Ryan’s Distortion of America’s Founding

Rep. Paul Ryan wraps his Ayn Randian philosophy of unrestrained selfishness in phrasing selectively lifted from the Founders, but the Republican vice presidential nominee misses the role of democracy and self-government in establishing human rights, says historian Jada Thacker.

By Jada Thacker

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been roundly criticized for being light on substance and long on fluff. But his running mate Paul Ryan is promoting a dangerous idea that refutes the historical foundations of democratic government. Practically ignored by the mainstream press, Ryan’s manifesto demands closer scrutiny.

When Rep. Ryan accepted Mitt Romney’s invitation as running mate, the Wisconsin Republican uttered a simple, but profound, statement:

Thomas Jefferson, chief author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States.

“But America is more than just a place. It’s an idea. It’s the only country founded upon an idea: Our rights come from Nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. This idea is founded upon the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination, and government by the consent of the governed. This idea is under assault.”

“Our rights come from Nature and God, not government?” Let us hope this idea is under assault, because it is powerful, and it is dangerous.

We know this idea is historically powerful because Americans once used it to overthrow the authority of the British Empire; we know it is imminently dangerous because contemporary American plutocrats are now using it to undermine our hard-won democracy.

Ryan’s opinion that human rights are conferred by “Nature and God” is breathtakingly unoriginal. Witchdoctors and warlords have been inventing and re-inventing the idea of atavistic and supernatural rights since the first virgin was sacrificed on the bloodstained altar of some prehistoric bogeyman. But more recently, and more civilly, the concept was resurrected by English philosopher John Locke in the 17th Century.

Locke, a philosophical shaman of the today’s Libertarian-Right set, hawked the idea that human rights were conferred by an imaginary “law of Nature,” which he said pre-existed and superseded any law made by actual lawmaking people. Think of Moses bringing the tablets down from the Mount but without Moses, or the tablets, or a population that could read.

Please understand that Locke’s “law of Nature” existed in a prehistoric “state of Nature,” a sort of Garden of Eden where he said “men by nature all free, equal, and independent” existed without either the cost or any benefit of government. But there was a snake in Locke’s garden: “For although the law of Nature be plain and intelligible to all rational creatures, yet men, being biased by their interest are not apt to allow of it as a law binding to them in the application of it to their particular cases.”

The only solution to humanity’s selfish transgression of the “law of Nature,” Locke explains, was the establishment of government. “The great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property; to which in the state of Nature there are many things wanting.”

So, according to Locke, man-made law (government) was invented by man to protect rights that man never made in the first place. (This is but one version of the long-running theory of the “Social Contract.”)

But notice the shift from man in a “state of Nature” to man in a governed society: the “chief end” of this novel entity of government was not to protect mankind’s original condition “by nature all free, equal and independent,” which was their apparent birthright, but “the preservation of their property.”

Does this reasoning sound at least vaguely familiar? It should. It was the same argument that was enthusiastically adopted by the well-to-do, property-owning, tax-evasive, English Colonial elite at the onset of the American Revolution. The current GOP’s political base, if you will backdated a couple of centuries.

But in contemporary times, Locke’s “natural law” has languished as a hot cocktail party topic for many folks. An interesting exception is arch-conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who, when queried about his judicial philosophy at his 1991 Senate confirmation hearing, said he thought “natural law” provided “philosophical background” to the Constitution.

Now Paul Ryan, who like Thomas is a self-professed Ayn Rand devotee, has weighed in with his grandiloquent echo that humans’ irrevocable rights do not originate from their fellow humans, but from somewhere out of the Blue.

The opinion that persons’ rights derive from Nature, or natural law, has been rejected for centuries by philosophical luminaries from Baruch Spinoza to Jeremy Bentham, who pointed out the obvious: rights derive from law; and law as we know it does not and cannot exist without government.

To imagine “law” existing prior to government, said Bentham, is not only a contradiction of terms, but is “nonsense upon stilts.” The world’s greatest scientists confirmed Bentham’s conclusion: Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel and Albert Einstein, for example, never discovered that “Nature” conferred “rights” to any animal, plant or thing in the known Universe.

Nature infamous for its so-called Law of the Jungle is a notorious transgressor of human rights. Any random rattlesnake, bubonic plague bacterium or tsunami stands ready to prove the point to humans foolish enough to fantasize otherwise. Anybody who has ever camped out for a summer weekend without bug repellent can tell tales of woe concerning the “natural rights” showered upon humanity by the natural world.

Whether God confers immutable rights upon humans seems to depend upon whom you ask. Contemporary radical Zionists would probably agree. So might a jihadist terrorist. Adam and Eve, interestingly, could not. Napoleon quipped that God assigned right according to who has the best artillery, but in the following century the Soviets, who in fact possessed the winning artillery at Stalingrad, claimed God did not exist. Go figure.

But even devout believers in the Western monotheistic deity Christian, Jew and Muslim alike must admit that, according to scripture, God-given rights apparently do not confer immunity from fatal inconveniences such as Death Angels, plagues, floods, eternal damnation, and, of course, crucifixion.

Declaration of Independence: First Edition

So it would be fair to say Ryan’s “foundational idea” that Americans’ rights come from “Nature and God” is not an established fact. Yet it does have a familiar ring to it, and for good reason. Ryan’s idea was scribbled in stone, as it were, in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, which states explicitly that “certain unalienable rights” are endowed by man’s Creator:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.,That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

“Assault Thomas Jefferson if you dare,” was the obvious subtext of Ryan’s pronouncement.

But let’s set the historical record straight here: Thomas Jefferson did not conceive that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Others penned those words.

Let us recall that Jefferson was on a committee whose job it was to draft a statement of independence based upon a Congressional resolution authored on July 2, 1776 by Richard Henry Lee (ironically, or not, the great grand-uncle of rebel leader Robert E. Lee). The committee’s other members were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston.

Some revisions to Jefferson’s original document seem to have been made by Adams and Franklin, others by the Second Continental Congress as a whole but it is not known who edited what, exactly. We do know Jefferson’s original words, however. Like any prudent writer, he retained his first draft. This is what he actually wrote:

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

So Jefferson evidently did not mean that human rights are “endowed by their Creator,” or by Nature, simply because that is not what he wrote. It is clear from his original draft that he personally conceived that inherent human rights derived from humans’ equality, not from Locke’s (or Ryan’s) concept that rights come down to man from some pre-extant force superior to human creation.

This difference between the origins of rights equality vs. superiority is crucial. Equal rights have generally been repudiated by the economic elite who find it more profitable to claim that rights flow down from upon High. Those who champion equality have usually supported the obverse: that rights, if they flow at all, need to flow up from the people, “grassroots” style.

It takes no flash of genius to perceive that the elites’ preference for the “superiority model” of rights was not only the basis, but also a prerequisite, for the long-discredited “Trickle-Down” economic theory which holds that the working class is best nurtured from the table scraps of the wealthy.

This pernicious idea has itself trickled down, like some generation-skipping genetic disease, from Jefferson’s editors, to the Gilded Age, then to Herbert Hoover, thus to Ronald Reagan, and now finally to some guy named Paul Ryan.

Of course, the oligarchs’ embrace of a trickle-down theory of human rights was hardly the only flaw in the self-serving reasoning of those who published the Declaration. That indentured servitude, debtors’ prisons, slavery and bonded child labor were acceptable institutions by those who signed off on the idea that “all men are created equal” seems stunningly hypocritical today. Yet it did not quite seem that way to propertied men empowered by votes unavailable to their servants.

To the mostly privileged soon-to-be Founders, social and economic equality as well as their peculiar idea of liberty applied only to the elite who already possessed it. Thus, the American Revolution was not led by an American Spartacus, but rather by the Colonial elite who risked treason against the British Empire in order to preserve for themselves the unequal social and economic prerogatives in their new, distinctly American, empire.

The elites’ Orwellian crusade for “government by those who do not consent to be governed” should sound familiar to those who are afflicted by today’s mainstream, corporate-owned media. This message was not intended to further the interests of a democratic society then, nor is it now, and those who value democracy should heed it at their peril.

The Declaration, Disestablishmentarianism and the Constitution

Its editors’ revisions notwithstanding, the Declaration of Independence still served its purpose. But its purpose was not to “found a country” upon the idea that our rights come from “Nature and God,” as Paul Ryan would have it.

Indeed, the Declaration’s specific intent was not to establish any sort of political entity at all, but rather to disestablish a government that already existed and which, by the late 18th Century, had begun to threaten the prerogatives of the Colonial American elite. The secondary purpose of the Declaration was a public relations play, as its very first sentence makes clear:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to anothera decent respect to the opinions of mankind require that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Despite Paul Ryan’s belief in his mythical “founding idea,” the Second Continental Congress, including Jefferson, weren’t founding anything with all their eloquent words. They were, however, executing a calculated but gutsy gamble not unlike that of a disaffected wife serving divorce papers on an abusive spouse who was also the most powerful corporate CEO on the planet and hoping for the best.

How the divorce was to be justified would be critical to its success. To this end, the “opinions of mankind” (especially those of potential allies) were of paramount importance. This public relations task fell to Thomas Jefferson, whose true genius was to turn the logic of monarchical rule on its head, not to beat it at its own game.

For how many millennia had a rogues’ gallery of pharaohs, emperors, kings, czars, sultans and khans decreed that their right to rule came, as Ryan insists, from “Nature and God, not from government?” The crucial challenge of Revolutionary self-government, Jefferson understood, would be to divorce itself not only from the raw power of the king and Parliament, but from the fundamental logic of despotism.

In effect, Jefferson justified the Colonial bride’s right to divorce her abusive spouse on the grounds of her undeniable equality. But his edited argument based upon Locke and now parroted by Ryan was that the bride’s right to divorce was justified by her claim to the same assumed superiority of her abusive husband. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, in other words. The problem was that the sauce was not good for the goose in the first place.

Jefferson’s vision allowed the moral authority of egalitarianism to challenge not assume the king’s fictive mandate from heaven. But when Jefferson argued for inalienable rights based upon human equality, the elitist Paul Ryans in the Second Continental Congress struck his words and replaced them with rights based upon supernatural authority.

In so doing, neither they, nor Paul Ryan, repudiated the medieval principle of Divine Right of Kings. Their reasoning does deny the idea of rule consecrated by divine authority, but rather usurps it.

In any event, the United States of America was not founded, as Ryan announced, upon some extra-legal “idea” of divine authority, but upon the Constitution. Unfortunately for Ryan, who as a professional politician has sworn an oath to defend the Constitution on numerous occasions, our actual founding document contains no reference to the will of “Nature” or “God” at all.

Nowhere does the Constitution say, nor even imply, that persons’ rights are “natural” nor “endowed by their Creator,” nor does it even hint that “rights” are unalienable, inalienable, inherent, natural or somehow sacrosanct. The Constitution does not pass upon the origins of rights.

And it does not confer any rights. As a matter of fact, the word “right” only appears once in the original body of the un-amended Constitution, and only then in reference to patents, of all things. In more bad news for folks like Ryan, neither the Constitution nor any of its Amendments mentions “government by the consent of the governed,” or “self-determination,” or “free enterprise.”

Ryan, in point of fact, is just making this stuff up and hoping the rest of us have never actually read the Constitution, or can distinguish it from the Declaration of Independence, which carries no authority of law.

American Anarchy vs. Fake Patriots

The Declaration of Independence inspired other independence manifestos, including the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the American feminists’ Declaration of Rights and Sentiments in 1848. With crushing irony, even the Vietnamese explicitly copied Jefferson’s masterpiece in their own declaration of independence from the French in 1945.

(Note: one year after the Vietnamese declaration, the United States of America Ryan’s visionary champion of “self-determination” re-imposed French colonial domination over the Vietnamese homeland.)

These revolutionary movements that copied our Declaration were the underdogs of their times. But they all eventually succeeded in overcoming the non-consensual rule imposed by the presumed “natural” or “God-given” prerogatives of state-sanctioned religion, male chauvinism, and Euro-American colonial overlord-ship.

They, like Paul Ryan, extolled the ideas of The Declaration. But what possible common ground do religious right-wingers and Ayn Rand cheerleaders such as Ryan & Company share with malcontent, progressive revolutionary movements whose anti-paternalist and anti-capitalist causes were so clearly at odds with Ryan’s neoconservative base? Perhaps the surprising word we are searching for is “anarchy.”

The word comes from the Greek anarchos, “having no ruler.” Anarchy is not a word that any respectable American is supposed to use nowadays to describe a credible political or social movement. This no-no word has associations with evil, alien, bomb-heaving zealots bent on the nihilistic destruction of the “American Way of Life,” apparently just for the hell of it.

Yet this is an odd taboo for a country whose national capital is named in honor of the most famous leader of the most celebrated bomb-heaving radicals of the 18th Century.

The long war these anarchists fought from 1775-1783 was messy. American “Sons of Liberty” gangs nailed shut the doors of peaceable, but “politically incorrect” churches. The Crown set slaves free to fight their liberty-loving masters. Patriot forces unleashed preemptive genocidal military campaigns against unsuspecting Indians. British officers led loyalist Americans in atrocities against the own countrymen and vice versa. Lord Howe’s invaders kidnapped and gang-raped New Jersey farm girls for days on end, while some unpaid Patriot volunteers were beheaded for desertion by Patriot freedom-fighters.

Atrocities, spies, mutinies, traitors, counterfeiters and war profiteering were commonplace. Though only a minority of Americans supported the revolution against aristocratic rule, the Revolution’s top leaders came from the colonial elite, and many of the best were foreign noblemen: Count Pulaski, Baron von Steuben, Lord Sterling, and Marquis de Lafayette. George Washington once personally threatened to shoot his own Patriot troops and a few guys dumped some tea into Boston Harbor. Let’s not forget that.

If there were a war today that killed the same percentage of the American population, we would have over 3,000,000 graves to dig ten times as many as we dug for combat deaths in World War II. If this level of disorganized carnage were visited upon America today, would we not be inclined to call it “anarchy?” And what should we think of the document that called us to arms?

The Declaration of Independence is nothing if not a profoundly “anti-ruler” screed. It declared the radical dissolution of the “political bands” which had bound the American colonies to the British Empire for more than 150 years, but it instituted no new government whatsoever to take its place. It is difficult to imagine a more anarchical statement.

But the government the Declaration despised was an astonishingly inequitable system based on aristocratic pretensions and class-based privilege. Even the English Parliament was held hostage to the hereditary wealth and membership of its Upper House of Lords.

The corrupt British government both chartered and owned stock in neo-global corporations such as the British East India Company, whose tea was dumped into Boston harbor, and the Hudson’s Bay Company, that once dominated the resources of an area of North America larger by far than the land mass of the Roman Empire at its height of power. But nowhere in the vast holdings of the British Empire could a man without property cast a vote.

When the truly radical American revolutionary Thomas Paine said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one” this was the system he meant. Indeed, it was the only kind of government that then existed: an oppressive racket of “God-endowed” kings and hereditary dynasties.

Backed by a proto-military-industrial complex whose sole purpose was to protect the profits of the investor class, these privileged parasites cared little for the toiling masses that physically produced the wealth of the Empire. They cared nothing at all for the millions of indigenous peoples whose lands, lives and cultures were decimated by a pre-planned colonial holocaust that was but a half-step removed from a policy of outright extermination.

This may sound familiar to contemporary Americans whose military-industrial-financial imperium spans the globe under the twin banners of Free Trade and American Exceptionalism. But however problem-ridden our civilization may seem today, it is immensely superior to the system in place the day our Constitution was ratified. Tossing out a king and founding a government were just the first baby-steps in our long journey toward domestic social justice.

Through the power of the democratic process, the American people first unshackled themselves from aristocratic colonial landlords and later from Gilded Age industrial robber-barons; from chattel slavery and child labor; from the criminalization of organized workers; from the disenfranchisement of women, minorities, and the un-propertied; from the specter of old-age squalor and hopeless poverty; from the degeneracy of company-store peonage and sweatshop labor; and from the futility of private-only education.

Having accomplished this much for ourselves, we finally made some small provisions to preserve for our posterity what little was left of our remaining physical resources.

Despite a Constitution which tolerated these gross inequities, and despite the profits that accrued to the wealthy who promulgated them, the American people cast away this rule of cruelty. Eschewing the orchestrated violence of elitist, trickle-down, anti-egalitarian leaders, common Americans achieved their goals legally not naturally or supernaturally.

With man-made law the American people upheld equal rights which originated, and continue to be held in common, in the minds of our fellow human beings. Truly “anarchic” Americans thus chose to live “without rulers” excepting ourselves. To re-direct the famous Patrick Henry line: “If this be anarchy, we made the most of it.” And it worked.

But that was then. Now, a media-multitude of freedom-fetishists such as Paul Ryan would hijack the genuine anarchy of American Progressivism by cherry-picking self-serving phrases from the Declaration of Independence. They borrow the language of violent Revolutionary elitism in order to wage an economic campaign against an American government that was reconfigured by a century of legal, democratic revolution.

They, as ever, are corporate-men who envision America only as a place worth owning, while they vilify those who envisioned America as a place that should be worth living in. It is enough to make one wish for a law against criminal farce.

These Revolutionary imposters would have Americans believe that any American democratic-collective institution is synonymous with Soviet state-socialism; that the licentiousness of the privileged few is a necessary precondition for the economic prosperity of the multitude who work for them; that their business corporations are legal persons and worse yet that the constitutionally protected rights of such fictitious persons come from some mumbo-jumbo agency of “Nature and God,” quite beyond the authority of a citizen in possession of a ballot.

Then, almost as an afterthought, the Ryans and the other Randistas among us offer the fraudulent consolation that opportunity is somehow more valuable than outcome as though an equal turn at rolling the dice gives all players the same stake in the game.

“We promise equal opportunity,” Ryan comforted his audience, “not equal outcomes.”

This is the logic of sperm. Perhaps the biologists among us may offer congratulations. Predictable outcomes make opportunities valuable, not the other way around, and if Ryan does not understand this concept perhaps he should find a stockbroker to explain it to him.

Most grievous, these faux Revolutionaries claim some hocus-pocus “natural law” as superior to human rationality, which admittedly is imperfect, but is arguably the sole attribute elevating the human condition above that of asparagus. In so doing, the worshipers of irrationality simultaneously deny Jefferson’s moral vision that human equality is the sine qua non of any civil society that deserves the consent of the governed.

“Our rights come from Nature and God.” Can this be true simply because some guy said so? More important, is this really the “idea” upon which the American nation was either founded, or ought to exist today?

No, it is not, and we know why it is not.

Ryan’s “idea” is the fantasy of a self-indulgent class who, like many of our elitist forebears, would arrogate to themselves the authority to say whose rights will bloom and whose will wither on the vine. His grand idea is merely the scheme of anti-democratic con-men, of fake Patriots, who would rescue self-government not from any enemy, foreign or domestic but only from itself. As ever, it is the idea of men who would be kings.

Jada Thacker, Ed.D, is the author of Dissecting American History: A Theme-Based Curriculum. He teaches history at a private school in Texas. Contact: [email protected]

20 comments for “Ryan’s Distortion of America’s Founding

  1. Lewis
    October 14, 2012 at 19:11

    The “law of the jungle” is about one part of nature, the hunt. Otherwise it’s quite peaceful and cooperative (see Kropotkin). In fact, most of the stuff to back up Locke comes out of the Marxist tradition (James DeMeo via Wilhelm Reich). Which is probably why this article short-circuits about as much as Ryan does.

  2. Archivista
    October 11, 2012 at 20:20

    You will join all that would twist themselves inside out trying to escape God’s accords; those that your neo-liberal kind tries in vain to recreate in your own image.

    You speak equally selectively claiming adherence to your view from an omission whose rightful attribution is down to Thomas Jefferson’s views of religious institutions and doctrine rather his views on God and nature.

    Have another view :

    “An old and sincere friend of America, I am uneasy at seeing Slavery retard her progress, tarnish her glory, furnish arms to her detractors, compromise the future career of the Union which is the guaranty of her safety and greatness, and point out beforehand to her, to all her enemies, the spot where they are to strike. As a man, too, I am moved at the spectacle of man’s degradation by man, and I hope to see the day when the law will grant equal civil liberty to all the inhabitants of the same empire, as God accords the freedom of the will, without distinction, to the dwellers upon earth.”

    Alexis de Tocqueville

    There is no talk of that Abrahamic intolerance that Christ railed against there. No revivalist reinvention of Zion as in those Theologically dark ages between Augustine and Thomas, and from Luther to this present day.

    As for Ayn Rand and objectivism, only a neocon could create such a coalition invoking God’s name in a political platform embedded with her degenerate philosophy.

    Objectivism is just another neo-liberal “ism”, of those that pulls on only one, or few, of nature’s many strings, in a manner that creates environmental tragedy. The health of the “thundering herd” is the vital interest of the predator. The risk accepted by the predator must be far greater than that undertaken by an individual member of the herd. Moral grace and by extension, nobility, cannot be accorded to predators.

    According to Irving Kristol’s testimony, he visited all your degenerate neo-liberal “isms” before settling upon his own. When he eventually fronted the Theologians that he assumed were his own by birthright, they had this to say to him:


    Augustine’s City of God was an unGodly doctrinal rouse, a loving accompaniment to intolerance and extermination not much better than Luther’s “give the sword a twist for God”; in Augustine’s time the temples burned and the flame of the vestal virgin was extinguished. As Gibbon lamented, the adopted Abrahamic intolerance had overflowed from a soft cushioned centre, and it eventually destroyed the Roman Empire.

    Neo-liberalism, too, is in on that same course. Lodge and Roosevelt’s “progressivism” addressed only the build of a hardened warrior core and left a degenerate flank of intolerance exposed by means of their erosive embrace of a tango of Social Darwinism and Social Determinism.

    On God’s Temple, Governance, and Christ; we can agree, but only if you would leave your neo-liberal Golden Calf at the door.

  3. johnb747b
    October 9, 2012 at 16:33

    I’ve just returned from my 8th trip to Boston, visiting family. I’ve walked the Freedom Trail, I’ve twice walked Lexington Green and related sites. I love the sense of being steeped in history when I go there.

    I think that George III would recognise and approve of the Romney/Ryan philosophy of government. Both men also appear to have intellects matching that of the king.

    Their ignorance of foreign policy is breathtaking. Backflips by Romney on Palestine. Ryan claiming expertise in fp because he voted to send troops to war and has had chats with soldiers and the families of KIAs.

    ‘God bless America’ may need to become ‘God save America’. That might prove to be the extent of God’s role.

  4. bobzz
    October 9, 2012 at 16:07

    And to think: the author teaches in Teggzis! He must live in an oasis :)

  5. Jim Faubel
    October 9, 2012 at 15:37

    This reminds me of an old joke about a preacher saying to a farmer: “My goodness, you and God certainly have made this farm productive.” To which the farmer replied, “Yeah, well you should have seen it when God had it by Himself.”

  6. clarence swinney
    October 9, 2012 at 11:14

    Cynicism about our government
    Some are blinded by ideology and pursue policies that are not for the common good.
    For example, send entire industries to foreign nations to make a few more bucks without thinking of long term effect on our economy and people. The board accomplishments of our government far over shadow the weaknesses.
    Government addresses our serious economic, social, environmental problems
    and alleviates much of our human suffering .
    I am tired of the Inequality where my teachers get laid off while corporations and banks make record profits after we bailed them out.
    It is time to reunite the people to demand a fair shake. We had great growth of middle class 1945-1980
    where a worker could afford a nice home, educate his children, care for his sick, and look forward to a happy retirement.
    Which leadership can do it? Do you see one?

  7. clarence swinney
    October 8, 2012 at 10:17

    Lies Or?
    ROMNEY Habitual liar or what?
    A.“I don’t have a 5 trillion tax cut”
    Tax Policy center shows the price tag at 360B first year and 5T over a decade
    “23M out of work”
    Official 12.5M plus 2.6M stopped looking. He used 8 million pat time workers

    B.“Obamacare board tells people what king of treatments they can have”
    The board has no authority to dictate the practices.

    C. “My proposal would guarantee coverage on pre-existing conditions”
    If one had to drop coverage insurance companies could continue to discriminate and deny new coverage.

    D. “You don’t increase taxes in a recession”
    Obama effort to take away tax cut over $250,000 was considered an increase. Obama tried after the recession had officially ended. Obama gave 96% of workers a tax cut.
    Obama Medicare tax hike would not kick in until 2013.

    E. “20 million will lose coverage under Obamacare”
    Many of those will be leaving employer coverage voluntarily for the better options.

    F. “you took 716B out of Medicare”
    That number refers to the money saved primarily through reducing over payments to insurance
    companies under Medicare Advantage , not payments to beneficiaries.

    G “Health care costs have gone up by $2500 per family”
    Actual is $1700 most of which was absorbed by employers and only a small part is attributable to the health care law

    H “All the increase in natural gas and oil happened on private land”
    The number of drilling permits on federal lands decreased between 29 and 27% not the 50% stated by Romney

    I..“My economic plan will not lower tax rates on rich people”
    Think Progress affords details. Taxpayers with more than $200,000 income would certainly see a tax cut and everyone else—95%–will see taxes increase.

  8. James w fisher
    October 7, 2012 at 22:09

    Some people have learned to not feel empathy for anyone but themselves. When the people who are capable of empathic feelings run the government and the market place, capitalism works like it is designed to work. But since there ARE folks without empathy, a set of rules that turn out to be adult supervision, are needed to KEEP the market place running like it should. Finding a way to KEEP the market place under adult supervision is our task. The neo-con movement is dumbing down our people. The schools behave as though they were afraid students were going to learn. I have noticed that our institutions seem to be run by leaders who don’t necessarily believe in the importance of the institution, but just seem to be in the lead because they have the ability to speak and write clearly and can convince others to follow them.

    • Frances in California
      October 10, 2012 at 17:07

      . . . except that Capitalism wasn’t “designed”; it “happened” . . . kind of like excrement. There may have been some ideas, theories, even strategies, but the original Capitalistic idea was too dualistic and linear to work according to any real-world “design”. It was eminently exploitable by the dishonest and we now live with the consequences.

  9. clarence swinney
    October 7, 2012 at 17:13

    It should be #1 in any debate. We rank 4th in oecd nations.
    Our nation was founded on egalitarian values.
    The growing chasm of income and wealth should head a debate on why ordinary people are not doing so well since most of our new prosperity gets channeled upward to a tiny part of the population.
    We must tax wealth to get more income and wealth down to the middle class workers who have been shafted by Conservatives since 1980. A disgrace to fight a minimum wage increase for lower income workers. A disgrace to fight removing the Bush tax cut for top 2% who own 50% of all financial wealth and get 30% of individual income. Some with incomes in millions like-4000-3000-2000-1000-500-100.
    The working population must get help to have a good middle class standard of living.
    A good start will be a $10 per hour minimum wage.
    It can be done via the tax code. Higher taxes on income and estates. We have incurred so much debt while letting rich get off paying a Fair part of income in taxes. Higher wages. Safe retirement pensions and health care benefits.
    Sounds like a union organizer no just a very very very concerned citizenclarence swinney

  10. Richard Errington
    October 7, 2012 at 16:09

    An interesting piece. Gets to the end nicely, but starts roughly. Some points:

    1) Too much focus on natural rights or “rights endowed by the Creator”. While it’s true that some have used “divine rights” as a predicate to superiority, in the English tradition that pretty much got stomped by the Magna Carta. The Americans extend that to all “men” – obviously restrictive, but less so than the English aristocracy. I think that the focus on equality by the founders becomes the seed for all men do be free. The focus here is also that rights are not awarded by law, but sustained and protected by law. The rights are innate – we do not need to be granted rights by the government, but to have them protected and affirmed by government.

    2) The Declaration of Independance is not a adult, but juvenile document. You passed over the Articles of Confederation which are the natural extension of the DI. It was in the failings of the Articles that the Founding Fathers wrote an adul document, the Constitution. The difference between bomb throwers and those who must govern. It’s a patten that is repeated again and again. The Communist Revolution in Russia returns to Tsarist Russia but without the Tsar. It’s thinkers are thrown away, trading one form of despot for another. The Maoist Revolution in China reinvents itself every 5 years to avoid the problems with Russia but ends in the same boat to keep the revolutionary fires alive. The great exception of American democracy is that we let go of power and give it back to the people. That power does not belong to the elite, but to the least. The Founding Fathers grew up and looked ahead. So it took a second crack at it to make it work. That’s why our government has been the success of de Tocqueville’s great experiment.

    The greatness of America was not in its revolution (copied often), but in its surrender of power to the citizens (copied not so often).

  11. clarence swinney
    October 7, 2012 at 11:38


    1945-1980, we taxed Wealth to pay down wwii debt.
    It will be necessary to pay down Conservative 15,000B Debt most incurred since 1980 by Conservatives.

    Reagan not Congress submitted 8 budgets
    Total-over 7000 Billion for 8 years.
    Prior 50 years we spent 6066 Billion
    Congress cut his total dollars requested by small amount.
    Reagan whined his budgets were dead on arrival
    All presidents budgets are adjusted in Congress.

    Carter last budget spent 575B and ended with a debt of 917B

    Reagan cut revenue by 750B across the board income tax cut.
    Larry Speakes his OMB director wrote in his book “Speaking out”
    the tax cut was a trojan horse to coverup Reagan 60% cut for the richest

    The 750B individual “income” tax cut increased “income” tax revenues by 140 Billion.
    That tax cut certainly did not pay for itself.

    Reagan Record
    Increased spending by 80%-deficits by 110% and debt by 189%
    He cut Carter 218,000 per month job growth by 24%

    Bush II
    Increased spending by 90% –debt by 112% (doubled)–deficit from surplus to 1400B
    Worst job creation since Hoover—31,000 per month—2 dumb wars–
    Since 1980 three Conservative presidents increased spending from 575B to 3500B(less wjc itsy bitsy)
    Deficit from surplus to 1400B—Debt from 1000B to 10,000B—Jobs from Carter 218,000 per month to 99,000. Initiated our involvement in 10 foreign conflicts.

    Is Romney a repeat?

  12. Republicus
    October 7, 2012 at 05:46

    Wow! This treatment of the “Randistas” and “faux Revolutionaries” – Fox News, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, et al. – is nothing short of brilliant. As an aged, mesmerized student of America’s Founding Fathers, I have watched, with great angst, this modern usurpation of our founding history. It’s a shame that, in this modern age, courtesy of the internet, there will never be another single literary piece that matches the power of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Mr. Thacker, you would have made a great pamphleteer.

    That said, I would now like to pick your brain. I’m guessing that, like most scholars that have studied the Jefferson’s authorship of the Declaration, you find the Declaration (especially the “original Rough draught”), strangely, somewhat contrary to Jefferson’s personal “best interests”. The original, after all, contained a very negative screed against the slave trade. Where the heck did that come from? I have theory that I would like to propose to you, and then I would like you, if you can, to explain why it’s impossible. I’m not a scholar, so please take it easy on me if there is something that I have missed that makes this inconceivable.

    Thomas Jefferson was a very busy Second Continental Congress delegate when he was placed on the “Committee of Five” on June 11, 1776. He did not want to write the first draft – that is a matter of record. He was already on many other busy committees, and he had a “home colony” mission that he thought was far more important – writing the Virginia Constitution. In fact, he did precisely that at about the same time that Declaration was being drafted. So, how the heck did he do it? My theory? He didn’t. He simply edited one that was already written, by a friend of one of the other members of the Committee of Five. Benjamin Franklin knew that Jefferson was already overloaded with other committee work, and he knew that Jefferson was also busy drafting of the Virginia Constitution. Franklin’s good friend, Thomas Paine, had just written the most popular pamphlet ever sold in America. Franklin knew (I’m hypothesizing here) that Paine had already written a “Declaration of Independence”. Problem solved – the brilliant writing of an author that preferred anonymity, edited by the equally brilliant, but very busy, Thomas Jefferson.

    Some evidence to consider:

    1) The colonial patriots had been clamoring for months for a “declaration of independence”. Why the heck wouldn’t Paine have a version already written?

    2) Paine wrote “African Slavery in America”. The redacted anti slave trade section in the “original Rough draught” of the Declaration reads like it was written by the same author.

    3) Scholars seem to be in agreement that Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” was not the initial draft. It was, they believe, a “copy”, written from an earlier version that has never been found. Could it have been in Paine’s handwriting?

    4) And then there’s that mysterious fragment, found by Julian P. Boyd. It too, seems to be a case of Jefferson “copying” a previous version. Note the repeated line, that was later redacted (interlined).

    5) The “piece de resistance”: Paine’s conclusion to Common Sense, written six month’s earlier. He, literally, says that a “declaration for independence” must be written.

    To CONCLUDE, however strange it may appear to some, or however unwilling they may be to think so, matters not, but many strong and striking reasons may be given to show that nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined declaration for independence. Some of which are,

    First. — It is the custom of Nations, when any two are at war, for some other powers, not engaged in the quarrel, to step in as mediators, and bring about the preliminaries of a peace; But while America calls herself the subject of Great Britain, no power, however well disposed she may be, can offer her mediation. Wherefore, in our present state we may quarrel on for ever.

    Secondly. — It is unreasonable to suppose that France or Spain will give us any kind of assistance, if we mean only to make use of that assistance for the purpose of repairing the breach, and strengthening the connection between Britain and America; because, those powers would be sufferers by the consequences.

    Thirdly. — While we profess ourselves the subjects of Britain, we must, in the eyes of foreign nations, be considered as Rebels. The precedent is somewhat dangerous to their peace, for men to be in arms under the name of subjects; we, on the spot, can solve the paradox; but to unite resistance and subjection requires an idea much too refined for common understanding.

    Fourthly. — Were a manifesto to be published, and dispatched to foreign Courts, setting forth the miseries we have endured, and the peaceful methods which we have ineffectually used for redress; declaring at the same time that not being able longer to live happily or safely under the cruel disposition of the British Court, we had been driven to the necessity of breaking off all connections with her; at the same time, assuring all such Courts of our peaceable disposition towards them, and of our desire of entering into trade with them; such a memorial would produce more good effects to this Continent than if a ship were freighted with petitions to Britain.

    Under our present denomination of British subjects, we can neither be received nor heard abroad; the custom of all Courts is against us, and will be so, until by an independence we take rank with other nations.

    These proceedings may at first seem strange and difficult, but like all other steps which we have already passed over, will in a little time become familiar and agreeable; and until an independence is declared, the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.

    Good grief, Mr. Thacker, it all seems pretty obvious to me – the same man that wrote Common Sense, also wrote the Declaration of Independence. The Randistas will, of course, resist this theory as being remotely “possible”, for one reason – Paine also wrote the brilliantly written Age of Reason.

    Your thoughts on this out-of-the-mainstream theory would be greatly appreciated.

  13. clarence swinney
    October 6, 2012 at 16:13


    Ruined our great Savings and Loan Institution
    Closed Fairness Doctrine that has Limbaugh types on our public airwaves
    Closed Revenue Sharing
    Since 1980, initiated our involvement in 10 foreign conflicts
    Repealed Glass Steagall—took deposits in over 7000 banks and put 50% in 5 (Too Big To Fail)
    and 80% in 10 (Too Big To Fail) Banks.
    Modernization of Commodity Markets—from investment to Casino Derivative Of America
    2 very dumb invasions of two of most unarmed and destitute nations.
    Ruined our International reputation as a Do Good Christian nation to Big Bully Devil
    Stood by as freak marketeers ruined our housing industry
    Stood by as Casino Derivative Of America ruined the world financial industry
    Impeached a great president for petty political gains that created a long term animosity between the parties
    Attempted to destroy the safety nets that make a great middle class
    Implemented Tax Codes that permitted a redistribution of Wealth to top (10%) who now own (73% )of Net Wealth and (83%) of Financial Wealth and take (50%)of all individual income
    They have taken America to a rank of (#2) as Least Taxed in OECD nations; (#2) as least taxed corporations; and sadly to (# 4) on Inequality.
    Since 1980, their Spend & Borrow policies, mainly, were responsible for adding 14,000 billion to our 1000B Debt when they started in 1981.
    Fought the Great GI Bill.
    Fought the WWII Draft
    Installed strict laws which have loaded our prisons with non-violent offenders which make us world leader in prison population



    • F. G. Sanford
      October 6, 2012 at 18:01

      Clarence, I agree with the spirit of your position, but you are operating under the false assumption that there is a two-party system in the United States. There has been no change in domestic or foreign policy since Ronald Reagan took office.

  14. F. G. Sanford
    October 6, 2012 at 15:19

    All in all, a beautifully written and poignant analysis of the historical stew from which a political charlatan has plucked one sour onion and foisted it upon us as a representative sample of the soup. However, I must say this: having spent thirty years in a career NOT as a teacher but as an adjunct administrator, one of my ‘collateral duties’ was essentially…correcting papers. I worked with young, talented high school, college and even professional school graduates. I cannot remember any of them that would not have struggled to read this essay. Not because it isn’t good, but because they lacked the education. And believe it or not, a few of them were lawyers. Whether or not they agreed with its conclusions would have hinged on the opinions they had already formulated. Ayn Rand, after all, did not write anything that contains majestic prose. As much as I enjoy him, neither did Ernest Hemingway.

    Let me offer an example. Does not this sentence contain an algebraic error?

    “Their reasoning does deny the idea of rule consecrated by divine authority, but rather usurps it.”

    I would have written, “Their reasoning does NOT deny the idea of rule consecrated by divine authority, but rather usurps it.”

    The population of the United States today does not contain a body of citizens literate enough to understand the language of The Declaration or The Constitution in numbers large enough to tip the balance against propaganda. A law like NDAA, which flies in the face of Constitutional integrity has just been legitimized by judges who should know better. Unfortunately, the job of revealing these truths to the American public falls on the shoulders of another kind of “elite”, among whom our President should serve as the “Chairman of the Board”. He didn’t do very well. Judging by the debate the other day, I suspect he has resigned himself to the reality that there is no point in arguing with stupidity. He certainly scored no victory against misinformation. He displayed the demeanor of a prize-fighter who knows he can beat the “champ”, but has realized that betting against himself and ‘throwing the fight’ is a far wiser strategy. In reality, there is so little difference between the Republican and Democratic platforms that neither will resolve the fundamental causes for disaster on the horizon. Of all the Ex-Presidents we have seen in recent years, Jimmy Carter has had a more profound positive effect on the world than any of his successors. Even Al Gore, who won the popular vote but lost the election, has accomplished more than Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush combined have accomplished after their terms in office. I think The President longs to join the ranks of the “Ex-Presidents”, because the winner of this election won’t, nay, can’t, really make any difference. It is now up to the populace to choose: Stay the course, or heed the example of The Founders.

    • Jada Thacker
      October 6, 2012 at 22:58

      “I would have written, ‘Their reasoning does NOT deny the idea of rule consecrated by divine authority, but rather usurps it.’”

      Thanks for pointing out the typo.

  15. Bill Dekking
    October 6, 2012 at 14:55

    Ryans Mis-interpretation of the Constitution is startling but expected it serves the expectations of the so called ruling class and hopes for the fealty of the low information voter it seems he represents Ayn rand therory not the Constitution.

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