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Just discovered this blog: The Paul Ryan Watch:

Paul Ryan, cool cat wannabe, loves Rage Against the Machine’s music, he says. He must not listen to the lyrics. Here’s what the band’s guitarist/activist Tom Morello has to say:

Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn’t understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn’t understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine.

Rolling Stone has more.

As Paul Ryan preaches to the masses about the evils of living on the dole of government largesse, it was revealed recently that his family’s fortune was made from contracts with the U.S. government.

And of course he had to recently disavow himself from his ethical and spiritual idol, Ayn Rand:

Such pompous, self-serving, and seemingly sociopathic behavior among the elite in capitalist America is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it seems to have always been the norm in American history:

America’s Plutocratic Traditions 

I recently read a book by University of Maryland historian Terry Bouton, Taming Democracy, which is an account of the intense struggles over wealth and power that emerged in the earliest days of the United States. Bouton’s detailed research was focused on Pennsylvania, but he describes patterns that also appeared elsewhere in the infant republic.

The core of the story he tells is that the colonial coalition that made possible the political break with Britain fractured even while the Revolutionary War was still in progress, as wealthy interests in the colonies quickly had second thoughts about the democratic fervor that they had helped to set in motion and how it might jeopardize their ability to amass still more wealth….

…The story demonstrates that strong class consciousness and class-specific drivers of policy have been a major part of American politics since independence. A key part of that class struggle all along has been a strong sense among a wealthy elite of separateness from the non-wealthy, and of having a right to push hard for public policies that favor their own class even if they are clearly detrimental to others.

A major figure in Bouton’s account is the Philadelphia merchant and financier Robert Morris…

…An even more blatant ploy of using government to favor his own class’ interests at the expense of others concerned speculation in war debt. Amid poverty, scarcity of money, and uncertainty about government funding of debt, many holders of IOUs — who had furnished support to the war effort ranging from food to blacksmithing — sold them for cents on the dollar to speculators who hoped to redeem them eventually for much more than that.

Morris not only participated in this game but openly promoted it. He told the Continental Congress in 1782 that speculators should be encouraged to buy up the IOUs “at a considerable discount” and then have the government bring the pieces of paper “back to existence” by paying them off at top dollar.

This big transfer of wealth would provide the affluent with “those funds which are necessary to the full exercise of their skill and industry.” Bouton writes, “As Morris saw it, taking money from ordinary taxpayers to fund a huge windfall for war debt speculators was exactly the kind of thing that needed to be done to make America great.”

We have tended to whitewash such aspects of American history from our consciousness, for several reasons. One is the hagiography we customarily apply to the Founding Fathers. Another is that we lose sight of the connections between class consciousness of the past and that of today by euphemizing today’s version and espousing more subtle notions of trickle-down economics than the crude version that Morris espoused.

People of his economic stratum were known at the time as “gentlemen”; today they would more likely be called “job creators.” A further reason is Americans’ belief in the national myth that America is less stratified into classes, and exhibits more mobility between classes, than do other countries and especially the old countries of Europe. That myth has become increasingly distant from fact in recent decades…

For those who believe that class structure and the struggles therein do not exist in America, history shows that it has always been a part of our country, reasserting itself with a vengeance in recent times. With the elite having a lock on mass media and now the use of the empire’s security and surveillance state to squash dissenters, malcontents, and any challengers of the status quo, there does not seem to be any going back to a society embodied by a strong middle class, especially in an age where the economic pie is forever shrinking.