GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan spent much of the last week trying to explain why he signed multiple letters seeking $20 million in stimulus funds for an energy company in his district. Ryan is a staunch opponent of President Obama’s stimulus program, which those funds came from, claiming that stimulus is a “wasteful spending spree.”
As it turns out, Ryan’s stimulus hypocrisy extends back at least an entire decade. In 2002, Republican President George W. Bush proposed a similar — if less ambitious — stimulus plan to the one President Obama signed in 2009. Like Obama, Bush sought to goose the economy through an influx of public sector cash. His stimulus plan included an extension of unemployment benefits and a plan to mail checks directly to millions of Americans. Ryan took to the House floor to defend this plan, accurately noting that additional government spending would help move the economy out of a recession:
We have a lot of laid off workers, and more layoffs are occurring. And we know, as a historical fact, that even if our economy begins to slowly recover, unemployment is going to linger on and on well after that recovery takes place. What we have been trying to do starting in October and into December and now is to try and get people back to work. The things we’re trying to pass in this bill are the time-tested, proven, bipartisan solutions to get businesses to stop laying off people, to hire people back, and to help those people who have lost their jobs. . . .
We’ve got to get the engine of economic growth growing again because we now know, because of recession, we don’t have the revenues that we wanted to, we don’t have the revenues we need, to fix Medicare, to fix Social Security, to fix these issues. We’ve got to get Americans back to work. Then the surpluses come back, then the jobs come back. That is the constructive answer we’re trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan basis.
In a 2002 interview with the Journal Times, Ryan even more explicitly adopted the economic theory behind President Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan: “You have to spend a little to grow a little. What we’re trying to do is stimulate that part of the economy that’s on its back.” And Ryan is right even now: despite his repeated assertions that it was a failure, the stimulus package Obama signed worked.
Of course, Ryan abandoned this understanding of basic Keynesian economics the minute a Democrat moved into the White House, and this is hardly the only example of Ryan suddenly changing his views once Barack Obama became president. Under President Bush, Ryan voted to add $6.8 trillion to the federal deficit, mostly from increased defense spending and tax cuts for the rich. Under Obama, however, Ryan suddenly became very, very concerned about the deficit, claiming that America needs to phase out Medicare, slash education spending, raise taxes on the middle class, and take a giant bite out of Medicaid in order to prevent a coming debtpocalypse.
There is one thing Ryan has been consistent on, however. Come boom time or recession, budget surpluses or budget deficits, Ryan always supports tax cuts for the very wealthy.