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.
Ryan also targeted Medicare in his speech to the Atlas Society. His current plan — which would supplant Medicare for seniors with a voucher system — is unpopular enough as it is. In 2005, however, Ryan went even further, suggesting that the system should be entirely privatized:
When you take a look at the seeds that have been planted in this Medicare law, there is a situation that we hope will materialize and we think that this law gives us a great chance of doing it – whereby Boomers are coming into retirement with an HSA that has resources in it, so that when they come to retirement they’ll pick among catastrophic plans that are private-provided from which to choose from Medicare, and they’ll have their HSAs come in underneath that.
And so you’ll have a consumer-directed system not only for those who are under 65 in America but for those who are over 65 in America. That is the way to save Medicare not only from bankrupting the federal government because of its incredible growth, but also to bring this system to a defined contribution, individually driven, consumer-directed health care system. All those seeds, all those provisions are in this Medicare law, but they’re just delayed because of their enactment dates.
Which makes Ryan’s mock outrage that President Obama is “raiding” the collectivist system that he’d like to do away with even more ridiculous.
Throughout the 2012 campaign, pundits from both sides of the aisle have pleaded for the Romney-Ryan campaign to lay out a specific vision for the future. Ryan’s Atlas Society speech — and Romney’s stunning fundraiser remarks — help explain why they don’t do so. Those private moments expose how Romney and Ryan really view America, and it’s a vision most voters do not share.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steve Helber