One of the most remarkable moments of last night's fiscal cliff vote was former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's vote to pass the bill.
Nearly every Republican in the House shares the same views as Paul Ryan, but Ryan is the author of the Ryan Budget. A budget that House Republicans voted to pass several times over the past two years. The budget Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan ran on, and lost on, during the 2012 election. And in a one to one comparison between the Ryan Budget, and the bill which passed last night, there is no comparison.
The Ryan Budget derives nearly all of its phantom revenue through slight of hand, magic asterisks, and osmosis. The bill that passed last night, the American Taxpayer Relief Act (HR8) includes hard numbers and tangible ends. It's the antithesis of the Ryan Budget.
How could the bold and very serious Paul Ryan, the GOP's "ideas guy," and father of the Ryan Budget, vote "yes" for such an abomination? How could a man who repeated the phrase "revenue neutral" countless times over the last two years vote for a bill with a cuts to revenue ratio of 1 to 41?
Here's how he explains it
“We’ll never get our debt under control unless we tackle its main drivers: too little economic growth and too much spending. Without presidential leadership, it will be difficult to forge bipartisan solutions to our debt and economic challenges.
“Today, I joined my colleagues in the House to protect as many Americans as possible from a tax increase. We also provided certainty by making the lower tax rates permanent. The House has already passed legislation to prevent tax increases for every American family, and it is unfortunate that President Obama insisted on taking more from hardworking taxpayers. Despite my concerns with other provisions in the bill, I commend my colleagues for limiting the damage as much as possible.
“The American people chose divided government. As elected officials, we have a duty to apply our principles to the realities of governing. And we must exercise prudence. We must weigh the benefits and the costs of action—and of inaction. In H.R. 8, there are clearly provisions that I oppose. But the question remains: Will the American people be better off if this law passes relative to the alternative? In the final analysis, the answer is undoubtedly yes. I came to Congress to make tough decisions—not to run away from them.
“Now, we must return our attention to the real problem: out-of-control spending. Washington’s reckless spending drives the debt. And this debt is hurting the economy today. Unless we get at the heart of the problem, Americans will face a debt crisis—one that will threaten our most vulnerable in particular. It is our responsibility to prevent such a crisis.”
The American Taxpayer Relief Act passed by a comfortable margin of 257 to 167, meaning the bill's passage did not hinge on his vote and there was nothing forcing him to vote in favor of it other than, perhaps, his conscience. But given his relentless desire to voucherize Medicare and block-grant Medicaid, or even his votes to redefine "forcible rape," defund Planned Parenthood, and his support for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman, is there any proof that he even has one?
Ryan loaded his statement with charges that President Obama failed to lead, that his colleagues deserve credit for "limiting the damage," and that it's time to turn their attention to "out of control spending," all of which are erroneous claims, but this thin gloss isn't enough to hide the fact that his vote in favor of the bill represents a wholesale abandonment of his entire stated philosophy.
That's not to say he won't continue selling the gospel of Trickle Down Economics, but he has clearly demonstrated, last night and in the past, that he is not willing to put his money where his rhetoric is.
Paul Ryan voted to put the Iraq war on the national credit card, he voted for Medicare part D, he voted for TARP, he voted for the deficit-bursting Bush Tax Cuts, he personally requested stimulus funds, he voted to raise the debt ceiling multiple times, and he voted to bail out the automakers. He voted for the literal "bridge to nowhere." And last night he voted for a bill that contains 41 dollars in revenue for every 1 dollar in cuts.
If Ryan really wants to tackle "out of control spending" he should consider resigning, because he has voted for virtually every single policy that increased the deficit since he has been in office.
Paul Ryan is a big spending social conservative and nothing else. A fake.
I'll leave the rest to Charles Pierce
For all his Randian rhetoric, and the endless head-fakes he makes in the general direction of Opportunity For All — Pro Tip, Paul. For a head fake to work, sooner or later, you have to take a shot. — Ryan is fundamentally a creature of the high-end businessmen who finance his party. This is occasionally obscured by that rhetoric, and those head fakes, but his primary constituencies always have been the guys in nice suits sitting in a boardroom, and not the people in tricorns waving muskets outside the strip malls in Florida. He sold the latter out on TARP. He drove Rand Paul around the bend — admittedly, a soft 9-iron rather than an actual drive — by backing Boehner's purge of Tea Party congresscritters from their committee positions. And he got heckled from his right throughout the campaign because he signed on to the sequestration deal. The one thing consistent in all these positions is that none of them would cost him very much of the support he gained from the people who have been paying for his $700 bottles of wine.
Ryan's true loyalties are also obscured by the fact that the corporate class has become just as radicalized as the people at the strip mall. It just isn't as nihilistic. It wants radical conservative policies, but it also has more than vested interest in not seeing the entire system, which they spent so much time and effort and money in purchasing, crash and burn.