Following Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate, the American electorate is trying to take his measure. But what yardstick to use? This seven-term representative from Wisconsin is best known for the controversial “Ryan Budgets,” but as his voting record from the Bush years is gaining scrutiny, his political orientation is causing confusion.
On the one hand, we have his speech accepting Romney’s invitation to be his running mate stating: “We won’t replace our founding principles … we will reapply them!” But what principles—the consistent support he gave the Bush administration for eight years or the consistent opposition he showed for the same programs when President Obama introduced them?
For someone with the stamina to look through the C-SPAN archives, it may come as a surprise that Paul Ryan has made a 180-degree turn in his positions on such economic issues as the value of stimulus spending to revitalize a sagging economy.
“Ryan has denounced the 2009 Recovery Act signed by President Obama as ‘a wasteful spending spree’ and ‘failed neo-Keynesian experiment,’ and—as The Huffington Post pointed out dismissed as ‘sugar-high economics’ the idea that government spending, through measures like payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, can help shore up a faltering economy.
“But in 2002, when then-President Bush was seeking a roughly $120 billion package of tax cuts, tax incentives for business and unemployment benefits to jump-start the economy, Ryan offered a vigorous defense of the plan. ‘What we’re trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and help the unemployed,’ Ryan said in video that aired on Up w/Chris Hayes. The remarks came during a House debate on the measure on Feb. 14, 2002.”
Ryan’s consistent support of “big government” during the Bush administration is nothing short of “marvelous,” to use a Romney expression.
Ryan’s popularity may have something to do with his readiness to obtain perks for his constituents. Back home, he explained his support for the Bush stimulus bill: “You have to spend a little to grow a little,” Ryan told constituents at a town hall in Wisconsin in January 2002, according to the Journal-Times, a local newspaper. “What we’re trying to do is stimulate that part of the economy that’s on its back.”
This and a number of other blatant turn arounds in his philosophy and voting record make Mitt Romney’s well-publicized “flip-flops” look like small change. And people who are aware of his switcheroos have a deep wonderment about the reasons behind them. “According to the Wisconsin Republican Liberty Caucus, the Wisconsin congressman actually voted with the Bush Administration’s agenda of unprecedented federal expansion 94% of the time, and it may surprise his fiscally conservative fans to know that Paul Ryan’s voting record includes votes for the TARP bailouts, the auto bailouts, the massive Bush Medicare expansion, the unprecedented federal intrusion into public education via No Child Left Behind, the 2008 stimulus package, and the $192B 2009 stimulus package.”
The question now is what the public is going to do as information leaks out and it dawns on his conservative supporters the extent to which Ryan’s early record is at odds with his current positions—and those of Mitt Romney. Even now he may be crafting—with the help of Romney’s advisors—a Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus conversion story with a dash of excusable youthful naiveté thrown in. But it’s going to be a hard dose to take. After all, Romney’s greatest incentive to pick Ryan was his appeal to the conservative base. Are they going to swallow it?
All of this may account for the fact that Romney’s announcement of his vice presidential choice isn’t giving him much of a “bump” in the polls. And, looking ahead to any debates between the candidates, it will be interesting to see what use Obama and Biden make of this compromising history. Could this be another example of a presidential candidate failing to properly “vet” a running mate?
What can you do—you are only one person? True, but you are only “six degrees of separation,” on average, from any other person on Earth. You become powerful when you share information with your friends and ask them to share it with their friends—it becomes a global revolution. As Stephen King suggests in The Long Walk, when these “society-supported sociopaths” come, step aside, and find the strength to run…