The Wall Street Journal Hides Ryan's Record On Deficits

The Wall Street Journal hid Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) past support for measures that resulted in exploding deficits, even while explaining Ryan's “rocky trail” as a GOP “budget wonk.”

In an August 27 article laying out Ryan's ascent in the GOP, The Journal noted that Ryan was first elected to Congress in 1998, then jumped ahead to 2006, when Ryan is said to have begun working on plans to shrink the federal deficit and create a “smaller 21st century government”:

[Ryan's Roadmap for America's Future] was born in the twilight of George W. Bush's presidency. After Republicans lost their majority in 2006, Mr. Ryan huddled with a small band of conservatives including House allies and Sens. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R., S.C.). The group dubbed themselves “Reagan 21,” taking the name of the 40th president and crafting a conservative vision for smaller 21st century government.

Left out of this narrative is Ryan's history of voting for measures that significantly added to the deficit and it fails to offer any critical assessment of the “Wisconsin budget wonk's” harmful budgets.

In 2001 and 2003, Ryan voted for the Bush tax cuts. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has said, those tax cuts did “lasting harm to the deficit.”  In 2003, Ryan also voted for Medicare Part D, a program that Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman said created a $9.4 trillion hole in the federal government's books. In 2005 Ryan attempted to privatize Social Security, a plan that reportedly “would require $2.4 trillion in additional costs over the first 10 years.”

According to an August 6 The New Yorker profile, Ryan is "embarrassed by the Bush years." But there's nothing to be embarrassed about if the media erases those years from the biography.

Additionally, The Journal article gave Ryan undeserved credit for his claims that his recent budget proposals aim to shrink the deficit. The Journal reported that in 2011, Ryan “attended about 30 so-called listening sessions to explain how it would contain the federal deficit and preserve Medicare for future generations. (His plan is projected to shrink, but not to close, the U.S.'s forecast annual budget deficits).”

This image of Ryan as a “budget wonk” who sets about explaining how to contain the deficit is at odds with comments Ryan has made recently suggesting that the campaign has yet to "run the numbers" on their budget plan.

Krugman wrote that Ryan has an “undeserved reputation for honesty and fiscal responsibility” and that he's not “a serious man” when it comes to policy." He also called Ryan's budget proposal “surely the most fraudulent budget in American history” for its lack of specificity regarding which tax loopholes it would close as part of the push to “rewrite the tax code.” Urban Institute fellow Howard Gleckman called Ryan's opaque budget “mystery meat,” while the Economic Policy Institute's Andrew Fieldhouse said Ryan's budget “screams fiscal charlatan.”

Having cherry-picked history to set up Ryan's “rocky road” to the GOP ticket, the Journal went on to report:

The question now, having won the support of his party, is whether Mr. Ryan can win the support of the nation. Polls show voters remain unsettled over changes to the safety net. Democrats are using the Ryan plan to reprise a line of attack against Mr. Romney and other Republicans on the fall ballots.

That task will be made easier if the media leave out part of the story.