In the last 48 hours, Paul Ryan has been crowned the great hope of fiscal conservatives. If they honestly believe that, they’re more desperate than I thought, because the only way to see Ryan as fiscally conservative is to completely ignore his record.
It seems that the presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee is seen as a fiscal conservative simply because of his budget proposal in the House. His proposal would have balanced the budget without raising taxes, but it was an absolute fairy tale of a proposal, partly because it would have required decades of future presidents and Congresses to stick to it as laid out. Is there anybody in the world stupid enough to believe that’s even remotely possible?
Mainstream political reporters are painting the selection of Ryan as a turn to the “radical right” to placate the Tea Party’s supporters. A writer for Time magazine even said that Ryan was the choice of the “libertarians on the Wall Street Journal editorial board….” (I haven’t run into any actual libertarians yet who are excited about Ryan.)
There’s only one little problem with this narrative building him up as a fiscal conservative or even libertarian. Ryan’s voting record is full of support for things that no fiscal conservative could support, much less a libertarian. Anybody who believes that his candidacy is a win for libertarians or fiscal conservatives isn’t paying attention.
One of the most egregiously irresponsible spending measures of the last few years was the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which forced U.S. taxpayers to purchase the so-called “toxic assets” of big banks. Pure and simple, it was a bailout for banks to allow them to get loans off their books. Ryan not only voted for TARP, but he enthusiastically supported it. Take a look at the video from the House floor (at the end of this article) of Ryan begging the House to pass TARP and warning of dire consequences if it didn’t pass. Is that a fiscal conservative?
Ryan voted for the auto bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. Is that a fiscal conservative?
He’s voted for Medicare expansion, housing subsidies and extension of federal unemployment benefits. Are those things that actual fiscal conservative support?
In addition, he’s voted in favor of a national ID, making the PATRIOT Act permanent, surveillance without a warrant and No Child Left Behind. He favored keeping troops in Iraq indefinitely. Maybe worst of all, he voted for the so-called “stimulus” plan of 2008. That’s right. Ryan believes in the voodoo economics of John Maynard Keynes. Is any of this the mark of a fiscal conservative, much less a libertarian?
The idea that Ryan is a fiscal conservative or libertarian is puzzling. The facts don’t support the contention. (Read more about his record here.) So why are so many people saying it anyway?
For those on the progressive left, anybody who isn’t on their side is on the “radical right,” so their statements at least make a little bit of sense, even if paying attention to the record would force them to modify their statements. As for conservatives, though, I think it’s purely wishful thinking combined with the irrational belief that they have to support anything and anyone who they see as their only hope against Barack Obama.
Frankly, I don’t see a lot of difference between an Obama presidency and a Romney presidency. Obama has no interest in cutting any spending and Republicans are more interested in talking about it than doing it. Let’s be honest. Federal spending is not going to be cut. Period. It doesn’t matter who’s elected president in November. The runaway train of federal spending is impossible to stop. There’s not enough political support for the painful choices that would have to be made. It’s not going to happen.
Paul Ryan is marginally more fiscal conservative than the big spenders of the Obama administration, but I can’t see that he’s honestly any more responsible than Mitt Romney would be. All of the mainstream candidates support massive spending. There’s a tidal wave of debt that’s crashing its way toward us — and the Democrats and Republicans are arguing over whether stopping a gallon or two of spending is too draconian.
There’s no serious national discussion of anything approaching what’s necessary to stop the runaway train of debt. Any fiscal conservative or libertarian who tries to put any hope in Ryan as their savior on this issue is going to be badly disappointed, even if the Republicans win this year.
Note: This article has been edited to correct an error. The original article stated that Ryan supported the 2009 “stimulus” bill, but that’s incorrect. He voted for the 2008 “stimulus” bill, but not the one the following year.