Paul Ryan and Truth

“You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

Jack Nicholson didn’t really mean that.  What he meant was that the truth would make him look really bad, and probably cost him his job.  That’s often the case when obfuscation is claimed to be a concession to the other guy’s weakness.

But what about when a brave truth-teller, like Paul Ryan (see my brother’s recent posts), is lambasted for telling it like it is?   Saying that he lacks compassion for the poor, that cutting government-subsidy programs like Food Stamps is condemning a hefty share of our population to starvation, may or may not be true.

What is true that to continue doing nothing about our galloping debt will eventually condemn us all to worse than starvation.   And without any alternate plans, without a willingness to dialogue on the plan that Ryan is proposing, those who are pointing fingers at Ryan are like the stubborn first-grader who refuses to wear his raincoat when you recommend it to him…then is furious with you when he gets wet.

This reminds me of a discussion that I heard many years ago on the ethics of evangelism.  A Jewish contingent was questioning the  motives of evangelical organization Jews for Jesus for proselytizing.  They viewed JFJ as insensitive and narrow-minded.  JFJ’s argument was simple:  “If, in my perception, you are trapped inside a house which is on fire, how can it be insensitive  to tell you so, and to offer to help you escape the blaze?”

[More recently, Penn Gillette, an avowed atheist said much the same thing, about a man who gave him a Bible after one of Penn & Teller’s performances:

I believe he knew that I was an atheist.  But he was not defensive.  And he looked me right in the eyes.  And he was truly complimentary,…it didn’t seem like empty flattery.  He was really kind and nice and sane and looked me in the eyes and talked to me and then gave me this Bible.  And I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize.  I don’t respect that at all.  If you believe that there is a heaven and hell and that people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?  How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? 

Penn Jillette
 I mean if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, but that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you.  And this is more important than that.  And I’ve always thought that and I’ve written about that and I’ve thought of it conceptually.]

Truth often hurts–mainly it hurts our own self-perceptions and preferred realities.  It is uncomfortable or–if you prefer–inconvenient.  [Maybe Ryan’s budget plan could be renamed “An Inconvenient Path.”  Would it sell better?]  But that doesn’t mean such truth shouldn’t be spoken.  I’d love to ask the folks complaining about Ryan’s budget and its effects on the poor, “What are you personally doing to help the poor acquire food and shelter…and better yet,  education and skills and jobs?  Are you volunteering in a soup kitchen?  A clothing bank?  Building with Habitat for Humanity?  Tutoring in a literacy program?  Giving regularly to the charities of your choice?”   Because I suspect that if everyone who thinks that government subsidies are indispensable would do one–or several–of the above mentioned things…we could make government charity much less necessary, except in dire cases.

But regardless…Paul Ryan is obviously passionately concerned about the welfare of this country.  There is a really big truck bearing down on us.  We all see it.  He’s trying to tackle the problem, as he sees it.  Agree with him or don’t.  But how dare anyone criticize him for trying to help us all avoid the collision.

There’s another thing to recall about truth, a statement which is a little bit older than Nicholson’s famous movie quote.  “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   Would that we would all become truth-seekers–even if it hurts.  We could use true freedom.

9 responses to “Paul Ryan and Truth

  1. Representative Ryan is not much different than any other politician. He never stood against the Bush spending atrocities, he was a long-time distributor of Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged, to suggest he lived his life under the principled philosophy of Objectivism. And, he recently denies being influenced by Rand because of her atheism [can you name a politician who admits to being an atheist?], but claimed a close association with Thomas Aquinas, a philosopher who Rand also admired.

    In fact, she credits Aquinas with reinvigorating and restoring the principles of reason and rational thought to the post Dark Ages and helping to herald in the Age of Enlightenment. About the only disagreement she has was in her inability to reconcile how logic, reason and rational thinking could ever exist and be woven into a system of faith which requires no thinking, no logic, no reason. Instead, faith demands that one abandon these qualities and simply accept everything as God’s will.

    If anyone is deficient in their thinking, I would have to say that it is Mr. Ryan and his plan that takes 40 years to get to our first balanced budget. If he’s wrong, will he still be around to be held accountable or to apologize to Ms. Rand for short-shifting her philosophy of Objectivism? It’s an easy thing to start a war when you have the pleasure and convenience of a bunker that time guarantees will remain intact until you are beyond experiencing humiliation and retribution.

    • Hi, Rick…
      1st off, glad to have you here!!

      Now, regarding my sister’s post:
      Glad to see you’re up on your Rand.

      As for Ryan (or Rand, for that matter), one does not have to subscribe to a person’s entire worldview in order to strongly admire an aspect of their work or beliefs. Thomas Edison & Christopher Hitchens come to mind: both atheists, both brilliant. You’ll find many, many admirers of Hitchens in conservative circles, but his athiesm was not the focal point of that admiration.

      In Ryan’s case, he appears to be trying to defend his budget against the cries of “heartless”. This entire Ayn Rand hubbub is merely a cudgel to be used against him. Personally, I couldn’t care if he’s a disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas à Becket, or Thomas Dolby.
      I hope you’ll agree: anyone that is recommending an adult discussion of our current economic morass should be viewed as an ally.
      Right now, Ryan is such an ally.

      Also, keep in mind that the CBO scored Ryan’s budget in a vacuum; that is, they didn’t score it dynamically. There is no allowance for how people’s actions/attitudes will change as a result of it. By many estimates, Ryan’s budget (if adhered to) and the resulting economic growth could balance the budget in as little as a decade, not 40 years.

      You can’t turn an aircraft carrier on a dime, and the US economy is the mother of all carriers. If we don’t START to turn soon, the DEGREE of how much we didn’t turn ….won’t matter very much.

      • I have no problem with Ryan stating that he is against the atheist views of Rand, but this s a guy who was handing out Atlas Shrugged to everyone in his circle. Here is a quote from December 2010 that neither he nor anyone on his staff refuted:

        “Representative Paul Ryan, also of Wisconsin, requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged, describes Obama’s economic policies as “something right out of an Ayn Rand novel,” and calls Rand “the reason I got involved in public service.”

        The purpose of my article was not to slam Ryan, but to make clear that, like most politicians, he is not what he appears to be. A true Objectivist, atheist or not, would never back away from Rand’s first principles; he’s walked away from all principles regarding Rand, who, by the way was neither Libertarian nor Republican as he is routinely accused of these days. She was a philosopher who held Capitalism as the only true politics of liberty and justice.

        Socially, she was probably as liberal as most people in that she believed that all men have a right to pursue their own happiness and keep the product of their work. That government has a legitimate role, but that role is minimal with respect to infringing upon individual rights and in particular, property rights.; perhaps more so, Her philosophy was driven by four pillars: metaphysics or objective reality, epistemology or reason, ethics or self-interest, politics or capitalism. She summed them all up most pithily in one sentence: She summed it up in one sentence: 1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.” 2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” 3. “Man is an end in himself.” 4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

        Will I support the Ryan bill? Certainly. Do I trust Ryan? Certainly not and his recent bout of pragmatism is more scary than reassuring. In fact, it signals a pending and immoral continuance of the kind of altruism that got us into this mess; especially, now that he’s tied himself to religion in the face of the Catholic church and others demanding less cuts to programs destined for the “poor”.

        This turnabout with Ryan is one of the biggest reasons that I support no party, but, instead, choose the candidate who will do the most for capitalism and a return to constitutional first principles and laissez faire economics.

        Thanks for the reply. Best wishes and count me in as a cautionary participant in a push for Mr. Ryan’s legislation…if nothing else, it seems to be a start in the right direction and it does touch upon entitlements – admittedly, a bold act. He and Romney make a better team than Obama and anyone else.

        Best to you and mom and thank you for the courtesy of allowing me to sound my suspicions.

        • Opinions are welcome, Rick! And your reply is informed.

          As for Ryan, his Catholicism, the poor, affinty for Rand, etc.,…this quote from Ryan tells me all I need to know:

          …From a budgetary perspective, these programs are growing at an unsustainable rate. The recent economic downturn greatly increased the eligibility and the demand for government assistance programs. Yet even prior to the 2008 financial crisis, and controlling for economic performance, there has been a dramatic increase in government spending on public assistance programs. Medicaid spending grows, on average, 9 percent a year – far faster than the growth of the overall economy. And federal spending on food stamps has quadrupled over the past ten years. Unless reforms are enacted to put these programs on sustainable footing, these skyrocketing rates of spending will threaten the safety net with a debt crisis that leads to forced austerity.

      • I’m with you and betting the house and its full depreciated worth on Ryan coming through with his new conversion as an anti-spender. Let’s hope it works for the best because the only thing saving us is the fact that Europe is much, much worse – not that we are doing anything rights. We are not, at least at this time. Nice to know you are out here. Love the site and the perspectives found here. Best!

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  3. Naw, man. It’s the Bildebergers and the Global Aristocracy. They refer to us as “eaters.”

  4. Pingback: Regarding Paul Ryan: You called down the Thunder!! | Two Heads are Better Than One

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