Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reality shrugged

The intellectual hero of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives is Rep. Paul Ryan. He is hailed by the Washington media as a Very Serious Person, someone who thinks long and deeply about all things related to the national debt. He is said to have a Plan for reducing the deficit and putting the government back in the black.

His Plan involves reducing Social Security benefits, gutting Medicare and Medicaid, repealing the Health Care Reform Act, in short, stripping away what meager social safety net is left to the vast majority of Americans who do not make over $200,000 a year and who do not have golden parachutes to see them through their old age. He would then give additional tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. This then is what passes for Very Serious Thinking, for Intellectualism, among our national media and within today's Republican Party.

It was with some bemusement that I read the other day that Ryan's intellectual hero and muse is Ayn Rand and that he requires all his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged, Rand's final novel about a dystopic America in which the profit motive is the ultimate good, the ultimate salvation of society. That explains a lot I guess.

Ryan's devotion to Rand and her ideas brought to mind a quote that I first read in Paul Krugman's blog, "The Conscience of a Liberal", but the source of the quote seems to be Kung Fu Monkey.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Paul Ryan and his ilk, it seems to me, are living a childish fantasy that has engendered a lifelong obsession with unbelievable characters like John Galt, leaving them emotionally stunted, lacking in compassion or empathy for real people, and unable to deal with the real world. And these are the people who will be leading the House of Representatives for the next two years. God help us.

Would that Ryan had instead fallen in love with Frodo and Sam and Aragorn and Gandalf. At least he would have learned the meaning of friendship and self-sacrifice and working together for the common good. As it is, when faced with the reality of Ryan and his profit motive philosophy in power for two years, one can only...shrug.

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