“I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”
-- U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, Republican vice presidential candidate, in a 2005 speech
Paul Ryan laughed. He stood naked on top of the vice president’s desk in the Senate chamber, scanning the crowd of sniveling politicians below him.
He flexed his muscles, the result of hours spent in the House gymnasium. Look at these pathetic specimens, he thought. Not one of them could do a one-armed pushup if his life depended on it. Not one was worthy of so much as co-sponsoring one of Ryan’s bills. Every single one of them had been elected by appealing to the average citizen in his (or her -- Ryan snorted at the thought) district. It occurred to him, and not for the first time, that of all the men and women in this room, only he, Paul Ryan, had been selected for his current office by the president himself.
The president. Ryan’s mind wandered as he thought about the only man who stood between him and absolute power. Mitt Romney was a weakling, he thought -- and not for the first time. He’s a man whose views can change. The thought filled Ryan with disgust. His own views were as solid as granite. They were the views of the only clear-thinking woman he had ever met: Ayn Rand.
Ryan thought back on the humiliating “job interview” he had allowed himself to be subjected to before being chosen as Romney’s vice president. Did he have any pregnant, unmarried daughters? Could he see Russia from his living room window?
Worst of all was the probing of his attitude about federal programs such as Medicare and Social Security. His attitude? His attitude was that all of these programs were for pathetic losers. Romney had agreed with him, but said they should keep this opinion under their hats. Ryan had obliged, only long enough to make it through the election. And he despised himself for this. But he did it, and it worked, and the Romney-Ryan team was elected. And now he kept nothing under his hat.
In fact, he didn’t have a hat, or any other article of clothing. Clothing was for weaklings.
It was the opening session of the Senate, Vice President Paul Ryan presiding. The House leadership also was present. Below him he could see and hear so-called leaders of his own party pleading with him to get off the desk and sit in a chair like a normal human being -- or at least put on some clothes, for God’s sake. He cringed inwardly at having to listen to such advice from the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
Although, he had to admit, he couldn’t despise these two men, much as he might wish to. They both seemed terribly bitter. He liked that. Actually, he had a real soft spot for Senator McConnell, who, when the occasion called for it, could be impressively nasty.
As for House Speaker Boehner, he could be nasty, too, but always with a slight cynical smirk, which said, “I know this is all just a game.” This ruined it for Ryan. For Ryan, this was not a game.
Furthermore, Boehner smoked cigarettes. That marked him as a pathetic, weak character. But it also marked him as a man willing to stand up to the sickening pressures of social conformity. You could argue it both ways. There are merits on both sides of the argument. Reasonable men may differ. …
“Stop!” Ryan thought to himself. Was even he not immune from the poison of relativism? Had not his mistress taught him that there are not two sides to every question? There is only one side to every question. He could hear her voice in his head, saying: “No. No. No. Paul, you disappoint me. Hearing you say that something can be argued both ways makes me physically ill. Yes, yes, I want to vomit. There is one objective answer to any question, and that is the answer that derives from reason. And if you are in any doubt about what reason dictates, just come to me and I will tell you. You can take it on faith.”
Ryan thought about the challenges that lay ahead. Privatizing the interstate highway system. Replacing the Pentagon with national defense vouchers. Turning the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art into block grants for the states. Ryan was especially excited by the defense vouchers idea. Why should national defense have to be “one-size-fits- all”?
Again, he scanned the room. It occurred to him that, if anything, the opposing party was even more pathetic than his own. What a collection of mediocrities. A perfect reflection of the people who elect them. Over there was that weasel Harry Reid. During the campaign -- with no evidence at all -- Senator Reid said that Romney had paid no taxes for 10 years. So what if he hadn’t? Good for him. Taxation is slavery. It is the inferior majority expecting the superior minority to pay them for their very inferiority.
Paul Ryan banged the gavel and brought the Senate to order. It quieted down quickly -- much faster than the House used to under the so-called leadership of that woman from California. The politicians recognized that they had entered the force field of a true, natural leader.
Yes, things were going to be very different from here on out, Ryan chuckled to himself.
(Michael Kinsley is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Read more opinion online from Bloomberg View: I’m Right, You’re Wrong and Other Political Truths and Todd Akin and Paul Ryan Are More Alike Than You Think.
To contact the writer of this article: Michael Kinsley at email@example.com or @michaelkinsley on Twitter.
Below are some of the ways Ryan's budget would affect you:
Wealthy Benefit Most From Tax Cuts
Paul Ryan's most recent budget proposal would save those making between $20,000 and $30,000 just $246 in taxes, compared to savings of $265,011 for those who make over $1 million, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.
Health Care Cuts
The "Path to Prosperity" would cut $2.4 trillion from Medicaid and other health care programs for people with low or moderate incomes, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.
Fewer People Covered By Medicaid
Under Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" as many as 44 million fewer people would be covered under Medicaid, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7417870n" target="_hplink">according to CBS News</a>.
Reduced Health Care For Retirees
Ryan would raise the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67. If the Affordable Care Act was repealed, something Romney has pledged, that means many 65- and 66-year-olds would be left uninsured, the <a href="http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/08/11/seven-things-the-media-needs-to-know-about-paul/189277" target="_hplink">CBPP reports</a>.
Seniors Would Pay More For Health Coverage
Under Ryan's "Path to Prosperity," senior citizens would have to pay as much as 68 percent of their health care coverage, up from 25 percent today, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7417870n" target="_hplink">CBS News reports.</a>
Cuts To Food Stamp Programs
Ryan's proposed "Path to Prosperity" includes $134 billion in cuts to SNAP, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.
Lower Tax Credit For Single Moms
A single mother of two working full time at the minimum wage would have her Child Tax Credit cut by more than $1,500, assuming she made $14,500 a year, according to the <a href="http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/08/11/seven-things-the-media-needs-to-know-about-paul/189277" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.
Less Money For Education
Compared to the most recent White House budget proposal, Ryan's budget spends 33 percent less on education, training, employment and social services, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/12/what-paul-ryans-budget-actually-cuts-and-by-how-much/" target="_hplink">the <em>Washington Post</em> reports</a>.
Poor Weather Forecasts
Ryan's proposed cuts to environment and natural resource programs could result in weather forecasts being only half as accurate, according to Third Way's budget expert, David Kendall. "For many people planning a weekend outdoors, they may have to wait until Thursday for a forecast as accurate as one they now get on Monday," <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/12/what-paul-ryans-budget-actually-cuts-and-by-how-much/" target="_hplink">he's quoted as saying in the <em>Washington Post</em></a>.
No Raises For Government Workers
The current government worker pay freeze would be extended under the "Path to Prosperity," meaning public-sector employees wouldn't get a raise until at least 2015, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/post/paul-ryans-budget-plan-hits-federal-workers/2012/08/11/8953b832-e3a3-11e1-98e7-89d659f9c106_blog.html" target="_hplink">the <em>Washington Post</em> reports</a>.
Ryan gave a speech to <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/if-paul-ryan-were-an-atlas-shrugged-character-hed-be-a-villain/261036/" target="_hplink">The Atlas Society in 2005</a> about Rand's influence on his political beliefs, stating, "I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are."
In 2007, Romney claimed to have enjoyed Ron Hubbard's (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._Ron_Hubbard" target="_hplink">yes, <em>that</em> Ron Hubbard</a>) "Battlefield Earth" when asked about his favorite book. <a href="http://www.concordmonitor.com/romney" target="_hplink">He has since said that he prefers "Huckleberry Finn,"</a> and also talked about reading "Twilight."
<a href="http://naysue.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/have-you-voted-yet/" target="_hplink">Biden once stated on his Facebook</a> that his favorite book is "American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation" by Jon Meacham.
Obama has been portrayed as a literary president (<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/opinion/young-obama-an-eliot-conservative.html" target="_hplink">this letter about Eliot that he wrote to a college beaux surfaced earlier this year</a>, and there have been many roundups of <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/08/14/obama-s-book-club.html" target="_hplink">his recent reads</a>). <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/19/books/19read.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">When <em>The New York Times</em> asked Obama about authors who have influenced him</a>, he cited Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, James Baldwin. But during the 2008 campaign, the book he cited most often was Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon," which he also mentioned in an interview with Rolling Stone.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Palin said that she loves C.S. Lewis, "very very deep."
<a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2008/1029/mccain-obama-share-their-favorite-books" target="_hplink">In an interview with Katie Couric</a>, McCain said his favorite book was "For Whom The Bell Tolls" by Ernest Hemingway.