Since the 2008 elections, Congressman Paul Ryan, representing Wisconsin’s first district, has risen to the national scene as the poster boy for the conservative brand of the Republican Party, specifically on fiscal and economic issues. He is a frequent guest of political pundits, often warning of the country’s poor fiscal health. Well-known neo-conservative Bill Kristol touted Ryan as a solution to the GOP’s current lackluster presidential field.
Since the collapse of the financial system, fiscal and economic issues have dominated political discourse. The 2010 elections became a referendum against a large number of republicans who were associated with the GOP’s massive expansion of government during the disastrous Bush years, and many no longer hold political office. Somehow, Congressman Ryan, who contributed to the growth of government during those years, not only managed to remain unscathed from the political cleansing; he has emerged as a hero of the Republican Party.
To Ryan’s credit, he has recently put forth some serious plans to reform entitlement spending and reign in the scope and size of the federal government. Furthermore, he admits that Washington’s spending is a bipartisan issue. Despite this, a close examination of Ryan’s voting record, specifically through the Bush years tell a different story. At a time when the Republican Party was in dire need of leader, Ryan essentially voted lockstep with the Republican Party. Paul supported Sarbanes Oxley, Medicare Prescription Part D, The Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, Auto Bailouts, and the Bank Bailouts. All of the bills have significantly contributed to the current skepticism of establishment Republicans. For someone who consistently speaks of the power of free markets, limited government and has mentioned Ayn Rand as a having major influence on his public policy philosophy, I cannot imagine how the congressman could possibly justify any of these votes as they all are the antithesis to the limited government philosophy. More importantly at a time when the GOP was desperately in need of a voice willing to stand up to a party that completely abandoned its principles, Congressman Ryan was nowhere to be found.
Recently, Ryan’s voting record has been more reflective of someone who believes in limited government, but it has been much easier for him given the fact that there is a democrat in the oval office. Ryan’s troubling voting record has been pointed out on several occasions in the past, but with the impending elections in November there is the chance that the Republicans will be in control come next year. If Mitt Romney, who is increasingly likely to be the nominee, becomes president how will Ryan act? Romney is not exactly the first person that comes to mind when one thinks of a limited government champion. Will Ryan have the courage to stand up to the authorities if they abandon their principles; or will he act as a “team player”, the term Rick Santorum used to defend his poor voting record? It seems Ryan’s votes come from the direction of the prevailing political winds. For those of us who cherish the concepts of individual liberty, sound money, limited government, and free markets let us hope the prevailing wind comes from our direction.
About the Author: Joseph works in the banking industry in Milwaukee. He is interested in political philosophy.