Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan may slam President Obama’s stimulus package as a “monstrosity” today, but he wasn’t always such a vocal opponent of deficit spending.
MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” has unearthed a clip of Ryan back in 2002, pushing for a stimulus package under the Bush administration. While Ryan argued against temporary payroll tax cuts in June by saying “I’m not a Keynesian, so I don’t think sugar-high economics works,” his case for a stimulus package in 2002 would make Keynes proud:
“We have a lot of laid off workers and more layoffs are occurring, and we know, as a historical fact, that even if our economy begins to slowly recover, that unemployment will longer on and on well after the recovery takes place. What we have been trying to do, first in October, then in December, is to try to get people back to work. The things we are trying to pass in this bill are the time-tested, bipartisan solutions to get businesses to stop laying off people, to hire people back, and to help those people who have lost their jobs. It’s more than just giving someone an unemployment check: It’s also helping those people with their health insurance while they’ve lost their jobs, and more important than just that unemployment check, is to do what we can to give people a paycheck. We’ve got to get their engine of economic growth growing again, because we now know, because of the recession, we don’t have the revenues we need to fix Medicare, to fix Social Security. To fix these issues we’ve got to get Americans back to work—then the surpluses come back, then the jobs come back. That is the constructive answer we are trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan bill. I urge members to drop the demagoguery and to pass this bill to help us work together to get the American people back to work and help those people who’ve lost their jobs.
As hypocritical as Ryan’s posture in 2002 appears, commentators like Suzy Khimm of The Washington Post have argued that it actually gels with his current political ideology.
“The Bush stimulus was distinct from Obama’s not only because it was far smaller, but also because it focused predominantly on tax cuts for businesses, as opposed to aid for states and ordinary households,” Khimm wrote.
More problematic is Ryan’s denial that he requested stimulus funds, despite the fact he “sent letters —with his signature—to the Energy Department and Labor Department asking for millions of the program’s dollars on behalf of two companies in Wisconsin.”