Often labeled a “reformer” for his determination to privatize Medicare and Social Security, Paul Ryan on closer inspection appears to be simply another Republican politician – like his new patron Mitt Romney – whose first priority is his own self-interest.
Both the ideology and the legislation he champions prove that he is utterly sincere in his admiration of Ayn Rand, the kooky libertarian author who elaborated her philosophy in a book candidly titled The Virtue of Selfishness. (The flavor of this 1964 essay collection can be gleaned from its original title, The Fascist New Frontier. Its first draft included a Rand screed that compared President John F. Kennedy with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.)
Ryan is a millionaire – one of the most affluent members of Congress – chiefly owing to a series of inheritances from his own family and the family of his wife, an Oklahoma heiress. And like Romney, he would certainly benefit from the tax proposals in the “Ryan budget,” which provides even greater benefits for wealthy families like his own than the Bush budgets that he supported during the past decade. The Romney-Ryan ticket’s chief policy preoccupation, in fact, is cutting their own taxes yet again while gutting government functions that serve the middle class (while raising taxes on them).
But the self-serving short-sightedness epitomized by Ryan’s ideas extends well beyond cutting taxes for himself and people like him. Consider his voting record on energy and environmental issues, where he has been a faithful servant of Big Oil and “skeptic” of climate change caused by carbon emissions.
That record happens to coincide perfectly with the interests of his wife Janna and her father, a lawyer representing oil and gas interests. Ryan and his wife have already inherited millions of dollars from a trust established by her family; and they own shares in several companies leasing property in Oklahoma and Texas to energy firms that benefit from taxpayer subsidies protected in Ryan’s budget. Although Ryan occasionally complains about “corporate welfare,” he and Romney both oppose any reduction in the multi-billion-dollar tax breaks enjoyed by the oil and gas industry.