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Rep. Ryan’s Undeserved Reputation for Fiscal Responsibility

His Votes in Congress Added $6.8 Trillion to Our Nation’s Federal Deficits

SOURCE: AP/ J. Scott Applewhite

After properly accounting for Rep. Ryan’s tax cuts, his budget plan would never come close to balancing, and would add trillions more in debt.

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See the list of Rep. Ryan’s deficit-increasing votes

The reputation of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as a fiscal hawk is at odds with his record of supporting nearly every single budget-busting law of the past decade. Since 2001 he has voted for at least 65 separate pieces of deficit- and debt-increasing legislation, with the total tab for all those votes a whopping $6.8 trillion in cumulative deficits.

Rep. Ryan has served as a member of the House of Representatives since 1998. That year the budget was in surplus and stayed that way for the next three years. But with the start of the George W. Bush administration came the return of the red ink. In January 2001, before any Bush administration policies had been passed, the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, was projecting budget surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion over following decade. Instead, we got cumulative deficits totaling $6.1 trillion, an $11.7 trillion difference. CBO estimates that laws passed by Congress and signed by Presidents Bush and Barack Obama are responsible for $8.5 trillion of that difference. Rep. Ryan cast his vote for about 80 percent of that $8.5 trillion.

Indeed, during the period when the bulk of the deficit-increasing legislation was passed during the Bush administration Rep. Ryan’s record as a fiscal hawk is even more dismal. From 2001 to 2008, Congress passed and President Bush signed legislation that increased the deficit (just in that period) by a cumulative $4 trillion (policies passed during those years added over $6 trillion to the deficits through 2011). Rep. Ryan voted for well over 90 percent of that. (see figure 1).

Those debt-increasing votes began with the first round of Bush tax cuts—estimated at the time to reduce the projected surplus by nearly $1.3 trillion—and continued with every subsequent round of tax cuts. In total, since 2001 Rep. Ryan voted for over $2.5 trillion worth of deficit-financed tax cuts.

Rep. Ryan also voted, repeatedly, to increase federal spending without paying for it. Most notably, he voted in support of every single defense spending bill over the past 11 years. These votes, on both the regular defense appropriations bills and on a series of “emergency supplementals,” have added nearly $1.9 trillion to the deficit since 2001.

Rep. Ryan also voted numerous times to increase nondefense spending. Of course, the most well-known of these votes was on Medicare Part D, which added over $270 billion in unpaid-for spending. But there are many lesser-known examples. In 2002 he voted for an agriculture bill that added $80 billion to the deficit. He voted for changes to military retirement in 2003 that cost $20 billion in added spending. And he voted for increased borrowing authority for flood insurance that increased federal spending by $17 billion.

Rep. Ryan also voted in favor of many of the annual appropriations bills that authorized spending increases for “nondefense discretionary programs.” To be sure, Rep. Ryan occasionally voted against a handful of these, but the net effect of all of his votes was to increase nondefense spending by $1.3 trillion.

All told, Rep. Ryan voted in favor of increasing federal spending by $3.2 trillion—all without offsetting the costs. Combined with his support for $2.4 trillion in tax cuts, Ryan’s votes contributed to adding trillions of dollars to the national debt, which itself led to more spending as the interest payments on that debt grew. Put it all together, and Rep. Ryan voted for over $6.8 trillion worth of cumulative deficits over the past 11 years.

Given his voting history, how is that Rep. Ryan has come to be known as a paragon of fiscal virtue? Some of it has to do with the budget proposals he has put forward as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Those proposals appear to significantly reduce our future deficits, which has led some observers to overlook the congressman’s record. But with a closer look, it becomes clear that even those claims of deficit reduction are built on a fragile foundation.

In his budget Rep. Ryan calls for another round of specific tax cuts, lowering the top income tax rate and lowering the corporate tax rate chief among them. The Tax Policy Center has estimated these proposed tax policies would cost nearly $4.5 trillion over the next 10 years, reducing total federal revenue to an average of just 15.5 percent of gross domestic product (the broadest measure of total economic activity). But if you look at his budget numbers, Rep. Ryan says his proposals will raise around 18.3 percent of GDP. Rep. Ryan insists that he will make up for the lost revenue by closing tax loopholes, but he has thus far declined to say how, exactly, his numbers add up. (see Figure 2)

Since Rep. Ryan’s revenue numbers don’t add up, neither do his deficit numbers. Rep. Ryan’s claim of deficit reduction is entirely dependent on his stated revenue levels. After all, unless you offset the costs somewhere, less revenue means more deficits. And once you adjust his numbers to account for the actual policies that he has proposed, the deficit reduction vanishes—and in its place is just more debt.

In fact, after properly accounting for Rep. Ryan’s tax cuts, his budget plan would never come close to balancing, and would add trillions more in debt. By 2022 the deficit would be over 5 percent of GDP and the debt-to-GDP ratio would approach 90 percent. By comparison, under President Obama’s budget plan, the debt-to-GDP ratio would stabilize at around 76 percent of GDP.

Rep. Ryan’s budget plan is a good metaphor for Ryan himself—it appears serious about deficit reduction, but peel away one layer and all you’ll find is a sea of red ink.

Michael Linden is Director of Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

List of Rep. Ryan’s deficit-increasing votes

EGTRRA

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 1836, Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (May 26, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 149)

JGTRRA

On Passage, HR 2, Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (May 23, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 225)

WFTRRA

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 1308, Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 (September 23, 2004): YEA (Roll Call 472)

2008 Stimulus

On Agreeing to the Senate Amendment, HR 5140, Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of 2008 (February 7, 2008): YEA (Roll Call 42)

Tax Act of 2010

On Motion to Concur in the Senate Amendment to the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment, HR 4853, Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (December 16, 2010): YEA (Roll Call 647)

Medicare Part D

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 1, Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (November 22, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 669)

TARP

On Motion to Concur in Senate Amendments, HR 1424, Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (October 3, 2008): YEA (Roll Call 681)

Other Mandatory Spending and Tax Cuts

On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended, HR 2213, Crop Year 2001 Agricultural Economic Assistance Act (June 26, 2001): YEA (Voice Vote)

On Passage, HR 2926, Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act (September 21, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 348)

Suspend the Rules and Agree to Senate Amendments, HR 10, Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001 (December 11, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 485)

On Passage, S 1762, Higher Education Act Amendments (January 24, 2002): YEA (Roll Call 4)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2646, Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (May 2, 2002): YEA (Roll Call 123)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 3009, Trade Act of 2002 (July 27, 2002): YEA (Roll Call 370)

On Agreeing to Senate Amendment with an Amendment, HR 3090, Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 (March 7, 2002): YEA (Roll Call 52)

On Passage, S 23, To Provide for a 5-Month Extension of the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 2002 and for a Transition Period for Individuals Receiving Compensation when the Program under such Acts Ends (January 8, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 7)

On Passage, HR 3210, Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (November 29, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 464)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, H J RES 2, Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003 (February 13, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 32)

On Passage, HR 2185, Unemployment Compensation Amendments of 2003 (May 22, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 223)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 1588, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (November 7, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 617)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 4520, American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (October 7, 2004): YEA (Roll Call 509)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 6, Energy Policy Act of 2005 (July 28, 2005): YEA (Roll Call 445)

On Passage, HR 3045, Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (July 28, 2005): YEA (Roll Call 443)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 3, Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (July 29, 2005): YEA (Roll Call 453)

On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended, HR 3768, Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (September 15, 2005): YEA (Voice Vote)

On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass, HR 4440, Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005 (December 7, 2005): YEA (Roll Call 618)

On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass, HR 3669, National Flood Insurance Program Enhanced Borrowing Authority Act of 2005 (September 8, 2005): YEA (Roll Call 461)

On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, HR 4133, National Flood Insurance Program Further Enhanced Borrowing Authority Act of 2005 (November 16, 2005): YEA (Voice Vote)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, S 1932, Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (December 19, 2005): YEA (Roll Call 670)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 4297, Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (May 10, 2006): YEA (Roll Call 135)

On Passage, HR 4, Pension Protection Act of 2006 (July 28, 2006): YEA (Roll Call 422)

On Motion to Agree to Senate Amendment with Amendment, HR 6111, Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 (December 8, 2006): YEA (Roll Call 533)

On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended, HR 6407, Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (December 8, 2006): YEA (Voice Vote)

Suspend the Rules and Agree to the Senate amendment, HR 3996, Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2007 (December 19, 2007): YEA (Roll Call 1183)

Agree to Senate Adt to House Adt No. 2 with Amendment, HR 2642, Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (June 19, 2008): YEA (Roll Call 432)

Passage, Objections of the President Not Withstanding, HR 6331, Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (July 15, 2008): YEA (Roll Call 491)

On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass, as Amended, HR 6867, Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008 (October 3, 2008): YEA (Roll Call 683)

Defense Appropriations

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 3338, Defense and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Recovery from and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States Act, 2002 (December 20, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 510)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 5010, Department of Defense Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2003 (October 10, 2002): YEA (Roll Call 457)

On Passage, HR 1559, Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2003 (April 3, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 108)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2658, Department of Defense Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2004 (September 24, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 513)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 3289, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense and for the Reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan for FY 2004 (October 31, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 601)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 4613, Department of Defense Appropriations, FY 2005 (July 22, 2004): YEA (Roll Call 418)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 1268, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005 (May 5, 2005): YEA (Roll Call 161)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2683, Department of Defense Appropriations, FY 2006 (December 19, 2005): YEA (Roll Call 669)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 4939, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, 2006 (June 13, 2006): YEA (Roll Call 257)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 5631, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, FY2007 (September 26, 2006): YEA (Roll Call 486)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 3222, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, FY2008 (November 8, 2007): YEA (Roll Call 1064)

Agree to Senate Adt to House Adt No. 2 with Amendment, HR 2642, Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (the war supplemental) (June 19, 2008): YEA (Roll Call 432)

On Passage, HR 2346, War Supplemental Appropriations, FY 2009 (May 14, 2009): YEA (Roll Call 265)

On Passage, HR 3326, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, FY 2010 (July 30, 2009): YEA (Roll Call 675)

On Motion to Concur in the Senate Amendment, HR 1363, Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011, FY 2011 (April 9, 2011): YEA (Roll Call 253)

On Passage, HR 1473, Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (April 14, 2011): YEA (Roll Call 268)

Nondefense Discretionary Appropriations

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2311, Energy and Water Development Appropriations for FY 2002 (November 1, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 416)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2506, Foreign Operations Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2002 (December 19, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 505)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2217, Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations for FY 2002 (October 17, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 393)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 3061, Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2002 (December 19, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 504)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2904, Military Construction Appropriations for FY 2002 (October 17, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 394)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2299, Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations for FY 2002 (November 30, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 465)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2590, Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations for FY 2002 (October 31, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 413)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2620, Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations for FY 2002 (November 8, 2001): YEA (Roll Call 434)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2754, Energy and Water Appropriations, FY 2004 (November 18, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 631)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2555, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2004 (September 24, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 515)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 2559, Military Construction Appropriations Act, 2004 (November 5, 2003): YEA (Roll Call 606)

Concur in Senate Amendment with House Amendment No. 2, HR 2206, U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 (May 24, 2007): YEA (Roll Call 425)

On Agreeing to the Conference Report, HR 4837, Military Construction Appropriations and Emergency Hurricane Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005 (October 9, 2004): YEA (Roll Call 529)

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