A man of weak, malleable principles


Paul Ryan had more than a few troubles last week, but one of the more interesting problems is related to his support for stimulus. For all of the far-right congressman’s alleged disgust for the Recovery Act, Ryan repeatedly sought stimulus funds for his district, arguing government spending creates jobs and boosts the economy.

And then Ryan got caught lying about it.

Our friends at “Up with Chris Hayes” moved the ball forward with new revelations over the weekend.

For those who can’t watch clips online, in 2002, when George W. Bush was president, Ryan loved the idea of economic stimulus from the federal government, celebrating the idea on the House floor.

“What we’re trying to accomplish here is the recognition of the fact that in recessions, unemployment lags on well after a recovery has taken place,” Ryan said at the time. “We have a lot of laid-off workers, and more layoffs are occurring. And we know, as a historical fact, that even if our economy begins to slowly recover, unemployment is going to linger on and on well after that recovery takes place.”

Ryan’s advocacy of stimulus spending wasn’t limited to Washington, either. When he returned home to face constituents, he used similar language to make the case for the Bush stimulus bill. “You have to spend a little to grow a little,” Ryan told constituents at a town hall in Wisconsin in January 2002, according to the Journal-Times, a local newspaper. “What we’re trying to do is stimulate that part of the economy that’s on its back.”

You know what would make a great debate? Romney/Ryan circa 2002 vs. Romney/Ryan circa 2012.

Again, hypocrisy is the least of the problems here. What matters is the fact that Paul Ryan’s vaunted economic principles, wonky approaches to government, and entire political philosophy seems to be dictated by the party of the president at the time. Ryan has principles, but they’re easily discarded and replaced with contradictory ones so long as he’s advancing a partisan agenda.

It’s the difference between a wonk and a hack.