Ron Johnson and the Ayn Rand Straw Man

A lot has been made about GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson and his assertion that Atlas Shrugged is his "foundational" book. While this is a perfectly legitimate thing to say, Johnson has been hounded by people on the Left who take Rand's - and by extension Johnson's - beliefs to the extreme. The most recent example I have seen is this over at Blogging Blue:
Is producer status only measurable in terms of income or can we say that someone that creates art, literature, music or other output is not a producer, but a parasite due to the lack of remuneration for the output of their production?

If you take his philosophy far enough you’d get to the point of saying that only “producers” should be part of our society and all others should be left to fend on their own in some outcast society of parasitic “non-producers”.
According to Will, Johnson’s philosophy has also been shaped by The Wall Street Journal editorial page and from Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America”.  As a long time subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, I can tell you that the editorial page is radically right and becoming even more so as Rupert Murdoch puts his indelible stamp on America’s business paper.  Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America”, is seen as so economically radical, that even mainstream Republicans have disavowed it as  a blueprint for their party.
This is nonsense. As I pointed out in the comments, the non-producers in Rand's book are not arbitrarily assigned. They are not victims of the circumstances of their births or any physical or mental handicap. Instead, the parasites are active participants in the theft of ideas and discoveries. They are seduced by the power of the state and the promise of being "good and dutiful" citizens. In reality they steal and rely on the hard work of others. The parasites are just that, they do not create or invent themselves, but they wait for others to do so and in the name of fairness demand that it be shared with all, lest one man or one company succeed too much.

One of the greatest examples of this in Atlas Shrugged is the government-sanctioned theft of Reardon Steel. The breakthrough that Hank Reardon spent his life on was taken from him in the interest of "fairness" because his competitors - who knew how to "play the game" of government action - convinced the government that Reardon's hard work and genius gave him an unfair advantage. So instead of an advancement that would have revolutionized rail transportation and construction, Reardon Steel was used as paperweights and ballpoint pens and a dozen other useless and trivial things.

There is also the example of Reardon's brother-in-law. He's a smarmy, useless man who refuses to work for himself. Reardon had given him a job, but he still looked down his nose at him and considered Reardon an evil man who exploited the work of others. Or Dagny Taggart's brother who was so self-centered and craved the adoration of the government so much that he destroyed his own company out of incompetence. They are unwilling - not unable - to work for themselves.

Really, what Rand was describing looks a lot more like the crony-capitalism that created the mess were in now - large firms that "played the game" well were able to get special favors and deals at the expense of the rest of society.

These characters are the extreme, of course. Rand's writing style is such that she leaves little room for interpretation as to the conclusions she wants the reader to draw, but they are effective characters, too. They drive home a point she witnessed herself in the Soviet Union. These characters are certainly not the unfortunate people who want to work but can't due to the current recession. To suggest that they are - or that Johnson believes that - is absurd and irresponsible.