WASHINGTON -- Since a secret video of Mitt Romney surfaced in which he decried 47 percent of Americans as "dependent on government," reporters have pressed vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on whether he stands behind his running mate's statements.
On Wednesday, an interviewer asked Ryan three times whether or not he agreed with Romney's particular characterization of individuals who don't pay income taxes as "victims who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
But back in 2005, Ryan more directly addressed similar questions.
In fact, Ryan recommended that conservatives convince people to rise up out of their "victimhood."
In a session he attended at the Ayn Rand-inspired advocacy group, the Atlas Society, Ryan told audience members that the "victimization" argument would be one of their most effective strategies for getting people on the side of a Randian approach to free-market economics:
Q: Are there particular Randian arguments that have resonance on Capitol Hill? ... Where are our strengths that we can build on when we make arguments?
RYAN: I think the victimization argument -- I think the fact that collectivists speak down to people as victims is not only an arrogant thing to do, but it produces poor results. So backing up this victimization class that collectivists try to produce and showing the folks you're trying to convince that this is not only in their worst interests, but it's not dignifying and it's arrogant [on behalf of the lawmakers]. That seems to work. ... But I always try to show how victimhood has gotten them nothing and how freeing people produces great results.
In arguing that conservatives should "try to show how victimhood has gotten them nothing," Ryan seemingly accepted the premise that certain Americans are, indeed, "victims." But instead of placing the blame for that on the people themselves, he argued that it was the byproduct of the political system.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, downplayed the remarks, saying that Ryan had clearly been blaming certain lawmakers for speaking to people as if they are victims. He also noted that the congressman continues to make that point as a candidate on the presidential ticket.
Still, the speech to the Atlas Society illustrates just how deep and longstanding Ryan's belief has been in the Randian theme of collectivism versus individualism. In describing "collectivists," Ryan singled out specific groups.
"Social Security right now is a collectivist system," Ryan told the Atlas Society. "It's a welfare transfer system."
The time has come, Ryan said in the 2005 speech, to "personalize" Social Security by moving towards a private system in which each American laborer can also become an "owner."
"If every worker in this country becomes an owner of real wealth, of seeing the fruits of their labor come and materialize for their benefit," Ryan said, "then that's that many more people in America who are not going to listen to the likes of [former Rep.] Dick Gephardt and [Rep.] Nancy Pelosi, [former Sen.] Ted Kennedy, the collectivist, class warfare-breathing demagogues."
Ryan's Social Security reform has been rejected by experts as unworkable. The Bush administration at the time characterized the measure as "irresponsible." Ryan proposed a similar model with regard to setting up private "Health Saving Accounts" rather than relying on the current Medicare system.
During the 2005 speech, Ryan heralded both of these proposals as "the things that put us on the offense, that get the individual back in the game and break the back of this collectivist philosophy that really pervades...90 percent of the thinking around here in this town."