When Mitt Romney announced his VP choice of Congressman Paul Ryan, Republicans immediately branded the selection as a “bold” choice. The term “bold” choice was used so often that, at first, I thought it was an advertisement for detergent.
Since Romney has seemingly flip-flopped his positions on most issues between his candidacy for Senator and Governor of Massachusetts and his Presidential campaign, the selection of Ryan was considered manna to the party faithful. Ryan has a reputation among Republicans as a strong advocate for deficit reduction. However, an analysis of his 14 years in Congress raises questions with this conclusion.
Putting aside Medicare, which by itself would require an entire column, I’d like to examine Ryan’s record of making “bold” choices. Now, Ryan has proposed a multitude of sharp cuts in social programs, which some of his most prominent fellow Catholics, including Bishops, have criticized as “failing a basic moral test.” However, Ryan also:
- Voted for both Bush tax cuts, which ballooned the deficit from the Clinton surpluses (even John McCain voted against these tax cuts);
- Voted for Bush’s Iraq war and Medicare Prescription plan without paying for them (also significantly increasing the deficit);
- Voted against the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan;
- Proposed reducing the top federal tax rate from 35% to 25% in his “deficit reduction” plan (which a nonpartisan analysis indicated will lead to higher taxes for the middle class and lower taxes for the wealthy);
- Proposed eliminating the capital gains tax in his 2010 plan, which would drastically reduce the tax rate that extremely wealthy people like Romney pay; and
- Shielded the defense budget from any spending cuts (in fact, he increased it), although the U.S. spends more for defense than the next highest 13 countries.
Now, make up your own mind, is Ryan a balanced deficit hawk? He doesn’t sound like one to me!