Paul Ryan’s John Kerry Problem

Being against spending is all the rage. Except for Paul Krugman, but he couldn’t reason his way out of a paper bag at this point. Here at WaCK, we were against excessive spending before it was popular.

Over at Cato, OG Spending Hawk David Boaz has two posts calling out this new wave of budgetary poseurs. Boaz throws mud at members of both parties, but that’s just fair. When government spending soars to new heights, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

And [New Hampshire Democratic] Representative Hodes is calling for a $3 billion spending cut. Sounds big, eh? Front-page news indeed. But of course, it’s less than 0.1 percent of the 2011 federal budget — and that’s assuming that all these cuts would come out of this year’s budget. Hodes’s press release doesn’t make that clear; they might be cuts over 5 years or so. And his very next press release said he was fighting for federal funds for local New Hampshire services.

But it’s not like high-profile republicans have any kind of fiscally moral high ground:

“Three top Republican House members have written a book that repeatedly criticizes former GOP leaders as well as President Obama,” reports the Washington Post. “In ‘Young Guns,’ scheduled for release Sept. 14, Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) cast the Republican congressional leaders who preceded them as a group that “betrayed its principles” and was plagued by ‘failures from high-profile ethics lapses to the inability to rein in spending or even slow the growth of government.’”

In this case, I’m sorry to discover that Reps. Cantor and Ryan both voted for the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, expanding federal control over education. They both voted for the costly Iraq war in 2002. They both voted for the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act in 2003, which was projected to add more than $700 billion to Medicare costs over the following decade. They both voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which included the $700 billion TARP bailout. (Rep. McCarthy, who joined the House in 2007, voted against TARP.)

To be fair, all three of the authors get A’s and B’s in the annual ratings of Congress by the National Taxpayers Union, which means they have better records on spending than most of their colleagues. But I’ll be curious to see if the book admits that any of the near-trillion-dollar votes discussed above were mistakes — not just by the departed Bush, Hastert, and DeLay but by many Republican members of Congress.

It’s unlikely that Ryan, the old-time-fiscal-religion poster boy, will let this book become his “I was for it before I was against it” moment. But give me a break. Krugman may be flat wrong, but at least he has the courage of his convictions.

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