Paul Ryan, Deficits, and Smaller Government

September 10, 2012

NPR notes on Sunday that Rep. Paul Ryan’s voting record in Congress calls into question his image as a deficit hawk. But they emphasize Alice Rivlin’s explanation:

I think you have to distinguish deficit hawk from small-government conservative. I think of him as a man committed to a smaller government that has less of a role in people’s lives. He really believes that: that the government does too much. And he thinks taxes should be less.

Rivlin and Douglas Holtz-Eakin are correct to distinguish between mere deficit hawks and philosophical advocates of smaller government. But it’s not clear that Ryan’s voting record supports that theory either:

FOR the No Child Left Behind Act (2001)
FOR the Iraq war (2002)
FOR the Medicare prescription drug entitlement (2003)
FOR Head Start reauthorization (2007)
FOR Economic Stimulus Act (January 2008)
FOR extending unemployment benefits (2008)
FOR TARP (2008)
FOR GM/Chrysler bailout (2008)
FOR $192 billion anti-recession spending bill (2009)

To be sure, Ryan speaks eloquently about smaller government. And he certainly supports smaller government — at least in terms of federal spending on non-military programs — than President Obama and Vice President Biden, who never met a government spending program they didn’t love. And of course we know that members of Congress tend to support the positions of their party. But he still needs to work to get his actions in line with his rhetoric.


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