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The Real Paul Ryan

He voted to add $6.8 trillion to the national debt

Sep. 5, 2012
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Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is taking a beating from fact-checkers, who have had to work overtime to try to verify the claims he made last week when accepting the nomination for vice president at the Republican National Convention.

Perhaps Ryan's biggest whopper was this statement:

“Back in 2008,” Ryan said, “candidate Obama called a $10 trillion national debt 'unpatriotic'—serious talk from what looked to be a serious reformer. Yet by his own decisions, President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined. One president, one term, $5 trillion in new debt.”

This may make Ryan sound like an earnest, serious budget-cutter, but in reality he sounds like he has amnesia and has forgotten what happened when he was casting votes in Congress when George W. Bush was in the White House.

Paul Ryan entered Congress in 1999. When his first term ended in 2001, outgoing President Bill Clinton handed Bush a budget surplus and a modest national debt of $5.6 trillion, much of it a carry-over from the massive military spending during the Cold War.

Then Bush, along with loyal Republican Ryan, went on a spending spree, which turned the budget surplus into a budget deficit and added to the national debt.

Alleged budget hawk Ryan supported Bush policies that added to the national debt, such as the Bush tax cuts ($1.7 trillion between 2001 and 2008) and their $620 billion extension, the bank bailout ($224 billion), the Iraq war ($853 billion) and Medicare Part D ($180 billion), among them.

Overall, the Center for American Progress found that Ryan voted for “at least 65 separate pieces of deficit and debt-increasing legislation, with the total tab for all these votes a whopping $6.8 trillion in cumulative deficits.”

Bush and Ryan's spending spree and whopping tax cuts almost doubled the national debt from $5.6 trillion to more than $10 trillion, which they handed over to Obama in January 2009. Obama has added almost $5 trillion to the debt because of the existence of the Bush tax cuts (reducing the amount of revenue the government can take in); the weakened economy Obama inherited, which further reduces tax revenue; the interest on the $10 trillion he also inherited from Bush; the final years of the Iraq and Afghan wars; and the increased spending on safety net programs to support those who are jobless as a result of the recession.

So Bush and Ryan were handed a budget surplus, which they turned into a deficit, and they remain blameless in Ryan's eyes, yet Obama inherited the Great Recession, two wars and low tax revenues and Ryan blames him for adding to the national debt.

In addition, Ryan alleged that Obama failed to support the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission. In reality, Ryan was a member of that commission and rejected its recommendations to tackle spending.

Also curiously missing from Ryan's speech was his plan to drastically cut federal spending to eliminate the debt.

What Ryan didn't tell you is that his plan would not balance the budget until 2040 at the earliest. There's a good reason for that. Ryan plans to cut federal spending drastically, especially on programs that aid students, seniors, the poor and the middle class. But instead of using those savings to balance the budget, Ryan plans to hand the wealthiest Americans even bigger tax breaks than they enjoy now.

Another tidbit Ryan left out of his speech: Ronald Reagan's budget director David Stockman assessed Ryan's budget plan as doing “nothing to reverse the nation's economic decline and arrest its fiscal collapse,” adding that Ryan's plan is “devoid of credible math or hard policy choices.”


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