1.17.2009

Paul Ryan's Against Big Government?

Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan co-authored a piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal warning of a tipping point into an irreversible big government paradigm.

The piece proceeds to focus on stopping further socialization of healthcare - calling the issue a beachhead that conservatives must rally around in coming days of the Obama administration.

I agree with much of the substance of the piece. It's primarily warnings against permitting full-blown European-style corporatism to become the norm in America. The authors also makes some important concessions to strengthen their points. Still, I can't help but wonder...

How am I supposed to read this without laughing?

If Paul Ryan wanted to stand athwart the rail line in front of the Obama Express and yell stop, then perhaps he should have bucked up and voted against multiple rounds of bailouts back in the fall.

Instead, unfortunately, he voted for the initial bailout bill that failed in the House. He then voted for the version that ultimately passed into law. He also voted in favor of the auto bailout. That's not convincing leadership on warding off government influence and growth when the chips are actually down. That's not how one builds a dais from which to call out against overweening government to the crowd.

I understand Paul Ryan's district contains a GM plant that is tied directly and indirectly to the livelihoods of many in his district. But it's not as if the writing hasn't been on the wall for years.

I also understand that there are distinctions to be drawn between the financial sector bailout, the auto bailout, a general stimulus under Obama, and socialized healthcare.

However, I think many of Ryan's justifications in the column for opposing an all-out welfare state should have led him to oppose the earlier government bailouts he supported:

Nonetheless, the consequences of this undertaking are enormous. Not only has the size of the expenditures been staggering -- there is talk of another stimulus package worth an estimated $825 billion -- but we are witnessing a fundamental transformation of government's relationship with the polity and the economy.

The last several months are a foreshadowing of a new era of government activism, rather than an unfortunate but necessary (and anomalous) emergency action. We will soon shift from a market-based economy to a political one in which the government picks winners and losers and extends its reach and power in unprecedented ways.

Yes, so we are. And unfortunately, Paul Ryan, despite your record before September 2008, you've helped far too much to make that shift possible.