Where Did Paul Ryan Find Inspiration for 'Reforming' Social Security? A Brutal Military Dictatorship, Naturally
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Even as political pressure to overhaul the Chilean pension system was building, in 2005 under the George W. Bush Administration Paul Ryan spearheaded an attempt to pass legislation that would have imposed a modified version of the Piñera Plan on Americans.
A Long-Expected Birthday Party
On February 2, 2005, at a Washington, D.C. celebration of the 100th anniversary of libertarian guru Ayn Rand's birthday, held by the Rand-devoted Atlas Society, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan declared his fealty to the guiding principles of Rand, founder of a cultic school of thought known as Objectivism, which holds up selfishness as the highest moral virtue.
Ryan was introduced by Atlas Society Director of Advocacy Ed Hudgins, who told the audience of Ayn Rand admirers,
"He is best known for his efforts in the fight to reform Social Security by allowing the expanded use of individual retirement accounts. Now, I don't know whether you [Ryan] use the 'privatization' word. We here have no problem with that [Ryan overheard laughing] but sometimes you have to do a little bit of a soft sell up there, because many members of Congress are not quite as as far-thinking as Congressman Ryan."
In his speech to the Atlas Society Ryan confessed to the assembled true believers, "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." Then he addressed his 2005 attempt to pass legislation privatizing Social Security.
In Ayn Rand's view, the paramount good is individualism, the paramount evilcollectivism. Ryan told his audience,
"The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism... when you look at the fight that we're in here in Capital Hill, it's a tough fight... there is no more fight that is more obvious between the differences of these two conflicts than Social Security. Social Security right now is a collectivist system, it's a welfare transfer system."
Moments later, as he declared, "what's important is if we actually accomplish this goal of personalizing social security", Ryan could be heard laughing while the Atlas Society's Ed Hudgins, also laughing, interjected, "personalizing".
After the mirthful outburst, Ryan continued, "personalizing social security," (to laughter and applause, this time from the audience,) "think of what we will accomplish. Every worker, every laborer in America will not only be a laborer but a capitalist."
"Personalizing", it was clear, was a thinly veiled code word for "privatizing" and later,
during a question-and-answer period, the specific model for that project became clear: it was privatization under the vicious, bloody Latin American military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
As the Atlas Society's Ed Hudgins told the audience, with Paul Ryan enthusiastically interjecting,
"By the way, I just want to add real quickly, and I know the Congressman has I'm sure said this. [General Augusto Pinochet's Secretary of Labor and Social Security] José Piñera, who helped privatize Social Security in Chile, who also was by the way an Ayn Rand fan--José points out the moral revolution that occurs with privatization, that is, people in Chile, you know, who thought of themselves as Marxist suddenly feel that they are owners of property [Ryan "Yeah"] and, you know, they literally get up and they start reading the Chilean equivalent of the Wall Street Journal [Ryan interjects, "That's right"]."
After his talk, during a question-and-answer period, Ryan coached the libertarian audience on how they could best lobby Congress in favor of the 2005 legislative effort, which failed after meeting stiff Democratic Party opposition, to begin privatizing social security along the lines of José Piñera's Chilean Model.