Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Republicans' vice presidential nominee, will be in New Orleans today, speaking at an annual AARP gathering. It might be an awkward setting for the far-right lawmaker -- Ryan, of course, is perhaps best known for his budget plan that eliminates Medicare, replacing it with a privatized voucher system.
And while I'm sure Ryan will offer a spirited defense, and may even come up with a coherent explanation as to why he's outraged by the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act that he also incorporated into his own budget plan, there's another issue that's worth some consideration.
BuzzFeed posted this audio clip today, noting Ryan's remarks to an Ayn Rand group in 2005, in which he endorsed a Randian vision on entitlements.
"Social Security right now is a collectivist system, it's a welfare transfer system," Ryan said.
Ryan continued, describing attempts by Republicans to privatize, laughing at using the word "personalizing" instead.
Ryan says "if we actually accomplish this goal of personalizing Social Security, think of what we will accomplish." He adds "every worker, every laborer in America will not only be a laborer but a capitalist. They will be an owner of society, they will be an owner and a participant of our free enterprise system, of our capitalist system."
The Wisconsin Republican went on to characterize Social Security's Democratic champions as "collectivist, class warfare-breathing demagogues."
And what, pray tell, has Ryan proposed as a replacement to Social Security? I'm glad you asked.
Sahil Kapur had a good report on this a few weeks ago.
One of Rep. Paul Ryan's many past proposals to remake the federal safety net included a sweeping plan to privatize Social Security and risk the program's solvency in attempting to save it. He championed the idea as recently as 2010 but pushed it under the rug the following year. Mitt Romney, who recently selected Ryan to be his vice presidential nominee, is steering clear of the plan.
The proposal was in Ryan's 2010 "Roadmap For America's Future," a broad blueprint to remake the federal budget which elevated the little-known congressman into the Republican Party's visionary. It involved shifting Social Security funds to private retirement accounts as well as reducing benefits and gradually raising the age of eligibility.
Over time, the Congressional Budget Office said, Social Security payouts would "be more uncertain, despite the guarantee, because returns on stocks and corporate bonds are risky." The plan seeks to protect against market fluctuations by guaranteeing seniors a rate return at least equal to the rate of inflation, and by shifting near-retirees' money from stocks to government bonds. But funding losses from stock market swings could endanger the solvency of the program.
The Ryan plan would have necessarily meant benefit cuts for 70 percent of Social Security beneficiaries -- while delivering a windfall to Wall Street.
In fairness, it's important to note that Ryan isn't still pushing this measure -- Medicare privatization remains a key element of Ryan's plan, but Social Security privatization does not.
That said, 2010 really wasn't that long ago -- if Obama quotes from 1998 matter, Ryan's legislative blueprint from two years ago counts -- and while Ryan isn't fighting for this proposal anymore, he hasn't denounced it, either. This, coupled with this 2005 speech in which he condemned Social Security as a "collectivist ... welfare transfer system," paints a picture of a Republican who doesn't think the program should exist at all.
Maybe someone at the AARP event should ask him about this.