Paul Ryan

Why Paul Ryan Wasn't the Right Person to Go After Obama's Decision to Ignore Simpson-Bowles


Yesterday I noted GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan's decision to criticize President Obama for ignoring recommendations made by his own debt commission's, but without noting that Ryan served on that same commission and voted against it. Since then I've seen a number of folks defend Ryan's attack. The argument is that even there were problems with the Simpson-Bowles plan, Obama used the debt commission process to avoid responsibility for having to take action to reduce federal debt, and that justifies Ryan's criticism. 

I don't entirely disagree. Obama has obviously been totally out to lunch on debt reduction. His so-called "plan" is the legislative equivalent of a not very funny joke. His commitment to debt reduction is half hearted at best, and verges on misleading. And he obviously used the debt commission as a ruse to duck the issue for a while. For roughly a year before he decided to pass on the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, he held up the commission process as his primary response to the debt, promising to take it serious. "This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem," he said in the 2010 State of the Union address. But as it turns out, that's exactly what it was. 

By the same token, I think Ryan's reasons for voting against Simpson-Bowles are mostly defensible: There's a lot to like about the shape of the proposal, especially in the way it reforms the tax code. But it didn't substantially tackle health care, which, when it comes to debt, is pretty much the whole ballgame. 

So I actually think it's reasonable to both find Simpson-Bowles underwhelming as a debt deal and to criticize President Obama for using the debt commission process to evade responsibility for dealing with the federal debt. 

But Paul Ryan is the wrong person to make that argument. Crafting a big, debt-related gotcha line out of the president's refusal to follow a debt panel's recommendations without mentioning his own participation on the panel and vote against its recommendations does not exactly sound like the kind of bold truthtelling and responsibility taking that Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and much of the rest of the GOP have spent the last week promising. There are numerous better ways to go after Obama on the debt than this, which essentially amount to: "My opponent didn't follow the recommendations of a panel I was on and voted against."


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  1. Sheesh, can you nitpick a little more?

  2. As Ayn Rand said,

    “Devotion to the lies is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of shameless, constant lying in order to win a political office.”

    1. So what’s your excuse for the shameless, constant lying? You running for office?

  3. The meat of your post is that Ryan’s criticisms are spot-on… and then you bookend it and headline it with an attack on Ryan.

    1. So, you’re saying the part attacking Obama is spot-on but the part attacking Ryan for doing the same thing is unfair?

      Obama passed on Simpson-Bowles – Cenotaph says “Yeah, Obama sucks!”
      Ryan voted against Simpson-Bowles – Cenotaph says “Why are you picking on Paul Ryan?”

      1. Ryan didn’t do remotely the same thing as Obama. He didn’t commission the report and then ignore it.

        Serving on the commission is not remotely the same as commissioning it. Obviously Ryan had limited input on the final report.

      2. No, I think he’s saying that Obama used Simpson-Bowles as a prop to avoid doing anything himself, then rejected it, replacing it with nothing. Yeah, Obama sucks.

        Ryan points this out, and votes against Simpson-Bowles because it doesn’t go far enough and the Reason world — that is constantly on Ryan’s ass for proposing budget ideas they think don’t go far enough — tries to equate the two actions. Actions which aren’t equivalent.

        No doubt the TEAM RED accusations won’t be far behind, further dowsing any conversation in which Ron Paul or Gary Johnson aren’t the heroes.

        1. Thank you for the excellent summary.

        2. So I’m supposed to believe that Paul Ryan is a hero for proposing incremental changes in the right direction to government as well as being a hero for being against incremental changes in the right direction to government.

          1. No, you’re supposed to believe that not approving a package of cuts because you don’t want to make them is different from not approving a package of cuts because they aren’t large enough. Especially when the person who doesn’t want to make the cuts used the process of creating that package to absolve himself of responsibility for what the mean ol’ committee may have come up with.

            If you want to see plenty of examples of “Bah, these cuts aren’t big enough and therefore the person proposing them can’t be taken seriously” read pretty much any Reason piece on Ryan. If that’s a legitimate criticism when made of Ryan, it’s a legitimate criticism when made by Ryan.

            1. If that’s a legitimate criticism when made of Ryan, it’s a legitimate criticism when made by Ryan.

              But he’s not team Orange.

        3. Exactly. Paul Ryan has his own plan which he supports in lieu of Simpson-Bowles, with stronger entitlement reforms and weaker cuts to military spending (if I can attempt a crude summary).

          Why should Ryan have to support a plan that is not his first option?

  4. Tell me that’s not Steve Carrell as Michael Scott. That’s totally him. That’s why he quit The Office.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Ryan criticized Simpson/Bowles for not doing *enough* to address the debt problem, while Obama first used the commission as a shield and then rejected it because he didn’t like their proposed cuts.

    I really don’t see moral equivalence between these two situations.

    If you want to do evanhanded critiques of both parties, why not go for gay marriage, not for the debt issue which only one candidate (Ryan) even pretends to take seriously?

    1. Can’t the Messiah make the same argument? As soon as Ryan voted no, he no longer had a reason to criticize anyone else who voted/said no.

    2. They’re going after Ryan on an issue he’s supposed to be “good” on. Going after him on gay marriage doesn’t have the same demoralizing effect on pro-Romney libertarians.

      1. pro-Romney libertarians

        Funny, I didn’t think you could demoralize a fictional construct.

        1. Oh, come on, T. When he tells you that piss hitting your back is really rain, it hurts morale if you don’t believe him.

          1. Yeah, I’ve noticed it ruins people’s morale when you don’t believe their lies. I’m not sure why, but it does.

      2. pro-Romney libertarians

        I get it! It’s Oxymoron Day!

        Here, I’ll try a few.

        limited lifetime guarantee

        friendly fire

        mandatory options

        You’re turn!

        1. One of my favorites that I hear my kids say all the time:

          definitely sometimes

  6. Jesus, Suderman, don’t give an inch to these fake “factchecking” assholes. What this country needs right now is someone who will tell them to take their pedantry and feigned ignorance of context and shove it up their factchecking asses. I’m getting sick of these fucking articles where someone says “8 facts that Republican speaker got wrong”, and I waste my time reading through the first two or three points waiting for them to actually talk about a fact rather than an opinion, or some missing context, or some alleged hypocrisy.

    Ryan was calling out Obama for failing to do something about the debt. Voting against a debt plan because it doesn’t go far enough in doing something about the debt doesn’t conflict with that at all.

    1. You know what else would be great? Not having a douchebag political class that takes every opportunity to spout “their pedantry and feigned ignorance of context” to ream the opposing Team’s ass out with. You know, those assholes running for office that only tell you what horrors their opponent is going to unleash without once saying what they would do differently.

      1. They’d unleash totally different horrors! Well, and some of the same ones, but in a different way! Well, sometimes in the same way, but definitely with different rhetoric!

        1. You want horror? I’ll give you horror!


          Cockneys Vs Zombies! The zombie craze has crossed the pond!

          1. Cockneys vs. Zombies? Aka Shaun of the Dead?

            1. I dunno. Tried watching that one and couldn’t get into it.

              The trailer on the link is hilarious though. Old guy on a walker being chased by shuffling zombies. I loled!

              1. Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies:


              2. Yeah, I hated Shaun of the Dead. All inside Brit jokes, rhyming slang and incomprehensible accents.

        2. Yeah, I don’t think it matters much to me if Hastur or Cthulhu comes through the door between realms. Either way, I’m fucked.

      2. Not having a douchebag political class that takes every opportunity to spout “their pedantry and feigned ignorance of context” to ream the opposing Team’s ass out with.


        You wanna throw 80% of reason’s ‘editors’ outta work.

  7. “Paul Ryan’s decision to criticize President Obama for ignoring recommendations made by his own debt commission’s,”

    It’s my understanding that the committee didn’t actually make any recommendations since the report was voted down by Ryan and the Republicans.

  8. Now that Paul Ryan is confirmed as the VP nominee, I am patiently waiting for someone to drag ex-wife 7 of 9 into the battle, at least through her public-record divorce testimony.

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