In his first major decision on what could be a path to the presidency, Mitt Romney revealed much about his vision for America.
Ever since Romney announced his candidacy, America has struggled to understand him. Is he the pragmatist who spurned ideology and partisanship in his largely successful term as governor of Massachusetts? Or is he — as he claims — a “severe conservative,” a hard-right ideologue?
In selecting U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as his running mate, Romney answered that question. He demonstrated he plans to lead as he speaks, not as he governed. He rejected his pragmatic past, embracing instead a harsh philosophy that rejects a governmental role in creating opportunity for those who struggle to survive in a capitalist system.
Ryan is intelligent and charismatic. He also has an honesty that is rare among politicians. He makes no secret of his ideology, which he put on paper in the form of a proposed national budget that slashed support for the poor and middle class while reducing taxes on the rich.
Newt Gingrich accurately described Ryan’s budget as “right-wing social engineering.”
The man who may be vice president is a devotee of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged.” The novel is required reading for his staffers and inspired Ryan to enter politics. Ryan also follows the writings of economist Ludwig von Mises.
Summarizing the philosophies of two authors who shaped Ryan’s political philosophy would normally be difficult, but Mises provided an assist in a 1958 letter to Rand praising “Atlas Shrugged.”
“You have the courage,” Mises wrote, “to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you. If this be arrogance, as some of your critics observed, it still is the truth that had to be said in this age of the Welfare State.”
We disagree with the Ryan-Rand philosophy. We believe the wealthy owe much to the “masses.” The masses created and maintain the economic system that allows the wealthy to succeed. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, but the wealthy “givers,” as Rand and Ryan call them, fare better than the “takers.”
Especially in Alabama, where 17 percent of the people live in poverty and the average income is $22,900, we believe the campaign will be fascinating. At what point, if ever, will Ryan enthusiasts recognize they are among the masses he spurns?