Media figures have been quick to portray Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, as “courageous” “genius” for introducing an “adult plan” for the 2012 budget. Ryan's current role as the lone “adult” on budget issues is belied by his support for policies - including the Bush tax cuts - that created massive federal deficits.
Media: “Courageous” Rep. Paul Ryan “Might Be A Genius” For “Adult Plan” On Budget
Kilmeade: Rep. Ryan “Might Be A Genius, I'm Pretty Sure.” While discussing Ryan's plan, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade said:
But this is titanic in its implication. In my lifetime, I've never seen a House, or one branch of government, take such bold action to revamping our whole economic system, while the President, by almost all accounts, has punted. He said, I give you my budget. Everyone said, what's this? Even, the deficit commission said, did you listen anything I said?
What Paul Ryan does, who, by the way, might be a genius, I'm pretty sure. He put together something that is so forward leaning, it's going to make people say, “Wait a minute, we can't easily demagogue this, because it's so hard to define.” He goes beyond $4 trillion dollars. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/4/11]
Brooks: Ryan's Proposal Will “Set The Standard Of Seriousness For Anybody Who Wants To Play In This Discussion.” From David Brooks' New York Times column:
The country lacked that leadership until today. Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Ryan is expected to leap into the vacuum left by the president's passivity. The Ryan budget will not be enacted this year, but it will immediately reframe the domestic policy debate.
His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion. It will become the 2012 Republican platform, no matter who is the nominee. Any candidate hoping to win that nomination will have to be able to talk about government programs with this degree of specificity, so it will improve the G.O.P. primary race.
I don't agree with all of it that I've seen, but it is a serious effort to create a sustainable welfare state -- to prevent the sort of disruptive change we're going to face if national bankruptcy comes. [The New York Times, 4/4/11]
Palin Touts “Serious & Necessary Reform” By “Serious & Necessary Leadership.” From a post to Sarah Palin's twitter feed, linking to a December, 2010 Wall Street Journal column in support of what she called “the Ryan Roadmap”:
[Sarah Palin's Twitter feed, 4/5/11]
Beck: Ryan Is “One Of The Only Serious People In Washington ... On The Budget.” From a discussion of Rep. Ryan's budget on Fox & Friends:
BECK: He's one of the only serious people in Washington, I think, on the budget. I mean, he can debate it, he can talk about it, he knows it inside and out. He knows what he's talking about.
The other option is to go, for instance, on Medicare, with the Zeke Emanual complete live system, which is what helped design this whole system, which is a rationing of medical care and services. That is what's coming. They'll continue to deny it, but they've also continued to deny everything else that has been proven on this network.
DOOCY: One of the other details that, according to Mr. Ryan, is in his proposal, which he wrote about in the Wall Street Journal today is he'd also like to reduce the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
BECK: Good luck getting that done. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/5/11]
Gateway Pundit: Ryan Will Release “The Republican's Adult Plan To Reduce Spending.” From Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit blog [emphasis in the original]:
GOP star Rep. Paul Ryan released details on the Republican's adult plan to reduce spending by $6.2 trillion in the next 10 years. Ryan says in the first year there are about $600 billion in cuts alone. The budget also calls for pro-growth tax rates of 25% for individuals and businesses. [GatewayPundit, 4/5/11]
Washington Examiner's Klein: Ryan Produced “A Serious Budget Proposal For A Serious Time.” From an article by Philip Klein in the Washington Examiner:
This morning, Ryan has revealed his budget for 2012 and beyond, and I'm happy to report that it acknowledges the magnitude of the moment. It is a serious proposal to put our nation on a path to some semblance of fiscal solvency. [Washington Examiner, 4/5/11]
WSJ Op-Ed: Ryan's Plan “Lets Us Balance Our Care For Fellow Citizens Without Wrecking The Economy.” From William McGurn's Wall Street Journal column:
What conservatives like Mr. Ryan and Mr. Levin offer here is a better “how”--a road map that lets us balance our care for fellow citizens without wrecking the economy, ruining families, or giving birth to more soulless bureaucracies. Think of it this way. Even Milton Friedman's proposal for school vouchers, which would still see the state providing an education for all children, is essentially a “how” argument.
Liberals tend to oppose even these improvements. Sadly, they've become wed to the welfare state's most debilitating premise--that the sole provider for some of the most important goods and services must be the most inefficient institution in American life: the government. Mr. Ryan's budget does not have an answer for all the problems caused by the collapse of the welfare state at the federal, state and city levels. But he sure has fired up a long-overdue debate. [Wall Street Journal, 4/5/11]
FACT: Ryan Supported Fiscal Policies That Caused Massive Deficits
The Bush Tax Cuts
Ryan Supported 2001 Bush Tax Cuts. In 2001, Ryan voted to support the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act. [U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk, 5/16/01]
Ryan Supported 2003 Bush Tax Cuts. In 2003, Ryan voted to support the Jobs and Growth Reconciliation Tax Act. [U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk, 5/9/03]
Ryan Praised The Extension Of The Bush Tax Cuts. From a statement by Ryan on the lame-duck compromise in 2010:
President Obama has acted responsibly in reaching an agreement with Republicans to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting American families and job creators. Sound economics appear to have trumped the politics of class warfare. While I prefer a permanent prevention of tax increases to promote growth and ensure certainty, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that raising taxes would be a big mistake. This agreement affirms an essential proposition: raising tax rates hinders economic growth and job creation.
“Policymakers cannot continue to chase ever-higher levels of government spending with ever-higher tax rates. To address the Federal government's fiscal imbalance, we need both economic growth and serious spending discipline. It is critical that we match opposition to tax increases with a fervent commitment to restrain the explosive growth of government spending. [PaulRyan.House.gov, 12/7/10]
CBPP: Bush Tax Cuts Did “Lasting Harm” To Deficit. From a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Some commentators blame recent legislation -- the stimulus bill and the financial rescues -- for today's record deficits. Yet those costs pale next to other policies enacted since 2001 that have swollen the deficit. Those other policies may be less conspicuous now, because many were enacted years ago and they have long since been absorbed into CBO's and other organizations' budget projections.
Just two policies dating from the Bush Administration -- tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- accounted for over $500 billion of the deficit in 2009 and will account for almost $7 trillion in deficits in 2009 through 2019, including the associated debt-service costs.  (The prescription drug benefit enacted in 2003 accounts for further substantial increases in deficits and debt, which we are unable to quantify due to data limitations.) These impacts easily dwarf the stimulus and financial rescues. Furthermore, unlike those temporary costs, these inherited policies (especially the tax cuts and the drug benefit) do not fade away as the economy recovers (see Figure 1). [CBPP.org, 6/28/10]
CBPP: Letting Bush Tax Cuts Expire In 2012 Would Nearly Cut Deficit Nearly In Half By 2021. From the CBPP:
Yet the data and projections in the CBO report also indicate that if policymakers simply let all of the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 (not just the tax cuts for people with incomes over $250,000) expire on schedule at the end of 2012, or if they paid for any of those tax cuts that they wish to extend with offsetting revenue increases or spending reductions -- deficits would be cut nearly in half. (See Figure 2.) The deficit would stand at 3.6 percent of GDP by 2021. This is a course that both Reagan economic adviser Martin Feldstein and former OMB director Peter Orszag have called for, in light of the large fiscal challenges the nation faces and the realities regarding the timing of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security savings. [CBPP.org, 3/24/11]
Retired Senate Republican And Senior Fellow At The Bipartisan Policy Center: Ending Bush Tax Cuts Would Cut Deficit. From The Hill:
Retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) on Monday told The Hill that ending tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush would help reduce the deficit, but he stopped short of advocating their expiration.
“Does it [extending Bush tax cuts] make it harder to get us where we have to go? Yes,” he said.
Domenici is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit organization looking for ways to reduce the deficit and debt. Absent immediate action, the group predicts publicly held debt will spiral out of control. [TheHill.com, 4/12/10]
TPMDC: House GOP Whip “Appears To Concede Bush Tax Cuts Will Add To Deficits.” From Talking Points Memo:
At least one member of GOP leadership in Washington is willing to admit that extending the Bush tax cuts will increase deficits.
Appearing on MSNBC this morning, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor reiterated his support for renewing the Bush-era tax cuts for all income brackets, including high-income earners. But he was also forced to admit, with apparent reluctance, that doing so will balloon the deficit, at a time when deficits are the GOP's supposed cause du jour.
"[I]f you have less revenues coming into the federal government, and more expenditures, what does that add up to? Certainly you're gonna dig the hole deeper. But you also have to understand, if the priority is to get people back to work, is to start growing this economy again, uh, then you don't wanna make it more expensive for job creators." [TPMDC.TalkingPointsMemo.com, 8/2/10]
Medicare Part D
Ryan Supported Legislation Creating Medicare Part D. In 2003, Ryan voted for the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act. [U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk, 6/27/03]
CBO Estimated The Bill Would Increase Deficits By $372.5 Billion Over Ten Years. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003 would increase deficits by $372.5 billion over a 10 year period. [CBO.gov, 6/25/03]
Ezra Klein: “It Is Insane That The People Who Voted For The Deficit-Financed, $700 Billion Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Are Allowed To Scream About Fiscal Rectitude.” During the debate over health-care reform, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein noted:
It is insane that the people who voted for the deficit-financed, $700 billion Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit are allowed to scream about fiscal rectitude this year. Just amazing. The occasional defense I've heard is that 2003 wasn't the middle of the most severe recession in memory. That's a defense in much the same way that poking yourself in both eyes so you can't see your assailant is a defense. Deficit spending makes more sense during recessions, not less. Deficit spending is also cheaper during recessions, as interest rates are lower because investors want to buy treasuries.
None of these people have any authority to complain about the spending in health-care reform. When the CBO scored Medicare Part D, it concludes that the bill “would increase mandatory outlays by $407 billion for fiscal years 2004 to 2013 and would raise federal revenues by $7 billion over that period.” In other words, it was a vote to add about $400 billion to the deficit in the first 10 years, and trillions more in the decades after that. [WashingtonPost.com, 11/16/09]
Krugman: Medicare Part D “Created A $9.4 Trillion Unfunded Liability.” New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote:
According to the Medicare trustees, Part D created a $9.4 trillion unfunded liability over the next 75 years. That's a big number, even for an economy as big as ours.
What were they thinking? Mostly, they probably weren't thinking at all. To the extent that there was a theory of the case, however, it went something like this: pass whatever legislation was needed to win the next election, then, once total conservative political dominance has been achieved, dismantle the whole welfare state. [Blogs.NYTimes.com, 12/29/09]