” which will create “that many more people in America who are not going to listen to the likes of Dick Gephardt and Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, the collectivist, class warfare-breathing demagogues.”
Given all of this rhetoric, it’s no surprise that Ryan has tried to put his plan into action on multiple occasions. As Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur explains, in 2004 Ryan and Republican Senator John Sununu co-sponsored legislation that introduced private accounts in such a financially irresponsible way that even the Bush administration opposed it.
Ryan tried to privatize Social Security again in 2010, as part of his “Roadmap for America’s Future.” As Paul Van de Water, a Social Security expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told Kapur, Ryan’s plan “would have made deep cuts in guaranteed Social Security benefits and impaired the program’s solvency by diverting a large portion of payroll taxes into private accounts that would primarily benefit high earners.”
Neither measure succeeded, and Romney has not even hinted at any plan to privatize Social Security. Given that Ryan views every fight as a battle between individualism and collectivism, however, there can be little doubt that he’d still promote privatization in a Romney-Ryan administration.