My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.
~Any Rand as quoted in Playboy (1964)
I’m not 55 years old, I’m 53 years old. Not only am I currently receiving medical care through the Veterans Administration, I also receive some of my healthcare via Medicare. You see as a disabled woman, I’m eligible for Medicare.
It appears then that I’m one of those at the perceived center of what Fox News Arthur Herman describes as America’s coming civil war — makers vs. takers:
On one side are those who create wealth…
…On the other are the public employee unions; left-leaning intelligentsia who see the growth of government as index of progress; and the millions of Americans now dependent on government through a growing network of government transfer payments, from Medicaid and Social Security to college loans and corporate bailouts and handouts (think GM and Solyndra).
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has been known as a big fan of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and the Los Angeles Times article Paul Ryan loved Ayn Rand, before he said he didn’t summed up his recent love of Rand this way:
…Ryan made no bones about his philosophical influences just a few years ago. He told the Weekly Standard in 2003 that he gave his staffers copies of “Atlas Shrugged” as Christmas presents. Speaking to a group of Rand acolytes in 2005, Ryan said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”
Even three years ago, Tim Mak of Politico noted, Ryan channeled Rand. “What’s unique about what’s happening today in government, in the world, in America, is that it’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now,” Ryan said. “I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault.”
Rep. Ryan now says he doesn’t love Ayn Rand:
“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told Robert Costa of the National Review. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.” He added that he had merely “enjoyed a couple of her novels,” which also included another bestseller, “The Fountainhead.”
But does he really reject Rand’s philosophy?
[More below the fold.]
Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes to earth unarmed: his brain is his only weapon. But the mind is the attribute of the individual — there is no such thing as a collective brain. The man who thinks must think and act on his own. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion; it cannot be subordinated to the needs, opinions or wishes of others. It is not an object of sacrifice.
The creator stands on his own judgment…The creator produces; the parasite loots. The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men…The parasite seeks power. He wants to bind all men together in common action and common slavery. He claims that man is only a tool for the use of others: that he must think as they think, act as they act, and live in selfless, joyless servitude to any need but his own.
…It is an ancient conflict. It has another name: the individual against the collective.
Our country, the noblest country in the history of men, was based on the principle of individualism…
The 2012 Presidential election is shaping up how we view society: is it you, I, and a sea of disconnected individuals, or is it that all of us together are a society that “does stuff” that individual members cannot do alone.
This isn’t an either/or — we can be individuals in a society that, if able, achieve success for ourselves, but also give back to society based on financial measure of our individual successes.
And the Ryan 2011 and 2012 budgets? To my mind these are Ayn Rand budgets.
Quoting Rand from The Objectionist (emphasis added):
The fact that a man has no claim on others (i.e., that it is not their moral duty to help him and that he cannot demand their help as his right) does not preclude or prohibit good will among men and does not make it immoral to offer or to accept voluntary, non-sacrificial assistance.
It is altruism that has corrupted and perverted human benevolence by regarding the giver as an object of immolation, and the receiver as a helplessly miserable object of pity who holds a mortgage on the lives of others — a doctrine which is extremely offensive to both parties, leaving men no choice but the roles of sacrificial victim or moral cannibal…
To view the question in its proper perspective, one must begin by rejecting altruism’s terms and all of its ugly emotional aftertaste — then take a fresh look at human relationships. It is morally proper to accept help, when it is offered, not as a moral duty, but as an act of good will and generosity, when the giver can afford it (i.e., when it does not involve self-sacrifice on his part), and when it is offered in response to the receiver’s virtues, not in response to his flaws, weaknesses or moral failures, and not on the ground of his need as such.
This is a view of society of disconnected individuals.
Well, in the Ayn Rand worldview my flaws — my weaknesses — include my disabilities. Specifically, I’m disabled in having a bipolar condition. It really doesn’t matter that my mental health disability, along with my physical disabilities, are all military service connected: The Ayn Rand philosophy would hold that I’m a “helplessly miserable object of pity who holds a mortgage on the lives of others.”
My mortgage on American Society though is not just as a disabled veteran, but also in just being disabled, period, enough that I can’t hold down a job. In Rand style terminology, as a disabled veteran I’m a “taker” and not a “maker.”
The federal budget schemas that Gov. Mitt Romney has endorsed are the budget schemas that Paul Ryan put forward in congress in 2011 and 2012. Ryan’s austere budgets change the America’s social contract regarding Medicare, Medical, and government assistance for the poor (such as food stamps). To quote the New York magazine article The Legendary Paul Ryan by Jonathan Chait:
The basic elements of Ryan’s plan are this: The tax code would be collapsed into two rates, with the top rate dropping to 25 percent, but eliminating unspecified tax deductions would keep tax revenues at the current level, as set by the Bush tax cuts. Medicare would remain untouched for those 55 years old and older, but those under would be given vouchers at a capped rate. Given that the Medicare savings would not begin to take effect for more than a decade, that taxes would stay level (at best), and that military spending would increase, Ryan would achieve his short-term deficit reduction by focusing overwhelmingly on programs targeted to the poor (which account for about a fifth of the federal budget, but absorb 62 percent of Ryan’s cuts over the next decade). The budget repeals Obamacare, thereby uninsuring some 30 million Americans about to become insured. It would then take insurance away from another 14 to 27 million people, by cutting Medicaid and children’s health-insurance funding.
Later in the same New York magazine article from May 7, 2012, Chait wrote (emphasis added):
Ryan now frequently casts his opposition to Obama in technocratic terms, but he hasn’t always done so. “It is not enough to say that President Obama’s taxes are too big or the health-care plan doesn’t work for this or that policy reason,” Ryan said in 2009. “It is the morality of what is occurring right now, and how it offends the morality of individuals working toward their own free will to produce, to achieve, to succeed, that is under attack, and it is that what I think Ayn Rand would be commenting on.” Ryan’s philosophical opposition to a government that forces the “makers” to subsidize the “takers” — terms he still employs — is foundational; the policy details are secondary.
Since I’m not 55 years old, my Medicare coverage apparently wouldn’t guaranteed under the Ayn Rand/Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan Presidency without increased out of pocket costs that would shrink my fixed income.
And what will happen to veterans benefits?
I may be deserving as a veteran for aid, but as Ayn Rand said (emphasis added):
There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them.
And there’s where the Ayn Rand/Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan philosophy emerges: their estimation seems to be that the federal government can’t afford to help those who need the American social safety net.
We need to remember how Rep. Ryan answered the query of the Christian Broadcast Network’s (CBN’s) David Brody on March 20, 2012 when Rep. Ryan presented the proposed Republican budget for 2012 (emphasis added):
David Brody: The liberals will say that about 60 percent of the budget cuts that you are proposing are going to hit low income Americans. What’s the response to that?
Paul Ryan: I would say, first of all, we need to fix our social safety net. And spending still continues under our budget under Medicaid and these other programs. They just don’t grow at the crazy pace that the president is proposing because those become unsustainable.
Here is the way we look at dealing with the safety net. We want the safety net to be there for people who can’t help themselves, and we want it to be there for people who are down on their luck, so that they can get back on their feet and get on with their lives with independence and self-sufficiency. But when we look at the safety net we look at not treating the symptoms of poverty, to make it easier to cope with, and live with, and to stay on. We look at the root causes of poverty so that we can eradicate poverty and end the cycle of poverty.
One in six Americans is in poverty today. More people are in poverty today than since we’ve been measuring the poverty rates. That’s under President Obama’s watch. These are a result of President Obama’s policies. So, if we want more of the same, stick with President Obama’s doing, which is having the highest poverty rates in the country.
What we want is economic opportunity. We want upward mobility. We want to have the kinds of reforms that worked so well in the 90s applied to the other parts of the social safety net so that they’re geared to getting people back to work, on their feet, in their lives where they can control their own destiny. We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, and have that dependency culture. That’s not the American way, that’s not the American dream.
We want to restore the American dream for everybody in American society so that every person has a chance at equal opportunity to make the most of their lives. The president’s vision, I believe, is to equalize the outcome of people’s lives – not to promote natural rights and equal opportunity, but new government granted rights and equality of outcome. It’s a very different vision of what it used to be, and I really think that’s where the president is trying to take this country.
Yes, if there is a personal aspect of the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate outside of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues, it’s Medicare. I don’t have the opportunity to experience equal opportunity due my disabilities — my individual efforts to be a productive member of society cannot change that disability often leaves me unable to be productive. I don’t trust that the Ayn Rand/Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan is going to treat me as anything more than a “taker,” which may end up being the determining factor in my personal outcome should we end up with an Ayn Rand/Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan Presidency.
And by far, I’m not the only disabled American; by far, I’m not the only disabled veteran. How we vote, and people who care about us vote, will matter.