Reagan’s and Ryan’s Randian Ways: Who’s Really Responsible for the Deficit

| October 10, 2012

Are you a fiscal conservative who is worried about our nation’s deficit?

Here’s what may surprise you: The United States didn’t have a deficit problem until President Reagan took office.

From World War II to 1980, both parties successfully made eliminating all deficits their top priorities. Despite all the programs enacted under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and all the way through to the end of President Carter’s administration, the debt was down to almost nothing:

But then, beginning in 1980, the wealthiest Republicans decided they didn’t want to pay for the social safety net anymore. They couldn’t just dismantle it though — those programs were — and still are –- tremendously important to the security of most Americans:

  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Social Security

You would think the rich had good reasons to eliminate those programs. Was the economy really that bad?

No — The economy was great.  From a “growth of G.D.P.” perspective, even the worst years under Carter were nothing but a small blip on the radar.

Rich Republicans, grew belligerent by their successes,and increasingly intolerant of those who were not as financially successful. The rich thought of themselves as better, more worthy than everybody else. Their fiscal accomplishments proved they were self-made men and they acted with disdain toward Americans who had less than them.

Being wealthy in a capitalist society that values money above all else made them better; and they wielded their political sway as if they were a superior race of men.  And what bolstered their intolerance of those with less-than?  None other than the Russian émigré and proud atheist Ayn Rand, and they treated her novel Atlas Shrugged as their bible. Yes, the religious right crawled in bed with a pinko commie.

In Rand’s book the wealthiest people  leave society behind and establish a rich-only Atlantis-styled colony  called “Galt’s Gulch” because the government had become  a Communist police state, and would become utterly helpless once the rich have left since they were the only people capable of “saving” society, thanks to their amazing superiority…

But here’s what the gilded utopian-seeker hadn’t planed on: Who mows the lawns in Galt’s Gulch? And who builds the houses? Who collects the garbage? And who teaches their children? And where are all the lowly people to clean up after the super-entitled? Perhaps the  type of people who work for a dollar a day like  in China? And why would these people want to be in Galt’s Gulch anyway? Was it simply because they enjoyed being surrounded by superior men?

Prior to Reagan’s first administration, Republicans invested in “entitlement programs” but the tides tuned in the early 1980s and the G.O.P. began to redefine itself and their party grew less interested in the have-nots, and they demanded their taxes be lowered and for the government to decrease funds to the following:

  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Social Security
  • Environmental protection
  • Food inspection

Or any other worthy government programs, because those programs were for the poor, the undeserving, the lower ones, those people who could die in the street – that’s fine – undeserving of living anyway… Or maybe they could survive – like animals at the ASPCA, through charities maybe – but the rich would certainly not help them by paying for their survival. That would be to go against nature itself.

Sounds familiar? This theory, to which Congressman Paul Ryan subscribes, is called  Social Darwinism, or simply  Darwinism, (evolution of the species by natural selection) when applied to human societies. Here’s a breakdown of what Social Darwinism has wrought throughout history:

  • It’s the same theory used to justify slavery.
  • It’s the same theory Europeans used to justify colonizing the world.
  • It’s the same theory settlers used to justify killing Native Americans.
  • It’s the same theory Nazis used to justify the Holocaust.
  • It’s the same theory kings and popes used to justify ruling over feudal societies.

The rich would no longer pay for the New Deal. And, as a bonus, they would get even richer by paying still less taxes. Starting with Reagan, conservatives would *limit* the role of government –- however useful that role may be -– even if the country was economically solid.  That was irrelevant to them.

However, contrary to the Ayn Rand novel, they didn’t just leave to create their own “island” in the middle of the country – Certainly not — that, after all, would be a fantasy.

Their solution would work in the real world:

  • Get the representative of the rich elected to office
  • Lower their own tax rate from 70% percent to 30 percent
  • Purposefully create successive, massive deficits
  • Eliminate all restrictions on money in elections + buy and consolidate all media – and  propagandize as much as possible [*]

[*] Brilliant! And by doing so, Republicans would now be able to paint all government programs and regulations as negative —  including all forms of social associations (i.e., unions) while creating a reality in which if you are a moderate conservative opposed only to the worst forms of government oversight, you are already too liberal. They could now even convince poor slobs and old-school conservatives that they actually worked for them! They called this plan “Starving The Beast” and with Reagan at the helm, here’s what they did:

  • Claimed the government could no longer afford New Deal / entitlement programs
  • Eliminated the New Deal / social safety net programs
  • Lowered their tax rate even more
  • Got the poor and the middle-class to pay for everything instead


Republicans may call themselves fiscal conservatives but their actions show quite another story. Concern for the health, safety, and living wages for American workers? Not their problem. Cheaper workers in China? Let’s move the factory to China! For these Ayn Rand acolytes, it is not about the United States of America, it’s about the glory of their American dollars (and Chinese Yuans).

It is important to remember that Republicans destroyed the fiscal situation in the U.S. by allowing the debt to grow.  Paul Krugman of The New York Times said in 2010:

“Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit … The beast is starving, as planned, and …Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan—and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.”

The mantle of “fiscal conservative” has inexplicably stuck to the right for decades — so much so that even Democrats will forgive their crazy aunts for voting Republicans because, “Well, you know, she’s opened-minded and all, but  she’ll only vote for Romney because she’s conservative with her money.”

That fiscal fallacy is something I hope this article has put to bed — and not with a box of crackers and copy of Atlas Shrugged.

Allow me to ask you the same question I asked earlier: Are you a fiscal conservative? If so, then you’re actually a Democrat — please vote accordingly.


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About the Author ()

Philippe Blanchard is a Canadian-American actor, writer, theater director, acting coach - and political activist. He blogs in English and in French. ( Please visit the author's blog, "Blanchard – Progressive: Blogging so things change for the better" at )

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  1. In all fairness, “Social Darwinism” has two very separate meanings: One does relate to notions of racial superiority, while the other relates to laissez-faire, survival-of-the-fittest views on economics. Ayn Rand embodies the latter definition, but not the former; and many other philosophers that came before Rand espoused that same basic view – most notably Alexis de Tocqueville, Herbert Spencer, and William Graham Sumner – none of whom, with the arguable exception of Spencer, were demonstrably racist.

    Yet the economic version of Social Darwinism has been profoundly destructive in its own right throughout history; and when its inevitable failures have been laid bare, it has had an uncanny knack for getting itself replaced by its diametrical opposite – and the replacement process has tended to be horribly violent: See France in the 1790s, and Russia in the late 1910s.

    So you would be well advised to take Walter Winchell’s famous advice: Never lie – when the truth can do so much more damage.