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There are probably two Republican politicians who annoy the center-left intelligentsia more than any other, and for the same reason: Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan. This is because both are often held up in the media as examples of a thinking man’s conservative—intellectuals, truth-tellers even—when in fact the entire record of their time in office suggests that just the opposite: they are frauds, charlatans, vacuous cyphers who long ago disposed of whatever was left of their spines. Rubio remains for now, but Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, is done, and he might take his whole flaming train wreck of a party with him.
WHAT IT MEANS:
- From the NYT: “Fifteen months after Republicans took full control of Washington, the man long seen as central to the party’s future is abandoning one of the most powerful jobs in the capital, imperiling the G.O.P. grip on the House and signaling that the political convulsions of the Trump era are taking a grave toll on the right months before Election Day. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s retirement announcement on Wednesday blindsided many House Republican candidates and their campaign leaders who were counting on him to lead them to victory in the November midterm elections. His decision to leave Congress at 48 sent an undeniably pessimistic message to Republicans: that stable, steady leadership is lacking in their deeply divided party as they head into a campaign season defined by the whims of President Trump.”
- “Already, some veteran Republicans are suggesting that the party shift its focus from the House to protecting its one-seat Senate majority. ‘It seems clear now that the fight is to hold the Senate,’ said Billy Piper, a lobbyist and former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader. ‘The first thing a Democrat House majority would do is begin impeachment proceedings. The second would be to undo tax reform. A G.O.P. Senate will stop both of those things and continue to put conservatives on the bench at a record pace.’”
- As Axios notes, his retirement even puts his own reliably red district in doubt: “Paul Ryan's district in Wisconsin has shifted toward Democrats after the announcement of his retirement, per Cook Political Report. This is the first time the WI-01 House seat has been at risk of flipping since Ryan was elected in 1998, Cook's Dave Wasserman notes.”
Ryan liked to fashion himself as a fiscally responsible adult in the room: low taxes on the rich, low spending on social services, “entitlement” reform, the whole Koch cabal shebang. That was his schtick. He was the kind of cartoon villain who dreamed at night of raiding Social Security to keep the plutocrats happy. But he couldn’t do any of the hard stuff—cutting entitlements or ending the safety net—because that was a bridge too far for the rest of Congress, especially since Ryan could never produce a plan that wouldn’t have been absolutely devastating for the working class. (Some intellectual.) So his legacy, then, was one big-ass tax-cut bill, passed by the skin of his teeth, that blew of a ginormous hole in the budget.
- As Politico points out, his legacy really amounts to a sea of red ink: Ryan’s ‘fiscal conservative’ brand has gotten impressive traction, but now that he’s announcing he’s leaving Congress in January, it’s worth noting (not for the first time) that Paul Ryan Deficit Hawk has never behaved like a deficit hawk. In his two decades in Washington, Ryan has consistently supported tax cuts and spending hikes that have boosted deficits, while consistently trashing Democrats for failing to cut deficits. It will inevitably be described as ‘ironic’ that Ryan came to Congress when the budget was in surplus and left with deficits heading toward $1 trillion, but those deficits are his greatest legacy.”
- About those tax cuts: Faced with CBO projections that the tax cuts will add nearly $2 trillion in deficits over the next decade, Senator Bob Corker said it “could well be one of the worst votes I ever made.”
- Hours after Ryan announced his retirement, the Treasury announced that it had collected $600 million less than it spent in the first half of the fiscal year, a 14 percent greater imbalance than the previous year.