Thanks to a little common sense digging, Media Matters points out that the narrative of Paul Ryan as deficit hawk isn’t being properly analyzed by the media.
For instance, The Wall Street Journal fixated on the year 2006, when Ryan began crafting his Roadmap for America’s Future with the Reagan 21 group, which included House allies and Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC). But in 2001 and 2003, Ryan voted for the Bush tax cuts, which, coupled with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was critical in creating the budget deficits that the GOP has been bitching about for the last few years.
Also in 2003, Ryan “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 2001, Ryan voted for an agriculture bill that added $80 billion to the deficit.
As the The Center for American Progress Action Fund reported, working with numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, “Paul Ryan supported nearly all of the budget-busting bills of the last decade.”
On August 16, CAP noted that “since 2001 [Ryan] has voted for at least 65 separate pieces of deficit and debt-increasing legislation, with the total tab for all those votes a whopping $6.8 trillion in cumulative deficits.”
$6.8 trillion in cumulative deficits. Let that number sink in, and then ask whether or not Ryan has the right to suddenly about-face and claim the election is a referendum on the deficit.
CAP also reported:
In January 2001, before any Bush administration policies had been passed, the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, was projecting budget surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion over following decade. Instead, we got cumulative deficits totaling $6.1 trillion, an $11.7 trillion difference. CBO estimates that laws passed by Congress and signed by Presidents Bush and Barack Obama are responsible for $8.5 trillion of that difference. Rep. Ryan cast his vote for about 80 percent of that $8.5 trillion.
Mr. Ryan has also voted for every defense spending increase during his political career, resulting in an additional $1.9 trillion to the deficit.
Ryan may be, as he has said himself, “ashamed of his Bush years,” but this is not the narrative on the campaign trail. There is hardly a whisper about how Ryan helped the Bush administration run up deficits. He seems to have wholeheartedly followed Dick Cheney’s witticism “deficits don’t matter.”
If one’s economic philosophy is to cut taxes, how the hell did Ryan expect to pay for any of his $6.8 trillion in deficits? One is left to suppose that under Ryan’s plan the deficit would shrink when GDP growth (triggered by tax cuts) would cause tax revenue to spill into the Treasury, or there would be a full-on assault launched on major social programs. Instead, Ryan and the GOP-at-large are claiming he and Romney are out to save Medicare by reforming it. They simultaneously want to cut Medicare but dishonestly claim Obama is “stealing” from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. Social Security cuts don’t even seem to be on the table, either.
So, what exactly does Ryan plan to cut to help shrink the deficit? Well, Ryan and the GOP are certainly not interested in cutting the bloated defense budget. They intend to instead go after non-Medicare and non-Social Security spending, including welfare (Medicaid and food stamps) and pell grants, as well as various other federal programs (again, not major ones).
As Paul Krugman wrote in a 2010 New York Times op-ed, “Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan—and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.”
How it is that conservative voters delude themselves into thinking the GOP’s policies don’t create deficits is, frankly, astonishing.