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Where Did Paul Ryan Find Inspiration for 'Reforming' Social Security? A Brutal Military Dictatorship, Naturally

The basis for Ryan's big plan was hatched under the radical right-wing Chilean torture regime of 1973 military coup leader Augusto Pinochet.

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The Chilean Model

There was more to the "moral revolution", that Ed Hudgins and Paul Ryan agreed had followed in the wake of pension privatization in Chile, than petite bourgeoisie pension fund investors reading their Chilean "Wall Street Journals".

In 1970, Chilean physicist and politician Salvador Allende, a professed marxist, won Chile's presidency in a close three-way race. Recently declassified  documents reveal a massive campaign of economic sabotage was soon initiated at the command of U.S. president Richard Nixon, who ordered his operatives to "make the [Chilean] economy scream". By 1973, amidst economic disruption and growing public protest, the Chilean military took action.  

On September 11, 1973, in an U.S.- encouraged military coup, Chilean Air Force warplanes began bombing and strafing the National Palace, Allende's governmental headquarters; amidst a firefight, as coup forces moved in, president Allende committed suicide to avoid capture.

A military junta, led by General Augusto Pinochet - who considered himself to be guided by the hand of God, commenced; over the course of his regime thousands of Chileans suspected of socialist or leftist leanings were rounded up and executed.

And, in over 1,000 secret detention  facilities across the country, tens of thousands of men, women, and children (by some scholarly estimates between 1.5 and 3 percent of Chile's population) were  subjected by authorities to brutal beatings, sexual abuses (sometimes involving animals), electroshock, psychological torture, and even  medical torture, in a pattern that foreshadowed abuses at the American-run prison at Abu Ghraib, in Iraq. It was especially hard on women; years later, a governmental commission would report that female prisoners were routinely, repeatedly, raped*.  

Meanwhile, American-trained economists, dominated by the privatization-obsessed "Chicago School" moved in. In Chile after the 1973 coup, the nation would become a forced libertarian experiment, imposed at gunpoint, in neo-liberal, free-market privatization. Leading the charge was José Piñera, now  Co-chairman of the Project on Social Security Choice at the Libertarian Cato Institute.

The "Chilean model" has been showcased so aggressively by libertarian economists and think tanks such as the Cato Institute, as a shining example of privatization, that it's difficult to find analysis even mildly critical of the torture regime-backed experiment amidst the copious pro-privatization propaganda that populates Internet searches on the subject.

And José Piñera  - who has built an international career advising governments, such as South Korea, on how to privatize their pension systems - vigorously denies the documented extent of the the shocking human rights abuses that went on in Chile while he treated the nation as a personal privatization laboratory.

In an article posted since 2005 on his website, Piñera  claimed that General Pinochet's bloody coup - which is now acknowledged to have begun with a mass execution of Chileans held at Santiago's national sports stadium - was necessary because President Allende had violated the Chilean constitution, and because, alleges Piñera, socialist and communist factions backing Allende were planning a campaign of political violence.

In a 2005 Mother Jones  story, writer Barbara T. Dreyfuss adds, 'In another piece, he [Piñera] claims that "there was not a systematic policy of eliminating political opponents. Most of the casualties were people using violence to oppose the new government." '

But Piñera's desperate public relations bid was overwhelmed by horrific facts that emerged as Chile sought to wrestle with its dark, recent past  In 2003, Chilean President Patricio Aylwin  established Chile's National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, to investigate and document the Pinochet regime's human rights abuses and, in November 2004, the  Valech Commission released its first 1200-page report, which stated that during the Pinochet regime,