Nel's New Day

April 28, 2014

Tea Party Follows Fallacies of Ayn Rand

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:26 PM
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is once again on the campaign trail, trying to convince people that he has great concern for the poor—although it’s their fault if they live in an inner city. Ryan gets his ideas from Ayn Rand’s books, and Matt Yglesias has superbly summarized the Ryan policy to help the poor: “Rich people should pay lower taxes, middle class and working class people should pay more taxes, and poor people should get less food, medicine, and college tuition.”

It’s been over 50 years since I read Atlas Shrugged, but the book just won’t disappear, thanks to the irrational desires of white males to elevate Ayn Rand to sainthood. In a nutshell, Rand depicts corporate CEOs and one-percenters as the selfless heroes who will save society with all other people villains because they’re trying to drag down the rich instead of worshipping them in gratitude.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) required campaign staffers to read the book until he ran for president and felt he had to repudiate Rand’s atheism. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who drove the country into a recession, was part of Rand’s inner circle. His reason for opposition to regulation of financial markets came from her maxim that business greed protected the public, that old fairy tale that the wealthy are job-creators. After he left office, Greenspan admitted he got it all wrong before he tried to cover his tracks and give excuses for his damage to the country.

Adam Lee has provided ten lessons that Atlas Shrugged teaches:

All  good and trustworthy people are handsome, and all evil people are ugly. The heroes are distinctively Aryan with steely blue eyes and ash-blond hair.

A great businessman typically sneers at the idea of public safety. Heroic and decisive capitalists dive into dangerous situations and use only their gut for decisions. As heroine Dagny Taggart said, “When I see things, I see them.” Rand’s morality includes the success of bribing officials.

Democracy rewards bad guys, and violence rewards good guys. Members of Congress—the villains—voted for the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, forcing big companies to break up. The good guy, however, killed a state legislator before he could vote to pass a law stopping the good guy from finishing his railroad track and then threw a government official down three flights of stairs for offering him a loan.  Another Rand hero blows up his own oil fields because the government passed new regulations on rail shipping.

The government has never invented anything or done any good for anyone. Everyone who works for the government is a leech or bumbling incompetent. No mention of radar, space flight, nuclear power, GPS, computers, and the Internet brought about by government research.

Violent jealousy and degradation are signs of true love. Dagny’s first lover physically abuses and rapes her; her second one is a married man who leaves her bruised and bloody before he calls her a whore. Both men are Rand’s heroes; in her world, women are meant to be subservient to men. “The most feminine of all aspects [is] the look of being chained.” To Rand, a woman being the dominant partner in a relationship was “metaphysically inappropriate.”

All natural resources are limitless. To Rand, there is no end to land for homesteading, trees for cutting, coal for mining, and fossil fuels for drilling. Government bureaucrats invent environmental laws to punish and destroy successful businessmen. Fiction supercedes the laws of thermodynamics as Rand’s protagonists discover a motor that produces limitless energy for free because it runs on “atmospheric static electricity.”

Pollution and advertisements are beautiful; wilderness is ugly and useless. Rand describes New York City as cradled in “sacred fires” from the surrounding smokestacks and heavy industrial plants. In the pristine wilderness of Wisconsin, Rand’s hero says, “What I’d like to see is a billboard.”

Crime doesn’t exist, even in areas of extreme poverty. The only violence in Atlas Shrugged is government employees’ stealing the wealth of the rich at gunpoint to give to the poor. No burglary, no muggings, no bread riots, no street crime—although society circles down into poverty and economic depression. None of the wealthy worries about personal safety while the members of the elite mysteriously disappear.

The only thing that matters is success at making money.

“There’s nothing of any importance in life — except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It’s the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they’ll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that’s on a gold standard.”

Smoking is good for you. Like Rand, most of the novels’ heroes smoke, for good reason, according to a cigarette vendor:

“I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips … When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind—and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.”

A heavy smoker, Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged before she developed lung cancer and had a lung removed with the help of government funding.  Worth today’s equivalent of $1.2 million when she died, she still took Social Security and Medicare because she needed the system for help.

In Business Insider, Max Nisen pointed out ways in which businessmen shouldn’t hold up Atlas Shrugged as a model:

Return to the gold standard: Ben Bernanke, former chair of the Federal Reserve, said that the wild fluctuations in inflation would return under the gold standard because it is unstable and bad for business.

The belief that successful people are inherently superior and frequently victims: Helping people achieve instead of looking down on them is true leadership.

Suggestion that people can and should be motivated only by money or trade: Many people are better motivated by doing something they consider worthwhile, including giving help to people. Any business owner who fails to understand this will lose talented employees.

A contemptuous view of customers: Rand promotes the idea that anyone who takes assistance is contemptible and should be avoided at all costs, not a good business model.

The perception of government as antagonist: Like the rest of the novel, government is a caricature. Good businessmen know that their success depends on infrastructure and property laws, especially intellectual property laws. That’s what they get from government.

A new generation will now be introduced to the third part of Atlas Shrugged as a new movie, including Rob Morrow, is scheduled to be released on September 12 of this year. The producer hopes “to draw a connection between the political implications in Atlas to the midterm elections and use the film as an opportunity to show their support for Atlas’ message of freedom and the rights of the individual.” Because the first two parts did badly at the box office, the movie had to be partially funded by donations from the general public.

A close attachment to Rand, however, may be awkward for conservatives. She was pro-abortion, supporting sexual freedom, and, worst of all for conservatives, an atheist. Her rejection of self-sacrifice included the idea of a god to whom a person should be subservient. The concept of Original Sin requires guilt, mandating atonement by attending to the “rotting sores” of others. To Rand, all altruism is evil. Rand described Jesus’ teachings as “the best kindergarten for Communism.”

The problem with Rand’s books, other than the fact that they are badly written, is that they are not balanced. Individual freedom and equality are prized by Western democracies but not at the cost of creating a huge gulf in equality. Large disparity in power eliminates individual freedom and equality because there is no longer ability for everyone to act freely.

Rand’s form of libertarianism and objectivism acts as a cult because it requires power differentials between leader and follower. No one is allowed to criticize. Libertarians claim “Reason,” using the term so that anyone who disagrees is “unreasonable.” Objectivism is simply a form of hedonism, not an objective approach. Both are absolute, allowing no possibility for thinking and change.

People love Rand’s polemics because they can behave selfishly without guilt. Following Rand, however, would only lead to the crumbling of the nation’s entire infrastructure and the destruction of the planet because the wealthy and the corporations only want the instant gratification of making more and more money. In truth, they are the leeches on the rest of us because they take everything from the people who actually work. Generally, the role of government, no matter how much some people hate it, is to keep the rich from taking everything from everyone else.

December 8, 2013

Religious Figures at Odds with Each Other

Is the GOP obsession with religion dissipating? One piece of evidence comes from the response to Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK)’s statements television ad for his re-election campaign in which he said:

“I’m not ashamed to say that I believe in God, and I believe in His word. The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers. Only God does. And neither political party is always right.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee responded, “Is [the Bible] really not a good rule book for political issues and decisions made in the Senate?” Even Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican running against Pryor, took his side, calling the NRSC’s response “incredibly bizarre and offensive.” Cotton’s campaign spokesperson added, “We should all agree that America is better off when all our public officials in both parties have the humility to seek guidance from God.”

Most likely Cotton is pandering for votes. His statements follow Pryor’s campaign manager’s ire toward the NRSC: “It’s frankly despicable that Congressman Cotton’s Washington allies are manipulating quotes to question the sincerity of Mark’s religious beliefs. Tom Cotton needs to step up and denounce these shameful attacks on Mark Pryor’s faith.” Cotton did, but it probably won’t help him with NRSC support.

Rush Limbaugh also got excited about Pope Francis’ denouncement of unfettered capitalism (sometimes called extortion) by saying that “this is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.” Catholics in Alliance took umbrage at Limbaugh’s take on the pope and called on “Catholics and other allies throughout the nation to support the Holy Father.” Their petition states:

“Francis’s critique of unrestrained capitalism is in line with the Church’s social teaching. His particular criticism of ‘trickle down economics’ strengthens what Church authorities have said for decades: any economic system which deprives the poor of their dignity has no place within a just society. Contrary to what Mr. Limbaugh suggests, the Catholic Church isn’t built on money, but on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.”

Other conservatives have joined Limbaugh in expelling bile about Pope Francis’ belief that unfettered capitalism is tyranny. World Net Daily (WND) published a cartoon portraying the pope as a socialist based on the non-biblical saying “Teach a man to fish.”

pope fish

WND author Jonathan Moseley used Luke 12:13-14 in a misguided attempt to prove that Jesus believed in unfettered capitalism:

“Someone in the crowd said to Him [Jesus Christ], ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?’”

Moseley continued by declaring that Jesus is opposed to greed but doesn’t see that hoarding the family inheritance shows greed from unfettered capitalism.

A short lesson in “isms”:

  • Socialism: an economy in which the community as a whole or its government owns and controls production.
  • Communism: both political structure and economic production are owned by the government.
  • Capitalism: people own and control production to create more competition with the goal of low prices and high pay.

Capitalism, which allows people to own and control production, is based on competition which should keep prices low and pay high. Unfettered capitalism leads to the reverse—high prices and low pay because monopolies and collusion between companies prevent competition.

Moseley also assumes that crony capitalism comes from corrupt government’s involvement in business. It’s actually the reverse when business gets too involved with government. An example of crony capitalism is the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the watering-down of the Dodd-Frank Act. Financial regulators don’t regulate, and Citigroup wrote legislation to strip the remainder of Dodd-Frank. Pope Francis rejects crony capitalism and rejects the monopolies created by unfettered capitalism.

U.S. Catholic bishops, however, are staying mum on the subject. Perhaps they’re preparing for the endangerment lawsuit against them.

Last year, millions of people in the world were outraged after they learned of a pregnant women in Ireland who died after miscarrying a 17-week-old fetus. A Catholic hospital refused to terminate her pregnancy. Abortion is legal in the United States, but one-sixth of all hospitals, because they are Catholic, refuse to provide this surgical treatment for women, even to save their lives.

Three years ago, Tamesha Means went to the nearest hospital after her water broke when she was 18 weeks pregnant. In pain and with no care, she was sent home from the Michigan hospital to await a miscarriage, despite the high risk of infection from the broken water sac. An 18-week-old fetus is at least one month before viability, and a non-Catholic hospital would offer her an abortion or induce labor. The nearest hospital, however, was Catholic based.

Means returned to the hospital for help a second time and was again sent home without any. Only on her third visit when she had an infection and was delivering the fetus was she permitted to stay. Now, in conjunction with ACLU, she is suing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It is because of the Conference’s directives, forbidding any abortion or delivery of an infant pre-viability even to save the woman’s life, that the hospital could not help Means.

Many people are not aware of the way that the Catholic Church has taken over U.S. health care and the dangers for people because of religious mandates for hospitals and doctors taking precedence over the best interests of patients. Despite the religious control over patients, billions of dollars (over $45 billion in 2002 alone) come from taxpayer funding.

Bill O’Reilly is also an authority on religion. He claims that his book Killing Jesus was divinely inspired, so it’s no surprise that he also knows what Jesus thought. In an interview with Pentecostal Pastor Joshua Dubois, O’Reilly shared his knowledge about how Jesus didn’t mean alcoholics and drug addicts to have food stamps:

“The problem I have, as I stated is that you’re helping one group by hurting another group and a bigger group, and so I don’t know if Jesus is going to be down with that.”

Dubois didn’t accept O’Reilly’s conclusion:

“Jesus would be down for the poor. He would want to make sure every single person in this country had enough food to eat. And the bottom line is if you add up every single private charitable dollar that feeds hungry people in this country, it’s only 10 percent of what we would need to make sure everyone has food in their stomachs. The rest comes from the federal government.”

After O’Reilly tried to educate Dubois about how all those bad people are just going to “buy booze and drugs” instead of food, Dubois patiently explained:

“With all due respect, there’s a lot of misconceptions in what you just said. The vast majority of that program goes to elderly people, people who are disabled, 46 percent are children and most people are working families.”

In another “misconception,” Fox network is complaining the Sharia law is “changing everything,” according to Heather Nauert. She is complaining about a weekly swim practice for Muslim Somali-American girls at a St. Paul YMCA in partnership with the police department to allow for the girls’ modesty and religi8ous beliefs. Shall we wait for them to complain about Christian law “changing everything”?

Their next complaint will be the takeover of “Satanic law” if the Satanic Temple follows the “freedom of religion” amendment to install a memorial on Oklahoma statehouse grounds next to the state’s display of the Ten Commandments.  Anton LaVey, founder of the Church Of Satan in 1966, has based his beliefs on Ayn Rand’s Objectivism that celebrates selfishness as a virtue. People may be more familiar with Rand’s works after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) extolled Rand’s virtues.

In contrast to the fundamentalist belief in selfishness, today, December 8, is the Buddhist holy day of Rohatsu, or Bodhi Day. Celebrated as the day that Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under the bodhi tree, Buddhists meditate, study Buddhist texts, chant, or perform acts of kindness to others. Lewis Richmond wrote, “Living in the light of humility, kindness and compassion is the deep lesson and timeless inspiration of Bodhi Day.” Christians could take a lesson from Buddha instead of restructuring their Jesus into a macho, judgmental warrior.

The best religious news for the week: The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a petition filed by the Christian Liberty University to stop the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act for each person to purchase health insurance. It leaves intact the ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowing this mandate. All SCOTUS has left to decide is whether corporations—those people, you know!—can be religious and refuse contraception to its employees.

August 12, 2012

Ryan’s Policies Hurt People

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:45 PM
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The most important fact to know about Paul Ryan’s budget plan is that it doesn’t help the deficit.

Who benefits from Ryan’s budget plan?

Big Oil: Ryan supports $40 billion in subsidies for big oil while eliminating billions of dollars from investments to develop alternative fuels and clean energy technologies to serve as substitutes for oil–$3 billion in 2013 alone. He has a practical approach toward this policy: with his wife, Ryan owns stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the energy companies that benefit from the oil subsidies. Ryan’s father-in-law, Daniel Little, runs these families.

The Defense Budget: Ryan wanted so desperately to increase the DoD budget that he accused generals of lying about their support for Obama’s $487 billion cuts in the military budget for the next ten years.  His proposed increases give extravagant benefits to military contractors.

Paul Ryan and His Family: Ryan and his wife own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the energy companies that benefit from the oil subsidies. Ryan’s father-in-law, Daniel Little, runs these families. As a millionaire, Ryan will also benefit in decreased taxes from his budget plan.

Mitt Romney: Using his 2010 tax return—the only year that has been made public—in which Romney paid 13.9 percent, Ryan’s plan would drop Romney’s tax rate to approximately 0.82 percent. Most of Romney’s income came from capital gains, interest, and dividends which wouldn’t be taxed under Ryan’s vision for America. The elimination of the estate tax by Ryan’s plan would also give Romney’s heirs extra tens of millions of dollars.

And All the Other People in the Top 1 Percent!

Who loses with Paul Ryan?

The Bottom 98 Percent: Ryan plans to raise taxes on the middle class and cut them for millionaires, reducing federal tax collections by about $4.5 trillion during the next decade. If he balances the budget by matching the loss with cuts in programs, 62 percent of the savings would come from programs that benefit lower- and middle-classes—the same people who are already getting a tax increase.

Children: Ryan proposes cutting $1.1 billion from early childhood education, supports cuts to education funding, and tries to slash Title I grants (especially special education). He also approves of massive teacher layoffs.

Women: Ryan co-sponsored a “personhood” amendment, declaring any zygote a “person,” an amendment that would eliminate in vitro fertilization and popular forms of contraception as well as any abortions, no matter what the need. As a Catholic he believes that all religious institutions should have the right to keep their private insurance programs from providing contraception. Ryan has cast 59 anti-choice votes and repeatedly co-sponsored and voted for the Federal Abortion Ban, a law that criminalizes some abortion services, endangers women’s health, and carries a two-year prison sentence for doctors. Paul Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act,” allowing women to sue for gender discrimination in the workplace when they learn about the inequity.

The Poor: Paul Ryan’s budget cuts SNAP grants by 18%. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) grants, also known as food stamps, has kept 3.9 million Americans (equivalent to the entire population of Oregon), including 1.7 million children, out of poverty and allowed them to keep their families from going hungry. This plan drastically cuts jobs, leaving 174,000 people out of work. The plan removes two to three million people  from food assistance and 280,000 low-income children from receiving free school meals. More than three-fifths of Ryan’s proposed cuts attack poor people in SNAP, welfare, Medicaid, job training, etc.

Veterans: Ryan doesn’t mention the word “veteran” in his 100-page-plus plan, but he calls for across the board spending freezes and cuts, cutting $11 billion from veterans spending at a time when 45 percent of the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning with multiple health issues, more than double the percentage of those who came back from the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

People Paying into Medicare and Social Security: Ryan plans to make Medicare a voucher system that would pay less and less to seniors for their private insurance as the years go on. He also wants to raise Medicare’s age of eligibility to 67. Ryan views Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and advocates for privatizing the retirement benefit by investing it in stocks and bonds. (Think about the affect on the elderly who invested in the stock market after  the loss of trillions of dollars in the economic crisis of 2008.)

People Looking for Jobs: Ryan’s budget would result in 4.1 million lost jobs in 2 years. Ryan’s budget calls for massive reductions in government spending. He has proposed cutting discretionary programs by about $120 billion over the next two years and mandatory programs by $284 billion, which, the Economic Policy Institute estimates, would suck demand out of the economy and “reduce employment by 1.3 million jobs in fiscal 2013 and 2.8 million jobs in fiscal 2014, relative to current budget policies.”

LGBT People: Ryan voted in 1999 in favor of banning same-sex couples from adopting in the District of Columbia and voted against the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011. In 2003, Ryan voted in favor of the Marriage Protection Act, which would have prevented federal courts from considering and possibly overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Ryan also voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that passed the House in 2009. More recently, he supported an initiative in Wisconsin to ban marriage equality.

Students: Ryan wants to eliminate Pell Grants for more than 1 million students. He claims that Pell Grants, which help cover tuition costs for low-income Americans, don’t go to the “truly needy.” Ryan’s father died when Ryan was 16; he used his Social Security funds for school costs. He doesn’t want young people to have the advantages that he did. He also voted in favor of deceptive marketing by for-profit colleges, the focus of a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation.

Immigrants: Ryan buys into the myth of the grotesquely-named “anchor babies” accusing women of coming to the United States to get citizenship for their newborns. The myth has already been debunked because undocumented men far outnumber undocumented women and most women don’t get pregnant until they are already in the United States for at least a year. Yet Ryan felt that this was an appropriate discussion for a Town Hall meeting in Wisconsin.

People Who Believe in Freedom from Fundamentalist Religion: Ryan made the following statement in his determination to abolish the health care plan: “We disagree with the notion that our rights come from government, that the government can now grant us and define our rights. Those are ours, they come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence.”

People Who Need the Planet to Continue to Exist: Ryan has accused scientists a conspiracy to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change” and argued that snow invalidates global warming. He hopes to Ryan has voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting greenhouse pollution, eliminate White House climate advisers, block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters like the drought devastating his home state, and eradicate the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E). His budget also threatens national security because it cut the funding for the agency that works to keep loose nuclear material out of enemies. Ryan voted to eliminate light bulb efficiency standards and voted to expedite the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

How much compassion does Ryan have for his constituents? When they annoy him, he has them arrested. Last fall at one of Ryan’s “Pay to Play” town hall meetings, a 71-year-old man complained about Ryan taking away money that he had paid into programs. Police dragged the man out of the meeting, shouting, “On the ground, on the ground.” Ryan turned to the crowd and joked, “I hope he’s taken his blood-pressure medication.”

Religious groups are frustrated with Ryan’s plan. Leaders of a coalition of nuns in the United States described his budget as “immoral” and “unpatriotic,” and Sister Simone Campbell said, “[The Ryan Budget] rejects church teaching about solidarity, inequality, the choice for the poor, and the common good. That’s wrong.”

Catholic bishops even agree with the nuns. A few months ago, 60 Catholic social justice leaders, theologians and clergy released this statement: “This [Ryan] budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good.” Ryan claimed that his Catholic faith inspired the budget, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops fired back that the GOP measure “fails to meet these moral criteria.”

Comedian Andy Borowitz said about Ryan, ”The man of the hour used his brief remarks to lay out his vision of America, saying that billions of dollars could be saved by eliminating food, clothing, and shelter.” This is close to the truth of Ryan’s plan.

Paul Ryan may have difficulty in connecting his budget plan to the philosophy of his beloved Ayn Rand. While her books focus on the belief that people who produce things should receive the financial benefit, only two of the wealthiest people in the United States, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison, actually produce something to earn their wealth. The rest operate as middlemen for financial transactions, made their money through margin, earn profits from other people’s labor through capital ownership (think Bain Capital), or inherit their money. The vast majority of the top 1 percent of the wealthy in this country fit into this category.

Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress, summarizes the issues surrounding Romney’s pick for VP: “Mitt Romney has been cowed by the right wing into choosing an extreme vice presidential nominee who will alienate moderate voters.” The choice reveals Romney to be “unwilling or unable to stand up to the far-right of his party and select a vice-presidential candidate that is both able to be president on day one and capable of governing by reaching across the aisle.”

Republicans joined her in reacting negatively to Romney’s selection of Ryan. Republican strategist and former Romney adviser Mike Murphy said, “Paul Ryan is a star. I hope one day I will get to vote for him for President. But right now, in this election, he’s the wrong choice for VP.” Yesterday, the conservative blog The Fiscal Times published a column explaining why Romney will not select Ryan for VP and pointing out many of the disadvantages listed above—and this from the conservatives.

Romney is already trying to distance himself from the Ryan plan by saying that he already has a plan. Yet the far right is praising the Ryan plan and will be disappointed if Romney rejects it. Independents are not as enchanted with the Romney plan.

Murphy’s concern is that a debate about cutting entitlements isn’t the path to GOP victory. I hope so!

One more thing: the Ryan Plan doesn’t reduce the deficit!

 

 

April 4, 2012

Conservatives Want Ayn Rand’s World

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:50 PM
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Thirty years after her death in March 1982, Ayn Rand’s ideas have so permeated the conservative parts of the United States that conservative legislators may be close to bringing down a democracy that has lasted for over two centuries. Unfettered capitalism, unregulated business, bare-bones government providing no social services, glorification of selfishness, disdain for Judeo-Christian morality—these concepts provide the background for her philosophy.

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan’s approach toward economics that brought the country into recessions, the most serious one being only five years ago, was developed through his close relationship with Rand. Tea Party members honor the same economic approach while many of them count on the government for Social Security and Medicare. The idea of doing away with child labor laws, espoused by Newt Gingrich and other conservatives, is a Rand doctrine.

Objectivism is the guiding principle that Rand espouse, the idea that a set reality exists, outside the mind, and people find that reality through observing objects and events instead of thinking. Thus reality is the same for everyone, and truth is absolute. (I realize that this is a highly simplified view of Objectivism, but it’s a beginning.)

In an Ayn Rand world there would be no government (except police, courts of law, and armed services), no regulation, no Medicare or Medicaid, no Social Security, no public schools, no public hospitals, no mass transit—in fact, no anything. Death rates for children and the elderly would skyrocket while illness would proliferate from bad food, water, air, and drugs.

Fifteen years before Alan Greenspan was born, the lack of building and fire codes resulted in 146 people, mostly young women, burning alive or leaping to the death at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. With no regulations, there would be no bridges, dams, road maintenance, parks, Internet, television, and airplane traffic unless some generous person wanted to provide these.

These problems are just a tiny part of all the disasters from the lack of regulations, services, and safety nets for people. All this is the vision of paradise as the United States becomes like Cairo and Calcutta with walled enclaves to protect the wealthy from the hungry masses.

Like the conservative’s approach toward the Bible, however, they prefer to take just the pieces that they want, ignoring Rand’s belief in atheism and free love. They ignore the fact that Rand, who moved to the U.S. from Russia, was an illegal immigrant after her visa ran out. Fortunately she had wealthy relatives who supported her until her last years when she received Social Security and Medicare from the government.

For those who want a fuller perspective on Ayn Rand, Gary Weiss’s current book, Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul, describes the author’s findings after interviewing people who were connected with Rand in the past and who revere her and her beliefs today.

According to Weiss, Rand is the missing piece of the puzzle that shows the reasons behind the financial crisis, the answer to the behavior of supposedly legitimate financiers, traders, and CEOs as they intensely pursued riches regardless of consequences to others. People like hedge fund manager John Paulson who worked with Goldman Sachs to design the profitable financial instrument for sub-prime mortgages when he knew would drive the financial system to a precipice followed the Rand philosophy.

In 1975, Stanley Marcus , chairman of Neiman Marcus in Dallas, said, “Who among the business community today would seriously propose that Congress repeal our child-labor laws—or the Sherman Antitrust Act? The Federal Reserve Act, the Securities Exchange Act? Or workmen’s compensation? Or Social Security? Or minimum wage? Or Medicare? Or civil rights legislation? All of us today recognize that such legislation is an integral part of our system: that it has made us stronger.” Twenty-five years later, conservatives have turned 180 degrees.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s current budget bill, passed by a vast majority of House Republicans, follows the Rand precepts. Working people are negligible while only the people in charge have value. Altruism is evil while selfishness is good. Many of the far-right Tea Party candidates who won in the 2010 election were Rand acolytes: Ron Johnson who beat the incumbent Russ Feingold in Wisconsin; Mike Lee who beat incumbent Bob Bennett in Utah; Rand Paul who opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ryan may be on the short list for Republican vice-presidential nominee.

“The whole damned history of the world is a story of the struggle between the selfish and the unselfish! . . . All the bad around us is bred by selfishness. Sometimes selfishness even gets to be a cause, an organized force, even a government. Then it’s called Fascism.”—Garson Kanin, Born Yesterday

“[Rand’s] psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats. “George Monbiot

In thinking about Rand’s government, I pondered about the kind of life  I would have had if the conservatives had succeeded in having a government with nothing but courts, cops, and soldiers. I grew up in a small town in the Plains area. With no government support, I wouldn’t be able to read because of no education; I wouldn’t know anything about the rest of the world because of no electricity, media, and Internet; I would be extremely poor because of my inability to have any job and the lack of proximity to even factories; I would have poor health because of no available doctors. And this is assuming that I lived to be an adult: infant mortality was 16.5 percent in 1900 and the rate of death for children from ages 1 through 15 was another 10 percent. This mortality rate improved fantastically because of government actions.

Conservatives want this kind of world for all our children. Someone needs to ask them: “What sort of America do you want?  The world of the Founders, or the world of Ayn Rand?”

[An earlier blog on Ayn Rand is available on 1/12/12.]

January 7, 2012

Ayn Rand v. Religion

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:31 PM
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It’s late in the evening, and I’ve turned the TV to Fox “News.” Occasionally I want to hear what they have to say about the state of the world; tonight I wanted their take on the incredibly dull debate inNew Hampshire. The channel has moved on to Fred Stossel’s interview with Steve Forbes, who is extolling the virtues of Ayn Rand.

Almost half a century ago, I found some of her ideas provocative when I was looking for myself. Her works give powerless teenagers a sense of power in themselves. Many teenagers grow out of this. Conservative politicians and greedy financiers stay in that teenage time.

“Capitalism and altruism are incompatible,” Rand wrote. “The choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.” Teenagers want to hear that caring only about themselves is “moral”: it takes away their guilt at being selfish and uncaring.

Randhas made it “moral” for the wealthy to demand more and more money while people are starving. She has made it “moral” for politicians to give lower taxes to the rich so that the rich will give them more money in a never-ending cycle.

With the onslaught of Election Year, we will hear more espousal of Rand philosophy. The question is how these politicians will use Rand and still pander to the religious fundamentalists.

How will Rand’s philosophy play out with those far-right Christians if they find out that she has the following  perception of religion:

“I am against God. I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of a psychological weakness. I regard it as an evil…. I am done with the monster of ‘we,’ the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: ‘I.'”—Ayn Rand

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