Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Aug 11, 2012 in Politics | 2 comments

Six Things You May Be Surprised To Learn About Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan, Official PhotoOr not.

In the 112th Congress, Paul Ryan (R-WI) is one of the most powerful members of the GOP. He’s the House Budget Committee Chairman. And reportedly will be named Mitt Romney’s running mate later today.

1. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was elected to Congress in 1998. At the age of 28. “I learned economics working for Jack Kemp,” he said in 1999. Kemp served in the George H.W. Bush administration, and he was Bob Dole’s running mate in 1996. And in case you forgot, Kemp was the supply-side economics messiah. A discredited bit of hokum that has had more lives than Felix the cat.

2. When Ryan was 16, his father died. He attended Miami University (Ohio) with the proceeds of his Social Security survivors benefits. He studied economics and political science, graduating in 1992. Six years later, he was a Congressman from Wisconsin’s first district.

3. Like many in politics, when his party’s in power, his budget scruples differ dramatically from when the other guys are in the White House. For example, he voted yes on President Bush’s expansion of Medicare’s drug benefit. In 2005, the Washington Post reported that the White House had revised its estimated costs of the program:

[T]he new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than President Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003…. As recently as September, Medicare chief Mark B. McClellan said the new drug package would cost $534 billion over 10 years.

As Bruce Bartlett noted in 2009, “the drug benefit had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers; 100% of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit.”

Of course, now Ryan wants a Mulligan.

4. Ryan has been on the Social Security “reform” kick for a long time. Back in 2005, Bush was arguing for introducing private accounts. Ryan introduced a bill that would have “create[d] new private accounts funded entirely by borrowing, with no benefit cuts. Ryan’s plan was so staggeringly profligate, entailing more than $2 trillion in new debt over the first decade alone, that even the Bush administration opposed it as ‘irresponsible’.”

5. On to 2006. Democrats took control of Congress and re-instituted fiscal restraint: new spending or new tax cuts had to be offset by revenue increases or spending decreases. Ryan opposed it.

6. Now it’s 2008, and the economy is going to hell in a hand basket due to Wall Street’s machinations. Ryan voted “yes” for TARP, Economic Stimulus HR 5140, the $15 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler. I’m not going to sit here and say those votes were wrong; I’m merely pointing out the inconsistency between rhetoric and action when his party is the one pulling the strings.


In April 2012, Ryan proposed a budget that he knows no Democratic Senate will pass. It’s a budget for November, a vote to bludgeon Democratic Representatives running for re-election. Predictably, based on seven terms in the House, it was full of smoke and mirrors. Paul Krugman explains:

As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out, to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That’s a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close?

None. Not one. He has, however, categorically ruled out any move to close the major loophole that benefits the rich, namely the ultra-low tax rates on income from capital.


[H]as any major political figure ever premised his entire fiscal platform not just on totally implausible spending projections but on claims that he has a secret plan to raise trillions of dollars in revenue, a plan that he refuses to share with the public?

Romney, by the way, endorsed the budget. (Of course he would; he was – and is – trying to get the ultra-conservative wing of the GOP to get excited about his campaign.)

Ryan voted for the Iraq War, for No Child Left Behind, for the Patriot Act. It could be argued that each of these votes represent expanded government, not small government. Certainly, they each expanded spending, much of it hidden to view (secret spending is the military’s stock in trade) and a fair share off-loaded to the states in the form of unfunded mandates. [P.S. None of this would pass muster for a “true conservative.” Just saying.]

Which Ryan will grace Romney’s ticket?