by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan makes his way to Raleigh today, you might be interested to read what the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner has to say this morning at National Review Online about Ryan’s record.
Tanner questions the assertion from left-of-center partisans that Ryan is a right-wing ideologue.
It’s impossible to deny that there has been an ideological component to Ryan’s career in Washington. He has been an articulate spokesman for the idea of smaller, less costly government, and he is perhaps Congress’s best-known advocate of entitlement reform. There is no doubt that in his heart he prefers markets to government control.
But any effort to paint him as an inflexible ideologue runs up against his demonstrable tendency toward pragmatism.
Throughout his time in Washington, Ryan has been the classic “half a loaf” type of conservative. Time and again, he has shown that he is willing to compromise and take far less than he had originally sought, as long as he is moving incrementally in the direction he wants to go. You won’t find Ryan on the short end of any 434-to-1 votes.
Take, for example, the infamous “Ryan budget.” Yes, it cuts spending and reforms Medicare — though not Social Security — but it was far from the most fiscally conservative budget offered by Republicans this year. Just compare Ryan’s budget with the one proposed by Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky). Ryan’s budget takes 30 years to reach balance. Paul’s would have balanced the budget in five years. Ryan would cut government spending by $4.1 trillion over ten years. Paul would have cut spending an additional $4 trillion over that period. Ryan’s budget didn’t touch Social Security. Paul’s would have raised Social Security’s retirement age and means-tested the program. Now, that is a fiscally conservative budget.
In fact, Senators Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) also offered budget proposals that cut spending more than Ryan’s budget did. Ryan was willing to push the envelope on spending cuts, but only as far as he could while still getting the votes of moderate as well as conservative Republicans. Yes, his budget is conservative, but it is hardly radical.