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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

August 11, 2012 at 9:38 AM

Six things about Paul Ryan that may be surprising

Paul Ryan, Official Photo

Rep. Paul Ryan, Official Congressional Photo

In the 112th Congress, Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin just announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate, is one of the most powerful members of the GOP. He’s the House Budget Committee Chairman, a highly influential insider.

Here are six interesting things about Ryan.

1. He was elected to Congress in 1998. At the age of 28. “I learned economics working for Jack Kemp,” he said in 1999. Kemp served in the George H.W. Bush administration, and he was Bob Dole’s running mate in 1996. And as a point of note, Kemp was the supply-side economics messiah.

2. When Ryan was 16, his father died. Ryan attended Miami University (Ohio) with help from Social Security survivor benefits, which he collected until age 18. Average annual 4-year public university tuition and fees in 1988 was an inflation-adjusted $2,800. He studied economics and political science, graduating in 1992. Six years later, he was a Congressman from Wisconsin’s first district.

3. Like many in politics, when his party’s in power, his budget philosophy differs dramatically from when the other folks are in the White House. For example, he voted yes on President Bush’s expansion of Medicare’s drug benefit. In 2005, the Washington Post reported that the White House had revised its estimated costs of the program:

[T]he new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than President Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003…. As recently as September, Medicare chief Mark B. McClellan said the new drug package would cost $534 billion over 10 years.

As Bruce Bartlett noted in 2009, “the drug benefit had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers; 100% of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit.”

Now Ryan said he’d take a different tack.

4. Ryan has been on the Social Security “reform” kick for a long time. Back in 2005, Bush was arguing for private accounts. Ryan introduced a bill that would have “create[d] new private accounts funded entirely by borrowing, with no benefit cuts!” but at the time the Bush administration had concerns about it and deemed it “irresponsible.”

5. On to 2006. Democrats took control of Congress and re-instituted fiscal restraint: new spending or new tax cuts had to be offset by revenue increases or spending decreases. Ryan opposed it.

6. In 2008 and 2009, Ryan voted “yes” for TARP, Economic Stimulus HR 5140, the $15 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler.  The differences in approach under Bush versus Obama is something he — and the man at the top of the Republican ticket — will have to address.


In April 2012, Ryan proposed a budget that had no chance for passage in the Democratic Senate. It was seized upon by liberals as a partisan document. In the words of liberal Nobel economist Paul Krugman:

As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out, to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That’s a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close?

None. Not one. He has, however, categorically ruled out any move to close the major loophole that benefits the rich, namely the ultra-low tax rates on income from capital.


[H]as any major political figure ever premised his entire fiscal platform not just on totally implausible spending projections but on claims that he has a secret plan to raise trillions of dollars in revenue, a plan that he refuses to share with the public?

Romney endorsed that budget proposal.

Ryan voted for the Iraq War, for No Child Left Behind, for the Patriot Act. It could be argued that each of these votes represent expanded government, not small government. Certainly, they each expanded spending, much of it hidden from view (secret spending is the military’s stock in trade) and a fair share of that spending was off-loaded to the states in the form of unfunded mandates.

Which Ryan will grace Romney’s ticket?

Saturday, 9:00 pm: edited to clarify that Ryan received Social Security Survivor benefits only until age 18. Added data on tuition costs to provide financial context.

Comments | More in National | Topics: GOP, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan


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