Election 2012

The Difference Paul Ryan Didn't Make


Conservative activists wanted to see Rep. Paul Ryan on the Romney ticket because they hoped Ryan would add vision and substance to what had essentially been a negative, policy-free campaign. Ryan, the chairman of the  House Budget Committee, is widely known as a conservative reformer. He's the author of the Roadmap for America's future, an influential GOP budget document calling for spending and entitlement reform, and he rose to prominence on the strength of both his policy vision and the skill with which he sold it to his own wary party. 

When Ryan first introduced his budget plan, he struggled to find a dozen congressional supporters and GOP leadership kept plenty of distance from Ryan's ideas. Just a few years later, Ryan watched as nearly every single Republican legislator in the House voted to pass the same plan. Ryan wasn't just a talker. He was a leader. And when conservative activists and intellectuals called for Ryan to take the number two spot on the Republican ticket, they were hoping to see the transformation of another timid GOP leader. 

But that transformation hasn't happened. Rather than remake Romney's campaign in Ryan's image, the Romney campaign has remade Ryan in its own. 

Ryan's rise owes to his willingness to lay out his legislative agenda rather than simply saying no to his opponent's. Indeed, doing this was central to his message. "It is not enough to simply oppose flawed legislation," Ryan has said. "I believe that the party of ideas must propose alternative solutions." 

But the Romney campaign has done no such thing. If anything, the opposite is true. At the convention, Romney, somewhat amazingly, was even less substantive than usual. Ryan has been no better. Indeed, he's given Romney cover. Over the weekend, Ryan helped defend Romney's decision to avoid releasing the details of his tax plan. He's also become the point person for the Romney campaign's troublesome attacks on President Obama's Medicare cuts. Lots of Republicans made this argument during the ObamaCare debates, but Ryan didn't go so far as to simply declare Medicare cuts to be bad. He complained then as now that the Medicare cuts were being used to fund a new government program, and he also charged correctly that the administration was double counting, saying that the money saved from Medicare would both shore up the program's trust fund and fund new spending on the law's health insurance subsidies. And Ryan's most frequent criticism was not that the law changes Medicare, but that it won't actually reduce the deficit. Ryan's ultimate concern was that entitlements cost too much — not that it was wrong to cut them. Indeed, Ryan's own budget plan included the exact same Medicare cuts.

Now Ryan is sharing a ticket with a candidate who has said it's "wrong" to cut Medicare, and promised to reverse Obama's cuts. And since joining the Romney campaign, Ryan hasn't led. He's talked, and followed. It's not even as if the two have blended: While Ryan has picked up Romney's issues and run with them, Romney has tried to distance himself from Ryan's signature proposal: his budget plan. 

It's not just Medicare. It's defense spending too.

Ryan has never been serious about restraining the defense budget. But his budget proposal called for a much smaller increase than Romney's. And as Cato's Christopher Preble has pointed out, Ryan's plan "spelled out specific proposals for cutting domestic spending, both discretionary programs and entitlements, that would allow the Pentagon's budget to grow above the current baseline." The same can't be said about Romney.

At the end of last summer's debt ceiling fight, Ryan voted for a plan that would reduce planned future defense spending if a deficit reduction committee failed to agree on an alternative deficit reduction proposal. Ryan was pretty happy with the plan when it passed. "The Budget Control Act represents a victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy," Ryan said at the time. "I applaud Speaker Boehner's leadership in stopping tax increases on job creators, rejecting President Obama's demands for a blank check to keep borrowing, and advancing real spending cuts and controls."

Predictably, the committee failed. Both Ryan and Romney are now running hard against the fallback defense cuts — known as sequestration — that are now scheduled to occur next year, and blaming Obama for letting them happen. Romney seems almost oblivious to Ryan's vote: "I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose them," he's said. "I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it." Ryan, of course, was one of the 174 Republicans who did.

Ryan has only been on the Romney ticket a short time, but he's already gone along with a lot. We probably shouldn't be too surprised. After all, he's always been willing to follow the party, voting for an unfunded expansion of Medicare, protesting little as the Bush administration ran up massive budget deficits and record debt. Ryan willingly fell in line during the Bush years. Now he's doing it again. We've seen a transformation — not in Romney, but in Ryan. 

NEXT: Ron Paul's Political Director Jesse Benton Quits Campaign for Liberty

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That second pic always makes me think Romney is shaking Ryan’s broken arm.

    You don’t lay out in detail your policies when you’re running for the White House. Not if you want people to vote for you.

    1. I don’t care what Suderman says about Bill and Ted, that picture makes me think of Scott Baio shaking Mr. Pembroke’s hand on Charles in Charge.

      1. …and our nights.

        Those lyrics meant Charles was a pervert, right?

        1. In the Electric Hellfire Club cover of the song, it does. Basically, yes. Stop asking me obvious questions.

          1. But, those are the only questions you’re fit to answer.

            1. It’s all I have!

  2. So when are we going to see an article about what, exactly, this hack fraud is promoting in his Roadmap?

  3. When has a VP candidate ever “remade” the campaign? They take on whatever positions the top of the ticket holds.

    1. What about Biden?

      Didn’t he bring all that foreign policy experience and expertise to the table?

    2. “They take on whatever positions the top of the ticket holds.”

      I think that’s a problem. I think if Sarah Palin was allowed to be herself, she wouldn’t have looked like such an idiot. If Ryan was allowed to be himself, he’d look better.

      1. Why not let them be themselves? I mean, they’re going to be VP, not president. Select someone noncrazy/stupid (Biden excepted), then let them do their thing.

        1. Because the top of the ticket will be crucified for letting the VP get out of control. The ticket’s political vision has to come from from the top, it cannot be grafted on from the bottom, it just does not work, especially since the VP job has very little real power.

  4. Romney plucked Ryan from the senate, were Ryan had secured some power, to offer him a ceremonial post (minus a bullet and a rare tie-breaker vote). This doesn’t seem to be a gambit from someone who plays to win an ideological battle.

    Well, there’s a post with no information for ya’ll.

    1. widget-

      Romney plucked Ryan from the senate

      From the _fucking_ article… Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

      Well, there’s a post with no information for ya’ll.

      OTOH, You might have learned something about Paul Ryan… if you weren’t in such a hurry to post TEAM BLUE!

  5. Taking my anarco-capitalist purist glasses off for a moment, I know how I would have played the convention differently to counter the coming Free Shit Fairy Appreciation Week that was held in Charlotte. I would have emphasized a few bare facts. Government spending is a burden on the economy, that at 24% of GDP is costing us productive growth. Given this, government spending is a zero sum game.

    What gets spent on the middle class, especially that which is spent on salaries and pensions for public sector employees (an old point of Milton Friedman’s when he argued for the negative income tax to do away with bureaucracies) comes at the expense of the poor. It is important that the middle class does not become a dependent class because someone must shoulder the burden, and do so for the least fortunate, who are worse off then anyone due to the policies that shift government benefits to the middle class as proposed by policies that prop up mortgage valuations, student loans for toy degrees, massive health insurance subsidization for thirty year old children going to elite schools.

    A little guilt tripping can do wonders to jerk the rug out beneath your opponent. Guilt tripping has long worked for the democrats, why not get in on that action and undermine their message of caring equals sharing, and by that I mean you give to me.

    1. What gets spent on the middle class, especially that which is spent on salaries and pensions for public sector employees (an old point of Milton Friedman’s when he argued for the negative income tax to do away with bureaucracies) comes at the expense of the poor.

      I don’t consider public sector workers to be part of the middle-class. They are net takers. There is no such thing as defined benefits for private sector middle-class workers.

      1. Actually the federal bureaucrats and California public “servants” are way above middle class, probably 2-3x higher in terms of income.

      2. I’ll concede you do have a quite worthy point.

  6. New Obama video on youtube comparing his words to his actions- 408,000 views in one week. See at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8R5GvwUFU8

    1. If you can watch all 13 minutes of that…we’ll, you’ve got more patience than I do.

  7. Ryan’s reputation as a deficit hawk is one of the great unexamined fictions of our time. Further tax cuts, more military spending and slashing social services do not add up to deficit reduction. They add to a larger deficit, though with less social services.

    Ryan absolutely belongs on the ticket with Mittens, they are both plastic men. Mittens is a weather vane as well–but give Ryan time to catch up.

    1. Slashing “social services” is a good start.

      1. Except Ryan’s plan doesn’t even slash social services

        1. Be that as it may, Spokanite wrote “slashing social services” like it’s a bad thing. That’s what I was responding to.

          1. I agree, was just making sure anyone who was reading this and was uniformed was aware of this

    2. Further tax cuts

      Taxes are too fucking high. Nothing wrong with tax cuts IMO. Spending is, of course, WAY too fucking high. And realistically you don’t win elections by promising huge tax hikes.

    3. “more military spending and slashing social services do not add up to deficit reduction.”

      I’d agree the military needs the knife also, but you could increase military spending by quite a bit and not begin to see what we spend on entitlements.

      1. Exactly.

        Even libertarians seem ignorant of this, because the military is so visible.

        The fact is, only about 1/6 of Federal expenditures go to the military, even now as we are engaged, again, in various conflicts. And of course, some of that is bloat and all-out waste. For one example, we’ve replaced the little, cheap Jeep with enormous, expensive gas-guzzling trucks, for tasks that a Jeep would do better. The Humvee (and the even-more-ungodly-expensive vehicles proposed to replace it) has its place, but is that place really for tooling around near the base, in the US?

        Nevertheless, 2/3 of Federal expenditures go towards payments to individuals. Eliminating the military entirely wouldn’t balance the budget today. It wouldn’t come close. You can’t solve the problem without “reducing social services.” You can’t even BEGIN to solve it.


        1. The problem with that line of argument is that the military, especially when you add in related costs like Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, etc, costs more than any single social program. So everyone can point to their sacred cow and say “see, this only costs X% of the federal budget. Addressing this doesn’t solve the problem.” Of course, long-term, SS and Medicare will be more costly, but that doesn’t mean the military should be untouchable

          1. Can you read?

            Or were you just riffing on a theme?

            Because that’s a non-sequitur if you’re responding to my post.

            TODAY the military consumes 16% of the Federal budget, and entitlements 67%. Not long-term, RIGHT NOW.

            I never suggested that the military is untouchable. Note that I said it’s full of bloat and waste.

            We borrow 40% of the Federal budget, last I checked. 40%.

            If you could, in theory, eliminate military expenditures entirely, it wouldn’t eliminate half of the Federal deficit.

            That’s a fact, not a line of argument.

            1. Correction: about 13%. The military consumes about 13%. We could probably cut that a lot, if we can just eliminate flat-out waste.

              Did you follow the link? There are some really big chunks in that entitlement pie.

              Everything is someone’s sacred cow. But it’s not like it’s so fragmented that someone can’t see it and understand it.

            2. Can you read? I clearly stated that the military costs more than any SINGLE social program. There’s also no way the military is only 13% of the budget, because just off the top of my head, the DOD’s budget is over $700 billion, while the total budget is less than $4 trillion. And that doesn’t include Veterans spending, Homeland Security, and a few other things related to the military and security.

              I’m not saying any of this to defend social programs or attack the military specifically. I’ve made many of the same arguments you have when arguing with liberals who think we can be fiscally solvent just by cutting military spending and raising taxes. I’m just attacking the generic argument of “this program only costs X%, therefore we don’t need to address it.” And while I admit you were not making that argument, and I wasn’t trying to imply that you were, but many conservatives would draw that conclusion from your argument, just as liberals do when it comes to SS, Medicare, welfare, not to mention relatively small things like NPR, NEA, NEH, etc

  8. In other news, forecasters are predicting darkness tonight with increasing lightness towards morning.

  9. One thing is for sure,they are ALL liars. Every one of them and the stupid sheeple fall for the lies year after year. Wake up Sheeple.


  10. Ryan has only been on the Romney ticket a short time, but he’s already gone along with a lot.

    Hollow party pushes hollow man who selects hollow sub.

    Ha ha

    The republican party must be destroyed.

  11. “At the convention, Romney, somewhat amazingly, was even less substantive than usual. Ryan has been no better. Indeed, he’s given Romney cover.”

    Unfortunately, that’s the job description of the VP candidate. Anyone who expects the VP to bring vision to a campaign does not comprehend how hierarchies work. Ryan is now Romney’s lackey (as Biden is Obama’s), at least until election day. Until then, Ryan reads of f of Romney’s script.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.