Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ayn Rand devotee Paul Ryan gets booed by his own constituents

To Republicans, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is a superstar. To many in the media, he's a towering oracle of economic wisdom. To many in the Democratic Party, he's a political giant far too formidable even to question.

And so Ryan, a worshipper of Ayn Rand, gets away with spinning his right-wing extremism without much of a challenge, except from a few lone liberal voices like Jon Chait and Paul Krugman and from some of us outside the media/political establishment on the left of the political blogosphere.

He is widely touted as one of the true heroes of the moment, if not of our time, a courageous campaigner for fiscal responsibility, for balanced budgets and getting America's economic house in order at long last. And yet what he really is is a campaigner for the same old right-wing Republican economic policies, just with a pretty face and broad media appeal. His version of fiscal responsibility, a pretty standard conservative one, involves cutting programs for the poor and cutting taxes for the rich.

To their and their country's shame, most people don't much care about the poor, who barely have a voice in Washington. Most people also oppose cuts to major entitlement programs like Social Security, and so Ryan, like the rest of his party, doesn't want to go there. Nor, of course, does he support significant cuts to military spending, which would certainly help balance the budget. But the key is that Ryan wants to do everything he can to give the rich as much as possible at the expense of everyone else, not just the poor but everyone who isn't rich, including the middle class, or what's left of it. And in supporting tax cuts for the rich, Ryan exposes himself not as a crusader for fiscal responsibility but as your typical Republican, a party of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich, a party that suckers the non-rich into voting for it by playing to deep-rooted fears about race or terrorism or whatever other Other it identifies as a vote-winner.

But you know what? Tax cuts for the rich aren't popular. At all. Republicans generally try to hide their support for such cuts, but they just can't do that anymore, or at least it's more difficult for them to do so, and more and more their real agenda, their plutocratic political agenda, is being exposed. People just need to pay attention.

Which is precisely what some of them are doing, including in Ryan's own district, where this week he was actually booed at a town hall for advocating tax cuts for the wealthy:

In a video posted by ThinkProgress, an attendee at the event this week told Ryan that he believes the rich should pay higher taxes to help close the deficit and strengthen Social Security.

"The middle class is disappearing right now," he said. "During this time of prosperity, the top 1 percent was taking about 10 percent of the total annual income, but yet today we are fighting to not let the tax breaks for the wealthy expire?"

Ryan protested that "We do tax the top," before being drowned out by the audience's jeers.

Here's the clip. Hopefully it's just the start of what Ryan and the GOP deserve, which is the disapproval of voters and, come next November, votes for the other side.

(And instead of cowering in fear before Ryan and his media-enhanced stardom, Democrats should learn from this, as from all the polls showing public opposition to tax cuts for the rich, and counter the Republican agenda with a fair, sensible, and compassionate alternative that doesn't crush the poor, punish the middle class, and let the rich rape and pillage at will.)

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