Today, we’re begin­ning a new series on The Advo­cate called Flash­back to the Bush Error that will fea­ture new install­ments on Fri­days each week through Elec­tion Day. The pur­pose of this series is to doc­u­ment and explore Paul Ryan and Mitt Rom­ney’s sup­port for the failed poli­cies of George W. Bush dur­ing the eight years that Bush was in pow­er (Jan­u­ary 2001 — Jan­u­ary 2009).

Philoso­pher George San­tayana once reflect­ed that those who can­not remem­ber the past are con­demned to repeat it. Giv­en how short our atten­tion spans seem to be these days, we think it’s worth remem­ber­ing what hap­pened to our coun­try pri­or to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s acces­sion to pow­er in the his­toric pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 2008.

Our hope is that this series helps illus­trate dif­fer­ences between the cam­paign plat­forms of Barack Obama/Joe Biden and Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan, which are quite stark. The tra­di­tion­al media spends way too much ink, air­time, and pix­els doing horse-race style polit­i­cal cov­er­age (who’s win­ning, who’s los­ing). We’re going to do our best to steer the con­ver­sa­tion in a dif­fer­ent direction.

In this first install­ment, we’ll be delv­ing into Paul Ryan’s record on fis­cal matters.

Ryan and his admir­ers have long por­trayed him as a prin­ci­pled man who is very con­cerned about our abil­i­ty to “live with­in our means”, which is a favorite max­im of con­ser­v­a­tives. In real­i­ty, Ryan deserves a healthy per­cent­age of the blame for the mess that we’re in as a coun­try. Let’s begin with some context.

Paul Ryan was first elect­ed to the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 1998, dur­ing the sec­ond midterm elec­tions of Bill Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­cy. (That was the same year Jay Inslee returned to Con­gress in Wash­ing­ton State).

At the time he was sworn in, he was the sec­ond youngest mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. It was­n’t long before House Repub­li­can lead­er­ship assigned him to the Com­mit­tee on Ways and Means.

As I allud­ed to above, in 2001, Ryan was an enthu­si­as­tic sup­port­er of George W. Bush’s pro­pos­al to slash fed­er­al income tax­es, espe­cial­ly for the wealthy. In debates on the House floor, he stuck to his assigned talk­ing points when giv­en an oppor­tu­ni­ty to weigh in on the mer­its (or lack there­of) of the tax cuts:

Mr. Speak­er, I thank the chair­man for yield­ing me this time. I have been lis­ten­ing to this debate with a lot of won­der. I am a new­er mem­ber to the com­mit­tee and a new­er Mem­ber to Con­gress. It is amaz­ing to me the excus­es we are hear­ing to fur­ther sep­a­rate peo­ple from their own mon­ey. We hear that this tax cut is just too big, it is irre­spon­si­ble, we can­not han­dle it. I refer Mem­bers to this chart which shows that this is six cents on the dol­lar, six cents on the dol­lar that every Amer­i­can tax­pay­er is send­ing to Wash­ing­ton over the next ten years. $1.6 tril­lion out of $28 trillion.

Paul Ryan, March 8th, 2001 (Source: Con­gres­sion­al Record)

Two months lat­er, Ryan again urged pas­sage of the Eco­nom­ic Growth and Tax Relief Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Act of 2001, claim­ing it would lead to broad­er prosperity:

We are pay­ing down the nation­al debt as fast as we can. And even after doing all of those things, you are still over­pay­ing your tax­es. What we are sim­ply say­ing is rather than take your mon­ey and find new ways to spend it for you here in Wash­ing­ton, we want to give it back to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, put the mon­ey back into their pay­checks as they over­pay their tax­es, and revive this engine of eco­nom­ic growth, small busi­ness­es and entre­pre­neurs, and prey on peo­ple’s hopes and dreams and aspi­ra­tions. That is what this all about.

Paul Ryan, May 16th, 2001 (Source: Con­gres­sion­al Record)

Of course, by the end of the Bush years, the nation­al debt had sky­rock­et­ed as a result of years of deficit spend­ing, job loss­es were mount­ing by the month, and income inequal­i­ty had reached a dis­turb­ing new high.

Tax cuts, wars account for nearly half of public debt by 2019
Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­i­cy Pri­or­i­ties chart show­ing that the Bush tax cuts and Bush-ini­ti­at­ed occu­pa­tions of Iraq and Afghanistan have con­tributed most sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the nation­al debt.

Ryan was not the only one claim­ing that the Bush tax cuts would do won­ders for the economy.

The con­ser­v­a­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion went so far as to explic­it­ly pre­dict that pas­sage of the Bush tax cuts would “effec­tive­ly” result in the elim­i­na­tion of the nation­al debt by 2010. Repub­li­cans promised the the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States that slash­ing tax­es would be the great­est pos­si­ble thing for the econ­o­my and was a fis­cal­ly sen­si­ble course of action.

They were dead wrong then, and they’re dead wrong now.

Paul Ryan and Mitt Rom­ney want to return us to the Bush error. They’ve tried to avoid sound­ing like apol­o­gists for Bush on the cam­paign trail, because they don’t want to be asso­ci­at­ed with one of the most unpop­u­lar pres­i­dents in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. But the real­i­ty is, they want to pick up where Dubya left off. They want to return us to the same failed poli­cies that wrecked our econ­o­my and cost us our moral author­i­ty around the world. We can’t afford that.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “Flashback to the Bush Error: In 2001, Paul Ryan defended budget-busting tax cuts”

  1. Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote 44444MoreeeeYearssssss.…

  2. Well said, sir. We haven’t cleaned up the mess from the last ele­phant we let in our house. No way, do we want anoth­er ele­phant foul­ing our entire coun­try again. Vote or get trampled!

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