The mainstream media is abuzz with the news of Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate. Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee and has earned a reputation as a “budget hawk” and advocate of limited government by being the architect of a highly touted plan that would supposedly slash federal spending.
In tapping the conservative Ryan, Romney is seeking to give his campaign the ideological heft it lacks and to make the presidential race a battle over the size and scope of the federal government, thus energizing the Republican Party’s base in an election where turnout will likely determine victory.
That part of the strategy appears to be working. Top conservative voices have praised the selection. Ryan has been called the GOP’s “moral compass,” and The Wall Street Journal has editorialized that he “represents the GOP’s new generation of reformers.”
The Democrats appear to be equally satisfied with Romney’s selection, though for different reasons. They say Ryan’s prescription for the federal government’s budget woes is too harsh and that voters will reject it come Election Day. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called the Ryan budget proposals “radical” and said they would ensure “budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors.”
Ryan certainly talks a good game. He told a crowd at a town-hall forum on ABC’s This Week, “Too much government inevitably leads to bad government. When government grows too much and extends beyond its limits, it usually does things poorly.”
Good stuff, but as is the case for the vast majority of politicians in Washington, there is a yawning gap between Ryan’s rhetoric and his voting record.
Ryan has voted to raise the debt ceiling multiple times and is an avid supporter of Washington’s foreign wars and the military-industrial complex. With “national security” costing more than $1 trillion per annum, one cannot credibly claim to be fiscally responsible while continuing to support reckless military spending.
Now, Ryan has voted “nay” on foreign aid, farm subsidies, and some other spending increases, but those are insignificant items that will save only a few billion dollars in an annual budget that is now more than a trillion dollars in the red.
Perhaps more damaging to Ryan’s reputation as an advocate of limited government was his vote in favor of the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The program bailed out Wall Street’s most prominent and well-connected financial houses, thus infuriating Americans of all political persuasions.
And Ryan did more than just vote for this odious piece of legislation. He went out of his way to defend it on the House floor, saying,
Are we standing at the edge of this abyss? Nobody knows, but maybe. It’s very probable. …
Colleagues, we’re in the moment. This bill doesn’t have everything I want in it — its got a lot of good things in it — but we’re here, we’re in this moment and if we fail to do the right thing, heaven help us. …
This bill offends my principles, but I’m going to vote for this bill in order to preserve my principles, in order to preserve this free enterprise system.
So, according to Ryan, Congress had to destroy the free-enterprise system in order to save it.
And then there is Ryan’s “bold” budget plan, the so-called Path to Prosperity.
While Ryan’s plan is touted as a budget-cutting proposal, it actually calls for increasing spending and adding more debt. Moreover, the “savings” in the plan are based on future spending cuts, and it doesn’t balance the budget until 2040.
Do I need to remind readers that promises from politicians to cut spending in the future are worthless? How does Ryan propose to prevent future congressmen from being as fiscally reckless as their predecessors?
And how “bold” is a budget-cutting plan that can’t even balance the budget within a decade? Ryan’s plan foresees sizeable budget deficits until 2021. That is more debt piled upon the mountain of debt that already exists.
The problem with Ryan’s Path to Prosperity is that it is not a serious budget-cutting plan. There are no real cuts in it, and on closer analysis it begins to look like just another business-as-usual proposal that curbs projected spending growth while only tinkering with the nation’s bankrupt and dysfunctional welfare state.
Like all other “politically viable” budget proposals, it is woefully inadequate to the task of dealing with the nation’s grave fiscal and economic problems.
Politicians love that Ryan talks about “fiscal discipline” but never proposes anything that would actually reduce government spending.
If you doubt this, consider the fate of the budget plan unveiled by Congressman Ron Paul late last year. It called for cutting $1 trillion from the federal budget in a single year and eliminating five cabinet departments. Of course, Paul’s plan was DOA on Capitol Hill and ignored by the media.
The U.S. government has accumulated almost $16 trillion in debt (adding $10 trillion in the last decade alone) and fiscal year 2012 will be the fourth consecutive year that the federal government has run a $1-trillion-plus budget deficit.
The federal budget needs to be balanced now, not 10 or 30 years from now. But there is no political will in Washington to implement the radical changes in policy that balancing the budget would require. Both the Republicans and Democrats are dedicated to big government, and neither are willing to cut spending.
And at a time when more and more Americans are waking up to the threat posed by the encroaching police state, Ryan’s voting record is hardly encouraging. He voted to extend the unconstitutional Patriot Act, supported the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which codified indefinite military detention, and voted to expand the Department of Homeland Security.
Lew Rockwell summed up the Ryan selection well:
Paul Ryan can sound like Ron Paul on spending and deficits, though as a neocon, he is an ardent champion of perpetual war and global domination by the US empire. That is, he is a phony. His famous plan barely touches the government, while actually increasing “defense,” though he talks a good game; that is, he is a lying politician dedicated to the expansion and glory of the State, just like Romney, while claiming to want to cut. But it’s interesting that Romney felt he could not pick a Portman nor a Pawlenty but rather had to choose an ersatz Ron.