RICHMOND

When he first joined the U.S. House in 1999, U.S. Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin had some disturbing peccadilloes that gave me pause. First of all, he was a seeming disciple of the late Ayn Rand, who made her fortune exploiting dystopia. Second, he was a devout Roman Catholic but seemed to be prejudicial towards children and poor people.

A conservative through family background, Ryan became interested in conservative economists while at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he majored in economics and political science. A Libertarian professor, Richard Hart, who introduced him to the writings of Rand, the kooky Russian novelist who took the world by the storm with her novels, "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." She also espoused an intellectual philosophy called Objectivism, which has still not been defined rationally. There have been all kinds of writings titled "Objectivism for Dummies" but they failed to educate this particular dummy.

Conservative analysts have not been kind to Ryan’s explanations of his enthusiasm for Rand and in 2012 Ryan capitulated by calling Rand’s philosophy "atheistic" because it "reduces human interactions into mere contracts." As a kiss-off, he said his reputation for being a Rand admirer was only an "urban legend" and he had always been a disciple of Thomas Aquinas and his Roman Catholic faith. This was enough to get him into conservative graces again and Mitt Romney picked him as his running mate in the campaign against Barack Obama.

After the election, Time Magazine ran a piece saying that the tea party had not backed Romney but that Ryan was a "hero," and he supported their belief in "individual rights, distrust of big government and an allegorical embrace of the Founding Fathers." Ryan was also a disciple of conservative Jack Kemp, for whom he wrote speeches and campaigned.

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In eight campaigns, Ryan has never received less than 55 percent of the vote. He also has just produced his fourth budget, which was greeted with joy by both Republicans and Democrats. Ryan says the budget will appeal to Amer-
icans who want to shrink the government and give them "more control over their lives." Democrats believe it will horrify voters because it will make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

The Ryan budget is supposed to cut the deficit by $5 trillion over the next five years. The cuts would include Medicare, funds for children, the unemployed and education. The rich will continue getting their taxes cut, corporations will be handled gently, the military will be mollified and all the cuts will come off the backs of the middle class and the poor. Ryan feels his budget will bring Republicans together, make them stronger, and if by some miracle, it is passed, he would be right.

However, no one believes the Senate will allow such a budget to be passed. And so the battle will continue ad infinitum. While the rich continue getting richer and the poor find things tougher and tougher. I have been keeping an eye on Ryan and his sympathizers for almost 10 years now and not once have I seen a glimmer of sympathy or empathy from them in regard to their fellow men and women.

Anybody who talks to Ryan nowadays ends up by asking when HE HIMSELF is going to run for president.

Ryan smiles modestly and keeps his counsel.

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle contributor.