Captain Khan, Sacrifice, and the Virtue of Selfishness

Lots of ridicule and outrage (both faux and genuine) over Donald Trump’s statement that he has “sacrificed” for his country (implicitly like Captain Khan did), because “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”

What Trump said was absurd, but it is an absurdity that forms the essential groundwork for GOP public philosophy, dependent as it is on Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. It is, of course, ridiculous to equate “sacrifice” with “financial success,” as Trump did. But in Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randian world, this is about the only definition that one could use. Remember that Rand’s philosophical testament honors “The Virtue of Selfishness.” Self-interest is the only moral touchstone. The idea of sacrificing oneself to a greater good is literally unintelligible. The only type of “sacrifice” that makes sense is giving up something now to get something else later. So for Trump to say that he has “sacrificed” because he has “worked hard” or created “thousands of jobs” (which is doubtful) makes perfect sense from this perspective: he gave up something now (his time, workers’ salaries assuming they got paid) for greater rewards later. This is also why Mitt Romney could say four years ago that although none of his five sons were in the military, they “served” the country by campaigning for their Dad. People like Capt. Khan, who sacrificed himself for his country, aren’t heroes in this scheme: they are suckers.

I doubt whether Trump has read anything by Ayn Rand, because he basically doesn’t read anything. But he doesn’t need to read Rand: he LIVES it. The tougher call is for someone like Ryan, who believes in Ayn Rand, but can’t really say so, so as always he resorts to dissembling. But as always, Trump’s statement here is not surprising, and only represents carrying out Republican economic and political premises to their logical conclusion.

In case you were wondering: Paul Ryan on health insurance

Paul Ryan fesses up: there’s no way the Republicans can preserve the popular parts of Obamacare.

Paul Ryan admits that the popular parts of Obamacare – guaranteed insurance even for those with pre-existing conditions, allowing people up to 26 coverage under their parents’ insurance, a ban on higher premiums for those working physical-labor jobs – wouldn’t be affordable without the rest of it, including the individual mandate. Ryan’s occasional lapses into honesty aren’t really enough to justify his reputation as a Serious Person; he’s mostly a standard-issue downward class warrior and a master of the Magic Asterisk. But that’s no reason not to be thankful when he does tell the truth. “Repeal and Replace” means, in simple English, “Screw you!”

This is why the politics of Obamacare are likely to turn around over the next few months and years. We’re switching from a situation where status quo bias is on the side of the naysayers to a situation where Ryan and the rest of the wrecking crew have to explain to millions of people why what they have needs to be taken away from them in order to support loopholes for corporations and keep taxes low the top tenth of one percent. That’s the logic behind the orgy of rage and fear to which the right wing has treated us over the past five years. My prediction is that health care will be at worst a wash for the Democrats this fall, and that Hillary Clinton will use it to slaughter whatever sacrificial goat the Republicans put on the altar in 2016.

Cross one more off the list

Rand Paul votes to dishonor the country, wreck its credit, and tank the world economy. Not gonna be President.

Glad to see that Rand Paul, as well as Ted Cruz, voted to dishonor the country, wreck its credit, and tank the world economy. The list of Republicans who might actually get elected President in 2016 continues to shrink. (And that’s leaving aside the delicious but implausible prospect of a Jesse Ventura/Howard Stern third-party ticket.)

 

Update  Make that two more. Purported grown-up Paul Ryan (who’s always struck me more as a five-year-old wearing her mother’s high heels) also voted for national bankruptcy and disgrace. Since he’s a favorite of the plutocracy, I doubt the Chamber would really withhold its cash were he the nominee. But it seems to me that Hillary could pound him into the ground with it.

The Ryan conundrum

When is a deficit hawk not a deficit hawk?
When his own party is in power.

There seems to be puzzlement around (whether real or fake, it’s hard to tell) about Paul Ryan’s bona fides as a fiscal conservative/budget hawk. As Reason’s Hit & Run points out, Ryan voted for “TARP, Medicare D and even George W. Bush’s wars, each a budget-buster of its own on the road to fiscal calamity.”

There are two keys to this puzzle: Ryan is (1) a Randian always but (2) a Republican Party hack above all. As Randian, he loves anything good for the rich and hates anything good for the poor; that’s why he wants to shred the social safety net and spend all of the proceeds on tax cuts for the prosperous, thus not reducing the deficit at all. As a partisan hack (and closet Keynesian) he knows that deficit spending stimulates employment; that’s why he supports it under Republican Presidents and opposes it under Democratic Presidents, independent of the state of the business cycle.

Footnote The good news is that there’s no need to fear (with Josh Barro) that Ryan (or Romney) would actually pursue deficit reduction in the face of recession, should the country be unwise enough to elect them. They would goose the economy as hard as they could. And of course the Democrats, who actually care about the plight of the unemployed, would have to go along.