As Americans commemorate U.S. military personnel who died while in service to our country, it is incumbent to honor the sacrifice all veterans make to guarantee the freedom of every citizen regardless of race, religion or socio-economic station. It is irrelevant whether or not service members were drafted into service or volunteered out of a sense of duty and commitment to protect the homeland and the American way of life. Americans are fortunate that in the modern era, the armed forces have not had to repel foreign invaders or battle an occupying army on American soil like so many countries in the world. The fact that American troops have battled aggressive regimes and oppression in foreign lands makes their sacrifice all the more significant and should remind Americans to honor the sacrifice of military families who support their loved ones from afar.
In recent months since the 112th Congress has been in session, there has been much rhetoric concerning “shared sacrifice” in regards to the economic morass the country is facing, and depending on which side of the political spectrum an individual finds themselves supporting, the term has entirely different meanings. It is becoming glaringly obvious that for Republicans, shared sacrifice is a unilateral proposition that requires 98% of the population to sacrifice tax dollars, homes and their health so corporations and the wealthy can continue prospering with no end in sight. The Democratic concept of shared sacrifice is for all Americans to contribute their fair share toward the common good of the population and the country as a whole. Unfortunately, for the past 10 years 98% of Americans have sacrificed everything and if conservatives have their way, the majority of the population will make the ultimate sacrifice and end up in abject poverty so a few hundred families can control all the wealth of the nation as well as the government.
During World War II, shared sacrifice truly meant all Americans gave up some measure of comfort and well-being for the war effort to halt the aggression of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire. Millions of the country’s male population were pressed into military service or volunteered to fight in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific to bring peace to the world and protect America’s allies from being conquered by imperialists bent on ruling the world. At home, women who were able worked in factories, while children collected various materials for the war effort, and the elderly knitted socks and gloves for soldiers serving in cold-weather climes. Even entertainers went on tours selling bonds to fund the war effort or to entertain the troops at home and abroad. It was truly a time of shared sacrifice for the survival of the nation; except for wealthy industrialists who made fortunes supplying the military with hardware.
Republicans in Congress are promoting the philosophy of Ayn Rand that celebrates the virtue of selfishness instead of shared sacrifice exemplified by our military personnel. Amongst Republicans, Paul Ryan typifies the meaning of the Rand philosophy that every person should fend for themselves and that altruism is actually evil. Rand’s advocacy of self-advancement over the common good was proffered by Paul Ryan when he credited the right-wing philosopher with articulating the morality underlying his extreme economic philosophy. Ryan said that, “Ayn Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism and the morality of individualism” that describes his budget proposal that gives massive tax breaks to millionaires at the expense of low-income families and the most vulnerable Americans.
Ryan’s Pathway to Prosperity is a testament to his belief that Ayn Rand’s philosophy of the virtue of selfishness is the ultimate expression of the morality of capitalism. In fact, Ryan’s budget implies that poverty and public safety nets are the marks of moral defects and his budget’s cuts to seniors, children’s programs, poor families, and Medicare are his twisted effort to eliminate defective Americans. Ryan’s way of rewarding the rich is to take funds from morally defective poor people and give them to those who need it least.
In a letter to a Catholic Archbishop explaining the merits of his budget, Ryan claims; “We believe human dignity is undermined when citizens become passive clients living on redistributions from government bureaucracies. Sustaining national moral character and human dignity have been our paramount goal in developing this Budget.” Ryan believes that making it more difficult for seniors, poor people, and struggling middle-class families to get health care and provide food is good for their moral character. He also believes that taking from the poor to give to the wealthy benefits the moral character of the richest 2% of Americans. Ayn Rand would agree that Ryan is morally right to use his position of power and office to reward the wealthy at the expense of the least powerful segment of society.
Paul Ryan believes the best way to help the poor is to give the wealthiest Americans more money with no strings attached and no obligation to society, and is his idea of shared sacrifice. It is hypocritical of Ryan to demean the poor and elderly as morally defective for taking entitlements because he collected Social Security benefits after his father died, and according to Ryan, qualifies him as being morally defective. He is also morally defective for taking taxpayer subsidized healthcare benefits, but according to Ayn Rand, is virtuous for being selfish.
Ryan typifies Republicans who expect the majority of Americans to sacrifice their tax dollars to give to the wealthy as entitlements. Instead of being morally superior, Ryan and his Republican cohorts are thieves who steal from Americans who paid into Medicare and Social Security during their working lives to give more to the wealthy. The wealthy and corporations are morally defective for taking entitlements in the form of extra tax breaks and subsidies, although in Ayn Rand’s ideology they are virtuous for being selfish.
At this time of year Americans acknowledge the sacrifice of service members, and regardless what anyone thinks of military service, it takes sacrifice to train, fight, and possibly die for the country and fellow soldiers. Republicans like Paul Ryan besmirch the sacrifice of service members by asking them and their families to continue making sacrifices for the wealthy and corporations. Republicans lauded Ryan as being courageous for his budget, but he is a coward for using his position of power to steal from working Americans, the poor, and seniors to give entitlements to the wealthiest 400 families in America.
Republicans could learn the meaning of sacrifice from veterans and current military personnel who give everything for their comrades and this nation. However, Republicans are morally defective for being thieves and taking entitlements in the form of corporate contributions and government-subsidized health care all the while demeaning 98% of the population as morally defective for expecting their tax dollars to be used for the common good.
Service members understand the importance of sacrificing for the common good, and most Americans comprehend that this country will only succeed and prosper through shared sacrifice by all Americans. During Memorial Day commemorations, Americans honor the sacrifice of all service members whether they made the ultimate sacrifice or served with honor and were discharged. Republicans shame the memory of service members because they are unwilling to make any sacrifice for the people of this country, and they dishonor what it means to be Americans; but Ayn Rand would be proud.