In an op-ed this week, Rep. Paul Ryan claims the GOP budget he authored would help poor and vulnerable Americans. In reality, this budget violates the principles laid out by major faith groups including the Catholic Bishops and would shred our safety net while preserving tax giveaways for the rich.
In a recent letter to Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Rep. Ryan said that the Republican budget is consistent with Catholic social teaching and is "aimed at strengthening economic security for seniors, workers, families, and the poor." But his plan, which the House of Representatives passed and the Senate will vote on soon, reflects the philosophy of Ayn Rand more than Ryan's religious rhetoric.
Ayn Rand, of course, is the extreme right-wing philosopher who advocates self-advancement over the common good, and who Ryan credits with articulating the (im)morality underlying his economic philosophy: "Ayn Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism..."
Ryan is using his position of great power to enact policies that would inflict concrete hardship on the most vulnerable Americans. And in the GOP budget authored by Ryan, low-income families face certain harm; millionaires are given massive tax breaks. Ayn Rand would be proud of this fact.
The budget makes two-thirds of its immediate cuts to programs that protect low-income people -- programs like SNAP, which provides nutritional assistance to struggling families. Ryan's transformation of Medicare shifts staggering out-of-pocket medical costs to seniors while ending the guarantee of full coverage. And his proposed conversion of Medicaid into a state block grant will lead to massive health care cuts for children, poor families and seniors in nursing homes.
Ryan is either under the mistaken impression that the best way to help poor people is to give rich people more money with no strings attached, or he believes -- as Ayn Rand would -- that it is morally right to use his office to reward the powerful even at the cost of harming the powerless.
Ryan's Randian sympathies further shine through in his letter to Archbishop Dolan. He claims:
"...We believe human dignity is undermined when citizens become passive clients living on redistributions from government bureaucracies. ... Sustaining national moral character and human dignity have been our paramount goal in developing this Budget."
Ryan's clear implication here is that both poverty and use of the safety net are marks of moral defect. At a time of 9 percent unemployment, when job seekers outnumber job openings 4-to-1 and tens of millions are trapped in poverty, that's a purely Randian position.
Does Ryan conceive of the millions of Americans who can't find work amid the slowest economic recovery since World War II as "passive clients living on redistributions"? Does he believe that making it harder for seniors and struggling families to get the health care they need and put food on the table is good for their moral character? If the answer is yes, as Ryan's letter to Dolan suggests, he needs to stop, reflect and choose between God or Rand. He can't serve both.