Paul Ryan, The Fake Deficit Warrior and Slayer of Medicare, is Retiring

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The day that some of us have been waiting for since at least 2010 has finally arrived.

Speaker of the House and former House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is retiring at the end of his current term.

From Politico:

Speaker Paul Ryan will tell his House Republican colleagues Wednesday morning that he will not seek another term in Congress, ending what will be a three-year run as the Republican leader and creating a power vacuum in the Republican ranks heading into a difficult midterm election.

The news will set off a mad dash in the House Republican Conference. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) are both eyeing the top spot. Though Scalise is almost certain to defer to McCarthy, all eyes will be on Trump. He has a close relationship with McCarthy, and his endorsement of the Californian could be crucial.

I've been thinking about Ryan's demise for so long it's hard to know where to begin, but we can start with his tenure as the Budget Committee Chairman.

Ryan first introduced his "Path to Prosperity" budget blueprint, which we've lovingly referred to as his "Path to Poverty," when he was the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in 2010 while Democrats still controlled it. That blueprint called for privatizing Medicare by converting it into a voucher or coupon system, it called for cutting Medicaid by a trillion dollars and converting the program into a block-grant system, and it called for other cuts to discretionary spending and a massive dose of tax cuts for the rich.

When Republicans first took control of the House of Representatives in 2011 on the back of the Tea Party, Ryan became the chairman of the Budget Committee and the rest is history. Republicans have been wed to his vision for the past seven years and they've never deviated from it.

Their adherence to Paul Ryan's vision is a major reason why Republicans don't have much to show for themselves after controlling at least part or all of Congress for nearly a decade. Paul Ryan's ideas have always been deeply unpopular with the public, but his ideas still formed the base of the GOP's annual budget resolutions that dictated what their appropriations bills would look like. This process led to appropriations bills that were also deeply unpopular and politically unacceptable. Republicans repeated this process until, eventually, they completely gave up on ever completing the appropriations process again. Republicans have not completed the process since Ryan became the Speaker.

We actually had an entire election in 2012 that served as a referendum on Ryan's budget, but congressional Republicans did not abandon it even then and you might say it became even worse from that point forward.

Ryan would later add provisions to his blueprint that called for asking the poor to sign contracts in exchange for access to social assistance programs; contracts that called on the poor to network with rich people, become sober, and seek counseling among many other insulting things.

The most you could say for Paul Ryan is that he was finally able to pass his tax cuts for the rich by a razor-thin margin once Republicans finally gained complete control of the government. But that's all they've done and it could be the last thing they do while they're still in the driver's seat.

Paul Ryan has always cast himself as a deficit warrior, and a significant portion of the political press has been more than happy to play along with him, but he will leave behind a trillion dollar deficit when he retires in January.

Ryan was first elected in 1998 when the policies of the Clinton administration generated a budget surplus, but in the following years Ryan voted for the policies of the Bush administration that obliterated the surplus and generated a budget deficit. Ryan voted for the Bush tax cuts. He voted for Medicare Part D. He voted for our wars. He voted for the bailouts made necessary by the 2008 financial crisis. Ryan has never voted against an increase in defense spending and, during his retirement announcement this morning, he boasted that he has directed hundreds of billions in more spending toward the Pentagon.

Ryan did not develop a fetish for deficit reduction until President Obama was elected and he abandoned it as soon as President Obama left office 8 years later.

It remains to be seen what kind of fiscal philosophy Republicans will adopt when Ryan is gone, but I don't expect it will be significantly different. Ryan's potential successors are the kind of men who thought Ryan was too soft, but they could still find themselves in the same position Ryan and former Speaker John Boehner were both in.

Ironically, Ryan's successor would benefit from losing control of the House because, in that case, he or she would not be asked to deliver the votes to keep the government running. Ryan's successor could safely sit on the sidelines and throw rhetorical bombs while they're relieved of actual responsibility.

  • Badgerite

    Lawrence O’Donnell has a pretty good take on Ryan. Cowardice and subservience. Abandoning the GOP in his district to a proclaimed neo Nazi. Because, as one person tweeted, “He wants to spend less time with the trump family.”
    Don’t we all.

    • Qahir Makhani

      Just make sure you give him the death penalty and apply it in front of his wife and kids. Also seize EVERY penny they have and force them to live broke. It’s what he is doing to god knows how many people – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander

      • Badgerite

        No thank you. I will settle for the proper penalties under the law which is jail.
        Probably ‘country club’ jail, but jail nonetheless. And you’re a troll.
        Looking to make what I said something it was clearly not. Rabid, like you.

        • Qahir Makhani

          Today’s GOP are worse than the Nazis.

          • Badgerite

            No. That’s not true. Not even close. But I don’t like anyone in this country even making noises like they could get along with Nazis.
            You can’t be an American and get along with Nazis. Period.

          • Qahir Makhani

            You don’t want to see it. The republicans are worse than Nazis and unlike the 1940s, America is the enemy of freedom .

          • Badgerite

            Uh. Yeah. Goodbye.

  • Scopedog

    I’m gonna miss putting this up:

    …But I won’t miss that sanctimonious asshole. Good fucking riddance.

    • muselet

      Hey, you can still use it for Ryan Zinke.


  • Badgerite

    Repeal and replace the GOP. Works for me.

    • Qahir Makhani

      Voting them out doesn’t make the world a safer place. Remember that if trump isn’t above the law, neither are members of congress .
      You need to indict EVERY republican with RICO charges AND subject them to asset forfeiture at the very least. Given that most are complicit in Treason, the death penalty should be applied to the leaders. Or as their dear leader says, “take out their families”

      • Badgerite

        No. Troll. Go spew your crap somewhere else.

  • Ellen Kuhlmann

    Ryan is a coward -leaving just as the ship has begun to shrink, and the chickens will be coming home to roost.

  • muselet

    Charlie Pierce is happy to see the back of Paul “Biggest. Fake. Ever.” Ryan. He’s also looking forward with some gleeful anticipation:

    And where are we now, back in Wisconsin 01? There’s a spirited Democratic primary between ironworker Randy (Iron Stache) Bryce and Cathy Myers, a member of the school board in Janesville. The only announced Republican candidate is….wait for it…a crazy-assed white supremacist named Paul Nehlen, whom Ryan crushed in a primary two years ago, and who made the news recently by being suspended by Twitter for a racist post about Megan Markle.

    Charming fellow, Nehlen. The GOP deserves him, even if the nation does not.

    As for Ryan, well, the official explanation is that his father died when he was a teenager, and now he wants to spend more time with his own children. Which is a heartwarming tale, only slightly spoiled by the fact that he’s been scurrying around the country lately, soliciting campaign contributions for R candidates and generally staying away from Janesville.

    I think it’s fair to say Paul Ryan figured his principal reason for being in the House was done—he finally got tax deform legislation done, though he didn’t manage to destroy the social safety net—and didn’t look forward to doing a stint as Minority Leader (or, perhaps worse, as Speaker with a reduced majority).

    Charlie Pierce again:

    As a longtime connoisseur of Ryan’s public fakery, I may never decide what about him I find the most nauseating—the retrograde policies that he gussies up as concern for the poor and downtrodden, or the wet-eyed phony sincerity with which he sells them.

    I vote both.


  • David Greenberg

    Paul Ryan is the perfect example of the danger of dressing up dumb to be “wonkish”. In the upside down world of the gop his tenure will be hailed as a success, but his whole persona has been hypocritically fraudulent-read any Paul Krugman article discussing Ryan. In the end he has been either stupid or evil or both. Fortunately, he accomplished very little.

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  • gescove

    Good riddance to this stain. May the door hit him hard on the ass on his way out.