The Slatest

Paul “Mr. Responsible Balanced Budgets Guy” Ryan Created a Trillion-Dollar Deficit and Then Quit

Paul Ryan presents his "Path to Prosperity: A responsible balanced budget" plan at the Capitol on March 12, 2013.
Paul Ryan presents his balanced budget plan at the Capitol on March 12, 2013.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

For years and years, Rep. Paul Ryan’s self-projected “thing” was that he was a geeky budget wonk who was gravely, gravely concerned about the American government’s unsustainable fiscal future. Liberal critics, meanwhile, have claimed for almost as long that Ryan’s vaunted plans to balance the budget were baloney and that his only actual interest was in passing massive tax cuts for high earners and corporations. Now that he’s leaving Congress after having just passed major tax legislation and a budget as Speaker of the House during a period of total Republican control over the federal government, we can finally determine who was right. Did Paul Ryan really care about reducing the deficit once he attained the power to do so, or not?

Let’s see:

New York Times headline: Federal budget deficit projected to soar to over $1 trillion in 2020.


Thanks to stimulus spending, the 2009 budget deficit was the largest in U.S. history in absolute terms at $1.4 trillion; remarkably, the Congressional Budget Office projects that under a certain set of reasonable assumptions, Ryan-McConnell-Trump tax and budget policies—enacted during a time of relative economic prosperity!—will actually create a $1.5 trillion deficit by 2028. (See page 91. By the way, in terms of percentage of GDP, the largest U.S. deficit ever occurred in 1943.)

Ah, well, at least he tried. (He didn’t try.)