Paul Ryan: 'almost perfect' for one per centers, Murdoch included
Romney's running mate is more Dick Cheney than Sarah Palin, but the result will probably be the same
MITT ROMNEY'S decision to pick Paul Ryan as his Republican running-mate has been dismissed by some pundits - David Axelrod, a senior Obama adviser, among them - as the equivalent of John McCain choosing Sarah Palin. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Back in 2008, we quickly learned that behind the charismatic face of the Tea Party lay a venal, barely-educated woman wholly unsuited for office. Paul Ryan is a very different proposition.
He is more accurately compared to Dick Cheney in the George Bush era – the vice-president who truly represented the interests of the great corporate forces behind the Republican party, and the man with an invisible hand on the White House tiller.
What Cheney, the architect of the Iraq war, did for American foreign policy, Ryan could do for domestic policy.
Ryan, a 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman, believes quite simply in slashing taxes for the rich – "the job creators" - and cutting or privatising all federal programmes that help the middle classes and the poor.
As Paul Begala, a political consultant who helped Bill Clinton win the White House, wrote for the Daily Beast: "By choosing Paul Ryan... Romney shows he's decided to go nuclear in the class war."
Since January 2011, Ryan has used his position as chairman of the House budget committee to pursue his agenda with a clarity, vigour and disregard for the opinion polls as rare as hen's teeth in American politics.
He would privatise the Social Security state pension system by substituting "individual" accounts for payroll tax-backed funds, a huge windfall for Wall Street; he would put a stop to Medicaid health care for those too poor for private insurance; and he would end Medicare for retirees, offering vouchers towards private insurance instead.
On the other hand, he would reform the tax code to absolve corporations and the "one per-centers" of any remaining obligation to pay tax, and close the resulting multi-trillion dollar budget gap by slashing almost every federal government programme, from road building to regulating the airline industry.
Little surprise that Rupert Murdoch has rushed to support Ryan as "almost perfect". No doubt, the media tycoon will be chipping in to the sudden flood of corporate money now heading Romney's way.
As the New York Times reports, the Romney-Ryan campaign has raised millions of dollars since Ryan's selection was announced. We can expect to hear a lot more in the coming days of such hard-nosed, deep-pocketed Republican donors as the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, who fund Americans for Prosperity, quantitative financial theorist - and thorn in President Obama's side - Cliff Asness and Chicago hedge funder Kenneth Griffin.
Ryan's recent comment about Britain's NHS said it all: he was against it because it invites citizens to rely too much on government help. It's one reason why he dismisses Obama's Democrats – with a sneer - as "European".
All this might sound absurdly right-wing to many in Britain (and equally preposterous to American liberals). But his selection for the Romney ticket means that, for once, American voters have a clear choice between opposing economic and social philosophies.
To understand where Paul Ryan gets his beliefs from, Brits need to get to know the name Ayn Rand.
Who she? Rand is a household name in America these days. She was a Russian-Jewish émigré from Stalin's Soviet Union who came to America with a profound loathing of Communism, and became a novelist. Her best known book is Atlas Shrugged, written when Hitler's Reich was seen by some as a legitimate means of opposing Communism, and it has returned to the bestseller lists.
Atlas is a sort of corporate titan cast as Hero, who battles all for supremacy in a Darwinian contest for the pot of gold. Rand described without embarrassment the politics of a class war pitting "producers" against "parasites" who use the power of the state to seize their hard-earned wealth.
The right-wing economist Ludwig von Mises, whom Ryan has also cited as an influence, once summed up Rand's philosophy in a letter to her: "You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: You are inferior and all the improvements in your condition which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you."
Ryan does not offer that last quote to the "masses". But in a speech to the Atlas Society of Rand fans in 2005, he did say: "The reason I got involved in public service, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism." He insists that all his staff read Atlas Shrugged.
Can Romney and Ryan win? Probably not without some serious back-tracking, deceit and double-talking. As Slate chairman Jacob Weisberg wrote for the Financial Times this week, Ryan's selection "represents a big step in the direction of conservative honesty – and probably, for that reason, toward Republican defeat".