Paul Ryan once said: "Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism." The Wisconsin congressman and GOP nominee for vice-president has been known to give copies of Rand's books for gifts and has told many he bases policy after Rand's views. What did Rand believe so strongly? "What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty," once said the philosopher, and perhaps that is why Ryan has fought to cut Medicare and lead a revolution in the U.S. House to gut social services.
Roman Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Christians are among the many faith voices in the U.S. that have condemned Ryan's efforts.
Faculty at Georgetown University wrote Ryan a letter last year that stated in part: "...your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love."
Ryan's budget proposals affects the support of seniors, cut assistance to programs aimed at combating childhood hunger, and would leave people who have lost their jobs without heat during cold winter months. This isn't hyperbole but reasoned analysis of his budget goals from non-partisan groups like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ryan's plans would eventually end "everything from veterans' programs to medical and scientific research, highways, education, nearly all programs for low-income families," according to the CBPP.
At the same time, Ryan and his allies - including Mitt Romney - want to cut taxes for the wealthiest. That is why I joined over 60 religious leaders last week in writing to Congress that: "Favoring the wealthiest 2% over working families is irresponsible public policy that fails a basic moral test. We are not economists or tax experts. But this debate is about more than dry statistics or competing fiscal theories. Ultimately, these choices reflect our values and reveal our priorities as a nation. We urge Members of Congress to put families and workers before ideological agendas that favor the powerful."
Christians can come to different conclusions on difficult issues and there is no Christian ticket in this presidential election. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are both faithful people and we should assume the same of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Yet President Obama - who fought to extend health care to all Americans - and Mitt Romney, who has promised to cut health benefits even to the elderly (as Paul Ryan has advanced) have certain moral differences in their platforms that should give all Americans regardless of faith background or ideology pause.
Are we our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper?
Or are we fighting the idea that taking care of one another is a moral responsibility?
This election will matter.