Last week Congressman Paul Ryan was caught lying about the fact that after he voted against the stimulus bill he requested at least $25 million in stimulus funding for his district. Now, via Huffington Post, we learn that in 2002 he was a strong advocate of Republican efforts to pass George Bush’s stimulus bills:
“What we’re trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and help the unemployed,” Ryan said, in comments unearthed by MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” and provided to HuffPost. “What we’re trying to accomplish is to pass the kinds of legislation that when they’ve passed in the past have grown the economy and gotten people back to work … In recessions unemployment lags on well after a recovery has taken place,” Ryan accurately noted in 2002…
“We’ve got to get the engine of economic growth growing again because we now know, because of recession, we don’t have the revenues that we wanted to, 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’re trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan basis. 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,” Ryan said…
“We have a lot of laid off workers, and more layoffs are occurring,” the congressman continued. “And we know, as a historical fact, that even if our economy begins to slowly recover, unemployment is going to linger on and on well after that recovery takes place. What we have been trying to do starting in October and into December and now is to try and get people back to work. The things we’re trying to pass in this bill are the time-tested, proven, bipartisan solutions to get businesses to stop laying off people, to hire people back, and to help those people who have lost their jobs.”
While Obama has been in office, Ryan has voted against extending unemployment benefits and against helping laid-off workers pay for health insurance by subsidizing COBRA payments.
Such actions are difficult to square with 2002′s Paul Ryan.
“It’s more than just giving someone an unemployment check,” he said then. “It’s also helping those people with their health insurance while they’ve lost their jobs and more important than just that unemployment check, it’s to do what we can to give people a paycheck.”
Update: Here is some of the reporting by Sal Gentile at the “Up With Chris Hayes” show that MSNBC posted just now along with the video above:
Ryan’s advocacy of stimulus spending wasn’t limited to Washington, either. When he returned home to face constituents, he used similar language to make the case for the Bush stimulus bill. “You have to spend a little to grow a little,” Ryan told constituents at a town hall in Wisconsin in January 2002, according to the Journal-Times, a local newspaper. “What we’re trying to do is stimulate that part of the economy that’s on its back.”
And as New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait pointed out this morning, Ryan made the case for Keynesian stimulus in the form of income tax cuts in 2001, arguing for tax cuts that were “fast, deeper, retroactive to January 1st, to make sure we get a good punch into the economy, juice the economy to make sure that we can avoid a hard landing.”
Republicans have also repeatedly mocked calls by congressional Democrats to include renewed economic stimulus spending, such as a payroll tax holiday, as part of plans to reduce the deficit. Democrats have argued that short-term stimulus spending would help produce long-term revenue by boosting economic growth. Ryan has criticized that thinking, but in his 2002 remarks, he made exactly the same case: that short-term stimulus spending would produce budget surpluses.
Jonathan Chait found this back and forth from Ryan during a congressional hearing during George Bush’s first term:
Here’s a great exchange at a 2001 hearing in Congress between Paul Ryan, AEI economist Kevin Hassett, and Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Mr. GREENSTEIN. If I could just comment on it. As I have said before, I think the economic benefits are being overstated. The economy has slowed right now. I don’t see how, particularly given the pace of the Senate, the checks are going to go out much before next summer. The CBO forecast you are operating on shows that by 2002 we have a full scale recovery from the recession.
I think we do have a problem right now, and our best mechanism right now is interest rates. I hope the Federal Reserve lowers them further. I think that is going to have a much bigger effect than anything you do on taxes because I don’t think — it is not that tax policy can’t have a stimulative effect. It is very unlikely even this year to occur in time to make much difference.
Dr. HASSETT. I would just like to add, Mr. Ryan, that the economists who studied this were quite surprised to find that fiscal policy in recessions was reasonably effective. It is just that folks tried a first punch that was too light and that generally we didn’t get big measures until well into the recession. So the reason that in the past fiscal policy hasn’t pushed us out of recession is that we delayed.
So I think that Mr. Greenstein agrees, and he is saying it is not likely that we would pass it soon but I would argue this is why we should.
Mr. RYAN. That is precisely my point. That is why I like my porridge hot. I think we ought to have this income tax cut fast, deeper, retroactive to January 1st, to make sure we get a good punch into the economy, juice the economy to make sure that we can avoid a hard landing.
The concern I have around here is that everybody is talking about let’s wait and see, let’s see if they materialize. Well, $1.5 trillion have already materialized in the surplus since then-Governor Bush proposed this tax cut in the first place. The economy has soured. The growth of the projections of the surpluses are higher. So we have waited and we do see, and it is my concern that if we keep waiting and seeing we won’t give the economy the boost it needs right now.
Greenstein is taking the sensible position that the 2001 recession seems mild enough that Keynesian tax cuts will not be needed — by the time their stimulative effect kicks in, the economy should be growing again. Hassett, the conservative, replies that Keynesian fiscal policy during recessions works, and the only problem is that it’s usually too small. And Ryan agrees!
The bottom line: What this underscores is what many people suspected at the time — that at the height of the 2008 Bush recession, Republicans like Paul Ryan were putting their political objective of making Pres. Obama a one-term president ahead of their duty to protect the interests of their constituents back home. They deliberately obstructed efforts that would have saved their own constituents’ jobs and kept their homes out of foreclosure — all for the goal, it turns out, of making Mitt Romney the next president of the United States.