Ten Miles Square


August 13, 2012 11:25 AM The Ryan Conundrum

By Mark Kleiman

There seems to be puzzlement around (whether real or fake, it’s hard to tell) about Paul Ryan’s bona fides as a fiscal conservative/budget hawk. As Reason’s Hit & Run points out, Ryan voted for “TARP, Medicare D and even George W. Bush’s wars, each a budget-buster of its own on the road to fiscal calamity.”

There are two keys to this puzzle: Ryan is (1) a Randian always but (2) a Republican Party hack above all. As Randian, he loves anything good for the rich and hates anything good for the poor; that’s why he wants to shred the social safety net and spend all of the proceeds on tax cuts for the prosperous, thus not reducing the deficit at all. As a partisan hack (and closet Keynesian) he knows that deficit spending stimulates employment; that’s why he supports it under Republican Presidents and opposes it under Democratic Presidents, independent of the state of the business cycle.

Footnote The good news is that there’s no need to fear (with Josh Barro) that Ryan (or Romney) would actually pursue deficit reduction in the face of recession, should the country be unwise enough to elect them. They would goose the economy as hard as they could. And of course the Democrats, who actually care about the plight of the unemployed, would have to go along.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the University of California Los Angeles.


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  • Foster Paris on August 16, 2012 2:00 PM:

    You may want to change the subheadline on the main page for this, which suggests that Paul Ryan does want to "cut the budget . . . when it's politically useful".

    The article demonstrates that Paul Ryan never wants to "cut the budget".

  • Jim Worthen on August 19, 2012 4:50 PM:

    Paul Ryan backed Bush’s deficit-exploding agenda and criticized Obama’s stimulus while grabbing for the president’s stimulus money. It seems republicans don’t care if their gunfighter is a coward as long as he hitches his belt just right and talks big at the bar.

  • Jim C on September 02, 2012 3:35 AM:

    There is no substance to name calling, and labels are always over simplifications so there is no surprise there. I want you to go ahead and rip apart the Ryan agenda, but do it with facts, with logic, with intellect, and even with an attempted fair mindedness or at least open mindedness. That is the sort of thing which makes for an interesting read. Set up some quality control, run your ideas by some people, hone them.. then publish.