According to a new book “100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand,” by Scott McConnell, late in her life, Ayn Rand, the tea partyists’ anti-government patron saint, went on the government dole. That’s right, when the going got tough, Rand, the “every man, woman and child for him or herself” objectivist, author of “Atlas Shrugged,” the cartoonish libertarian bible that is the second-best selling book in the world, availed herself of good ol’ red, white and blue American socialism.
According to McConnell, who is the founder of the media department at the Ayn Rand Institute, a social worker he interviewed had helped Rand, who was known to the government as Mrs. Frank (Ann) O’Connor, and her husband sign up for government benefits in 1974, when Rand, a lifelong, two-packs-a-day smoker, was 69 years old and going broke from the costs of treating her lung cancer.
A freedom of information request confirmed that Ayn Rand, or Ann O’Connor, received thousands in benefits before she died eight years later. Efforts to confirm that Rand received Medicare payments were inconclusive, but, technically, Medicare is a part of the Social Security system so it is more likely than not that she did.
Here, according to the oral history, is how Rand justified her late-life conversion to socialism:
“She was coming to a point in her life where she was going to receive the very thing she didn’t like, which was Medicare and Social Security,” [social worker Evva Joan] Pryor told McConnell. “I remember telling her that this was going to be difficult. For me to do my job she had to recognize that there were exceptions to her theory. So that started our political discussions. From there on – with gusto – we argued all the time.
“The initial argument was on greed,” Pryor continued. “She had to see that there was such a thing as greed in this world. Doctors could cost an awful lot more money than books earn, and she could be totally wiped out by medical bills if she didn’t watch it. Since she had worked her entire life, and had paid into Social Security, she had a right to it. She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”
McConnell asked: “And did she agree with you about Medicare and Social Security?”
Pryor replied: “After several meetings and arguments, she gave me her power of attorney to deal with all matters having to do with health and Social Security. Whether she agreed or not is not the issue, she saw the necessity for both her and Frank. She was never involved other than to sign the power of attorney; I did the rest.”
Rand’s apologists are already trotting out the excuse that since she was forced to pay in into the system, so why shouldn’t she take what was rightfully hers. But Social Security is built around a intergenerational transfer system in which most people pay less into the system over their lifetimes than they take out in retirement. Contributions by workers — also known as taxpayers, through their agent, the government — make up the differences in every current year. In other words, Rand’s contributions were long gone by the time she went on the dole, so she was mooching off Uncle Sam just like any old welfare queen.
In the two years since Pres. Obama was inaugurated, right-wing propagandists have been up to their old disinformational tricks. They have successfully redefined “socialism” — the economic system under which most of our allies, including Canada, Japan, Germany and France operate, and the system we call “regulatory capitalism” here in the States — to be synonymous with Soviet-style communist totalitarian statism.
In reality, any time the citizenry bands together to pool its resources to cover the costs of a community benefit — whether it is fire and police protection or other emergency services; public institutions like schools, hospitals and libraries; or infrastructure like streets and highways, bridges and tunnels, airports and harbors — that is, by definition, socialism. The fact is, socialism is as American as Mom (a socialist beneficiary of Social Security and Medicare) and apple pie (the ingredients of which were inspected by jack-booted socialist bureaucrats from the FDA).
During the debate over health-care reform in 2009, the tea partyists’ cluelessness and hypocrisy was summed up by eraged but clueless fools who shouted, “Keep the government out of my Medicare!”
Now comes this hypocrisy from Ayn Rand, who achieved fame and fortune by attacking socialism only to turn it at the end of her life when the going got tough.
And finally there is this news from the Capitol. Just 16 of the 242 Republicans in the House of Representatives have opted not to accept socialist health-insurance coverage from the government — and about 13 of those who opted out are freshmen who will maintain health insurance from their businesses back home.
And here’s where hypocrisy meets irony: The Affordable Care Act requires every U.S. citizen to purchase private insurance from mega-corporations — in effect, delivering 30 million Americans who are currently uninsured as new customers to these corporations, which currently reap about $200 billion in annual profits. Whatever that is, that is not socialism.
But as their first official act after taking control of the House, all 242 Republican members voted to repeal the pro-capitalist, corporate-based system the Democrats passed last year. Among them are 226 who opted for government funded health insurance, which is socialism for sure — including such notables as tea partyist 2012 presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, who recently labeled the Affordable Care Act, “the crown of socialism”; firebrand Iowa racist Rep. Steve King, who called on Americans in 20102 to “take their country back by methodically eliminating every vestige of creeping socialism, including socialized medicine”; and Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia who, during the State of the Union speech last week, sent out this ahistorical tweet: “Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism.” (Note to Broun: the Constitution is neutral on socialism, which was not defined until decades after it was written; similarly it does not contemplate capitalism, a term first used about 50 years after the founding.)
So that’s where we are less than a month after Republicans took control of the House: So-called conservatives in Congress are hellbent on repealing a law that will provide health care to 30 million currently uninsured Americans and reap billions in profits for private health-insurance corporations, while they and their family enjoy the benefit of socialist, taxpayer-subsidized health insurance coverage.
This is a new twist on the old adage, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. These Republican socialists stand for nothing and lie about everything.