MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Paul Ryan Is Kinda Sorry He Was a Total Failure at Balancing the Budget

Ryan presided over three years of growing deficits and laid the groundwork for worse to come.

As the newly minted chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee in 2011, Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Wisc.) delivered a sober message from the congressional floor.

"We are driving our country and our economy off of a cliff," he said. "The reason is that we are spending so much more money than we have. We can't keep spending money we don't have."

Despite a record of supporting costly wars and the massive expansion of Medicare under President George W. Bush—and No Child Left Behind, and the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), and the PATRIOT Act (and its renewals)—Ryan spent the early years of the Obama administration waving the banner of fiscal conservatism. He sounded dire warnings about the budget deficit, produced several proposals to balance the budget (eventually...), and championed the passage of spending caps as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. He rode that reputation as a budget wonk to a three-year run as Speaker of the House starting in October 2015.

But Ryan is now leaving office as an abject failure; a supposed budget hawk who presided over three years of growing deficits and laid the groundwork for worse ones to come.

At least he's decent enough to feel kinda bad about it.

"On healthcare itself and debt and deficits, it's the one that got away," Ryan said at an event hosted by The Washington Post last week, calling those issues (along with a failure to address immigration policies) his "biggest regrets" while in office.

More like the 400 billion that got away. That's roughly how much the budget deficit has grown during Ryan's tenure.

But the growth of the deficit only tells part of the story of Ryan's failure.

Earlier this year, the one-time budget hawk presided over the pre-dawn passage of a budget bill that makes mincemeat of the very spending caps Ryan championed back in 2011. The budget deal he inked with President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans in February grew government spending by about $400 billion this year, and it included an $165 billion boost for the Pentagon over the next two years. The budget deal will add an estimated $1.7 trillion to the federal debt in the next decade, according to a nonpartisan analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the deficit will continue to grow after Ryan leaves office. For the current fiscal year, which began on October 1, the CBO projects a budget deficit of $981 billion. By next year, the deficit will hit $1 trillion—driven by a combination of this year's spending hikes and last year's tax cuts. Without changes to current law, the deficit will continue to climb for the foreseeable future.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) offered the best, most frank assessment of Ryan's time as Speaker when he told Reason's Nick Gillespie that fiscal conservatives were better off under Speaker John Boehner, who actually did reduce the deficit during his time with the gavel—and who did it while Democrats ran other parts of the government:

I would rather have the guy swearing at me and letting me have a vote than not considering me at all...Under [Ryan's] speakership, we've had the fewest open amendments of any speakership. We've had zero....Everything has to be pre-approved by the Speaker.... Under Boehner, you could walk up...and offer an amendment as long as it was germane to the bill, you got to vote on it. And this was true on basically all appropriations bills. Now, we don't even do appropriations bills. They come up with some omnibus bill and spring it on us at the last second and they say, 'This is the bill.'

Ryan was handed a golden opportunity to change the direction of America's fiscal trajectory—to stop driving off that cliff he talked about on the House floor back in 2011—and he choked.

Seeing as the rest of us will be paying for Ryan's budgetary hypocrisy for years to come, you'd think he could at least offer a real apology.

Photo Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

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.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    Yep. He should have really challenged your venerated messiah Block Insane Yomomma and kept the government shut down until he finally surrendered.

    Had he done that though, all you phony-ass dipshits would have bitched and moaned about it the whole time.

  • Calidissident||

    That's weird, I must have imagined Barack Obama leaving office in January 2017.

    Not to mention that he was also president when John Boehner was speaker.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Well that's one apology down. Don't have have several tens of thousands more to go?

  • Pepys the Cat||

    Paul Ryan was a Quisling.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    +100

  • Homple||

    Paul Ryan is kinda sorry, full stop.

  • I can't even||

    He Was a Total Failure at Balancing the Budget

    We were promised reduced spending, national reciprocity,an end to Obamacare, national hearing protection act... all we got was a temporary tax cut.

  • Dillinger||

    congressman disappoints. water wet.

  • Tony||

    Ayn Rand bullshit has been a metastasizing cancer on American governance my entire life. It needs to be cut out. I don't mean to say that you shouldn't go into government if you want to cut government programs. I'm not saying to be a public servant means spending more money rather than less. But you have to be honest about it and say why what you're doing is good. Cutting government budgets and taxes can't be good for its own sake. That is cultishness, and it is a cult that has taken over the Republican party. It's a failure as a philosophy of governing because it has no substance, only dogma, and that compounds the problem by making its adherence immune to evidence against its efficacy.

  • Longtobefree||

    Sexist.

  • Tony||

    Paul Ryan is too pretty to be speaker. And he should smile more.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    That is cultishness, and it is a cult that has taken over the Republican party.

    If so, it might just be the least effective cult I've ever seen in my life. We can't even get a few token mass suicides out of it.

  • Tony||

    It's the slow suicide of what used to be the country most likely to big, amazing shit with this world. They abandoned that and turned a vast percentage of its productivity into a piggy bank for decrepit plutocrats. The American people should be more upset over what's been done to them. Alas, they figured out how to get Yahweh on their side, which was a clever move.

  • EscherEnigma||

    To be fair, if it was successful it wouldn't be called a cult, it would be called a religion. You only stay a cult if you don't get big.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Cutting government budgets and taxes can't be good for its own sake. That is cultishness, and it is a cult that has taken over the Republican party"

    Says so in an article detailing how it was the supposed Randian cultist who presided over ballooning the federal government.

    Republican cuck. Objectivist cuck.

    Cuck cuckity cuck cuck.

  • rudehost||

    We spend several times what we spent per capita in those glorious 90% tax rate 1950s and we collect far more taxes per capita too yet we have trillion dollar deficits.

    Discuss.

  • JasonT20||

    Marginal tax rates may have been super-high, but the federal revenue as a portion of GDP has been fairly steady at around 18% since the 50's.

    Spending as a function of GDP has been more volatile, but is roughly the same as it was in the Reagan-Bush 41 years.

    This pattern is likely to blow up on us mostly because of entitlements for seniors. That debt bomb is ticking away and is the real reason for a lack of fiscal discipline.

    [I'd have linked some data, but I keep getting "word that is too long" errors and gave up.]

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Google tinyurl.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Dope. Cutting taxes (and, in a rational world, cutting spending in parallel) by definition means that people and businesses get to keep more of their own money. Keeping your own stuff is so basic even cavemen had ethics against stealing.

    The only cults are those that believe that the collective community deserves the money more than those who made it. As for dogma, tell us all about The Great Society, and its progressive spawn.

  • JasonT20||

    The whole 'taxes = theft' idea is definitely cultish. Keeping more of your own money sounds great until you need services only government can provide.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Somehow I don't think we need to spend anywhere near the money we do for 'services only the government can orovide'.

  • grb||

    And somehow I don't think post-Reagan Republicans are anywhere to be found when it's time for tough choices. Instead we get :

    (1) Another multi-trillion dollar helping of tax cuts,
    (2) Pieties about someone else making unspecified spending cuts at some point someday.
    (3) Maybe a magic asterisk or two which "balance" the books (a Ryan specialty, that)

    The result is something like cotton candy drenched in maple syrup then generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar - and that's still not all. The whole mess is then sprayed with supply-side purple unicorn sneezes which - shazam !! - cause the tax cuts to miraculously cost nothing. Everyone but the most gullible and stupid knows this a complete lie, but it's an important ritual of the Right to "believe" otherwise. Remember, fiscal responsibility is very important to them. One of their "core principles", I believe.....

  • grb||

    And somehow I don't think post-Reagan Republicans are anywhere to be found when it's time for tough choices. Instead we get :

    (1) Another multi-trillion dollar helping of tax cuts,
    (2) Pieties about someone else making unspecified spending cuts at some point someday.
    (3) Maybe a magic asterisk or two which "balance" the books (a Ryan specialty, that)

    The result is something like cotton candy drenched in maple syrup then generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar - and that's still not all. The whole mess is then sprayed with supply-side purple unicorn sneezes which - shazam !! - cause the tax cuts to miraculously cost nothing. Everyone but the most gullible and stupid knows this a complete lie, but it's an important ritual of the Right to "believe" otherwise. Remember, fiscal responsibility is very important to them. One of their "core principles", I believe.....

  • grb||

    And somehow I don't think post-Reagan Republicans are anywhere to be found when it's time for tough choices. Instead we get :

    (1) Another multi-trillion dollar helping of tax cuts,
    (2) Pieties about someone else making unspecified spending cuts at some point someday.
    (3) Maybe a magic asterisk or two which "balance" the books (a Ryan specialty, that)

    The result is something like cotton candy drenched in maple syrup then generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar - and that's still not all. The whole mess is then sprayed with supply-side purple unicorn sneezes which - shazam !! - cause the tax cuts to miraculously cost nothing. Everyone but the most gullible and stupid knows this a complete lie, but it's an important ritual of the Right to "believe" otherwise. Remember, fiscal responsibility is very important to them. One of their "core principles", I believe.....

  • grb||

    And somehow I don't think post-Reagan Republicans are anywhere to be found when it's time for tough choices. Instead we get :

    (1) Another multi-trillion dollar helping of tax cuts,
    (2) Pieties about someone else making unspecified spending cuts at some point someday.
    (3) Maybe a magic asterisk or two which "balance" the books (a Ryan specialty, that)

    The result is something like cotton candy drenched in maple syrup then generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar - and that's still not all. The whole mess is then sprayed with supply-side purple unicorn sneezes which - shazam !! - cause the tax cuts to miraculously cost nothing. Everyone but the most gullible and stupid knows this a complete lie, but it's an important ritual of the Right to "believe" otherwise. Remember, fiscal responsibility is very important to them. One of their "core principles", I believe.....

  • grb||

    And somehow I don't think post-Reagan Republicans are anywhere to be found when it's time for tough choices. Instead we get :

    (1) Another multi-trillion dollar helping of tax cuts,
    (2) Pieties about someone else making unspecified spending cuts at some point someday.
    (3) Maybe a magic asterisk or two which "balance" the books (a Ryan specialty, that)

    The result is something like cotton candy drenched in maple syrup then generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar - and that's still not all. The whole mess is then sprayed with supply-side purple unicorn sneezes which - shazam !! - cause the tax cuts to miraculously cost nothing. Everyone but the most gullible and stupid knows this a complete lie, but it's an important ritual of the Right to "believe" otherwise. Remember, fiscal responsibility is very important to them. One of their "core principles", I believe.....

  • grb||

    And somehow I don't think post-Reagan Republicans are anywhere to be found when it's time for tough choices. Instead we get :

    (1) Another multi-trillion dollar helping of tax cuts,
    (2) Pieties about someone else making unspecified spending cuts at some point someday.
    (3) Maybe a magic asterisk or two which "balance" the books (a Ryan specialty, that)

    The result is something like cotton candy drenched in maple syrup then generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar - and that's still not all. The whole mess is then sprayed with supply-side purple unicorn sneezes which - shazam !! - cause the tax cuts to miraculously cost nothing. Everyone but the most gullible and stupid knows this a complete lie, but it's an important ritual of the Right to "believe" otherwise. Remember, fiscal responsibility is very important to them. One of their "core principles", I believe.....

  • grb||

    Yikes! Sorry about the multi-post......

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I'd like an enumeration of those services only government can provide. Care to supply one?

  • grb||

    Yep. Every month when the rent comes due, I'm down with Earth Skeptic. I say:

    "This is so unfair. I should get to keep my own money. Why does the landlord deserve this money more than the guy who made it?"

    Some people tell me I should accept adult responsibly for my financial obligations - and quit whining to boot !!! These schoolmarmish scolds are obviously not post-Reagan Republicans; you need a sense of entitlement to be one of those. Failure to accept basic math is also required.

  • Star1988||

    The irony. Do you realize how much more difficult it would be to keep all of your stuff without the collective taxation required to pay for police, courts, armies etc?

    The idea is that there is an optimal taxation level that provides you with both the freedom and opportunity to maximize your stuff over time. That level is not zero, otherwise, the guy with the biggest gun just takes it all, oblivious to tax levels.

    I see the horseshoe theory coming into play with you zero-taxers - you believe in the same kind of Utopian world as socialists. You believe your Utopia will appear with the disappearance of government, they believe it will appear when government is all-reaching.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    History shan't be kind to Paul Ryan and he is likely self-aware enough to know it.

  • creech||

    Don't worry, when he passes on all the pols and media will endlessly tell us what a great guy he was, how he devoted his life to serving his country and its citizens, and what an honor it was to know him.

  • I can't even||

    He's Dennis Hastert part II.

  • Blargrifth||

    Or maybe he'll move to some bumblefuck western state and get elected as senator.

  • Longtobefree||

    But he will not turn down the book deals, and will certainly keep the speaking fees.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Meh. He was speaker for a few years, but he was no Gingrich. In a few decades he'll be a footnote that only dedicated political history buffs remember.

  • Longtobefree||

    All you have to do to balance the budget is lay the constitution down beside a list of cabinet positions, and cross off the entire departments that aren't in the constitution. Use the resulting surplus to wear down the debt, then cut the taxes to match the spending.

  • creech||

    Who is this "you" of whom you speak? Numerous LP candidates have done that and the voters respond with

  • creech||

    less than 1% of the vote. Will never happen unless and until the "Ayn Rand bullshit," of which Tony speaks, somehow would manage to win over a solid majority of the voters.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    The only way to convince the voters is to include a credit card reader in the ballot box, and a tab that gets calculated based on candidates selected and initiatives voted up or down.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Have all voters pay their share of national debt in the ballot box.

    Politicians would not last more than one term.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Meh. Just move tax day to October 15th.

  • Juice||

    All you have to do to balance the budget is lay the constitution down beside a list of cabinet positions, and cross off the entire departments that aren't in the constitution.

    So...all of them?

  • Longtobefree||

    Defense; article one, section eight, article two, section two
    Treasury/IRS (sadly); Article one, section three, Article one, section seven, clause one
    Courts; Article one, section eight
    Post office; Article one, section eight
    State department; article one, section eight

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Let the states have all the other shit. Then the federal government doesn't need to be such a monstrosity.

  • Ride 'Em||

    The states are complicit in the large federal spending. State politicians get to do all sorts of stuff with the federal money. It allows them to spend and put the bill on the federal credit card. And just look at how good the states are on funding pensions and other retirement benefits.

  • Moo Cow||

    This is a helpful suggestion.

    Hahahaaaaaahaha!

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, helpful and practical are not always mutually exclusive.
    Don't you think a politician would vote to cut his power by 75%?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Longtobefree for Congress!

  • Rich||

    "They come up with some omnibus bill and spring it on us at the last second and they say, 'This is the bill.'"

    So we vote 'Nay', right? RIGHT?!

  • Longtobefree||

    No, "we" just veto it.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "At least he's decent enough to feel kinda bad about it."

    Having the RightFeelz is of course what is most important.

    ' "On healthcare itself and debt and deficits, it's the one that got away," Ryan said '

    Only failed on the budget and healthcare. That's all. What a maroon.

    "Under [Ryan's] speakership, we've had the fewest open amendments of any speakership. We've had zero....Everything has to be pre-approved by the Speaker.... "

    Betrays Republican principles. Gets rolled by Dems on everything. Centralizes power away from elected representatives.

    Swamp Thing. The epitome of the right wing Uniparty Globalist.

    Cuck.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Lord only knows who you would like to see as Speaker of the House.

    Maybe Ted Nugent?

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Gosh Jeffy, who would YOU like to be Speaker?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Paul Ryan passed HR 1628, which would have cut spending by $1.111 trillion, $834 billion of that from Medicare.

    https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52752

    Say whatever else you want about Paul Ryan and the budget (so long as it's true), but you should also say that Paul Ryan passed HR 1628, which would have cut direct spending by $1.111 trillion, $834 billion of that from Medicare--since that's what he did.

    If we ever have another Speaker of the House that passes a bill to cut $1.111 trillion in spending and $834 billion of that from Medicaid, I hope Reason doesn't oppose the bill for what it doesn't do or complain that he or she didn't do anything to cut spending.

  • I can't even||

    Funny that you still have hope for Reason.

  • I can't even||

    Funny that you still have hope for Reason.

  • I can't even||

    Funny that you still have hope for Reason.

  • I can't even||

    Funny that you still have hope for Reason.

  • I can't even||

    Funny that you still have hope for Reason.

  • I can't even||

    Funny that you still have hope for Reason

  • I can't even||

    Funny that you still have hope for Reason

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Okay, so he got the bill passed and it cut $1.111 trillion. So where was the resulting savings? I'm guessing it just got spent elsewhere, such as in Afghanistan. It obviously didn't actually shrink the budget.

  • Ken Shultz||

    He's only the Speaker of the House. He's influential in one-half of Congress, and the reason those spending cuts didn't succeed had nothing to do with him. In fact, that legislation passed the House because of his efforts.

    The Senate fell a few votes short of passing a similar version. There's nothing Paul Ryan could do about that.

    But after he passed a bill through the House that would have cut $834 billion from Medicaid, an entitlement program, and $1.111 trillion total in direct spending, I don't think anyone should accuse of him of not doing anything about spending.

    If he failed, it wasn't because of a lack of effort on his part. And I don't see how passing such a bill can be considered a failure. He succeeded in passing that bill.

  • EscherEnigma||

    To the contrary, he is Speaker of the House. It's his job to be one of the primary interfaces to the Senate. Passing bills that can't get through the senate is failing at his job, and putting perception of performance over actual performance. A $1 trillion cut that can't actually pass the senate is no more useful then the 40+ ACA repeals that Boehner passed. Gives 'em a shiny thing to point at when asked "what did you do", but nothing of substance.

  • Jerryskids||

    If Ryan really felt sorry about it he'd be blubbering like Boehner.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Let's be honest, Boehner was usually shitfaced by lunchtime.

  • tlapp||

    Politicians have no backbone to cut spending because the electorate doesn't have it to back those that say no.
    It is vote for the budget or oh the horrors government will shut down.

    Those few libertarians on this site don't have enough sway unless we win over at least 5% of the population and can sway elections.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    I wonder if this guy will be able to be hired anywhere. In my experience, when you bring up the high level job you held before, and it comes out that you missed all your objectives in that role by a mile, you don't get an offer. The guy's entire mission was to shrink spending, yet he did the opposite. There is no "kinda" about that level of failure.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Im sure Americans will remind him personally how he failed to easilyy have Congress repeal Obamacare.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Wherever he's landing was worked out long ago. I'm sure he didn't sell us out cheap.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    He will never have another job and yet he will still be a multimillionaire by the time he hits retirement age.

  • Longtobefree||

    So the job is providing leads to where you can buy a BMW for $6474?

  • Enemy of the State||

    Tax cuts don't cause or add to a deficit. Only spending more than your revenues causes a deficit...

  • Moderation4ever||

    The last Ryan tax cut was done with borrowed money. If I go to the bank and borrow money to give to you I am in debt. If the government borrows money to give some people a tax cut the government (us) go into debt. Simple as that.

  • tommhan||

    Do any politicians ACTUALLY want to solve the deficit/debt problem? Does not seem to me either side grabs the bull by the horns when in power. Are they going to wait for the debt to swallow the government?

  • Wearenotperfect||

    I just balanced my checkbook, looks like mincemeat will be on the table for Christmas supper. Pretty boy Ryan is welcome to join so he can see how a typical American family does it! Balance a checkbook that is!

  • ||

    hi everyone i say found a powerful formula that combines the highest quality ingredients to address your weight loss from multiple perspectives, 24 hours per day. By
    increasing your metabolism both during the day and night, increasing your energy levels, and promoting and restful sleep get more info here... www.argeosaly.com

  • M.L.||

    Paul Ryan is a traitor who prevented the passage of Goodlatte's excellent immigration reform bill.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online