"I'm not one [of those] people who votes for something then writes to the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money," declared Paul Ryan, the running mate of Mitt Romney.
Republicans have called the stimulus bill a boondoggle. They claimed that the bill has produced “zero jobs.” While they were making those claims, however, many Republicans have sought stimulus funds for their districts.
News reports have revealed that Ryan, an ardent critic of the stimulus, had pursued stimulus funds aggressively on behalf of companies in his district. In fact, he previously supported stimulus to “juice [up] the economy" while President George W. Bush was in office. Therefore, naked partisanship is the main reason why Ryan and many of his Republican colleagues have been so fervent in their criticism of the stimulus bill.
With remarkable discipline, Republicans have been inveighing against the stimulus bill since day one. The president inherited an economy that was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. Although the economy is still sluggish, there has been a significant economic turnaround as the policies of the Obama Administration started to take effect. Instead of losing jobs, the economy has begun to create jobs at a steady pace. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, Republicans continue to maintain that the stimulus bill has been a major failure.
This drumbeat of criticism has not stopped a number of Republicans from not only soliciting stimulus funds but participating in many ribbon-cutting ceremonies where they proceeded to “take credits for projects” that were funded by the bill.
John Boehner-the current Speaker of the House of Representatives-voted against the bill. Yet, he gave credits to the stimulus for creating “much needed jobs” in Ohio. Additionally, Eric Cantor, who currently holds the second highest position in the leadership of the House of Representatives, also voted against the stimulus bill. But he has been in favor of “using stimulus money to build a rail project from Washington to Richmond” and also organized a high profile job fair where many of the companies that took part had received money from the stimulus. Overall, it has been documented that 114 lawmakers voted against the passage of the bill while positioned themselves to gain credit for its successes in growing jobs in their home districts.
Paul Ryan, the new darling of conservative activists, who themselves strongly oppose the stimulus bill, never misses an opportunity to rail against the bill. On Wednesday, August 15, he had reiterated this criticism. The records, however, show that he is a card-carrying member of the double talk club. Its members purport to be against the stimulus bill in public while they solicit funds in private. After facing irrefutable evidence that demonstrated he sought stimulus funds, Ryan was forced to come clean.
This strategy that the Republicans have adopted would be regarded by many as politics-as-usual. In fact, many people see politics as a zero-sum game proposition. In other words, one side has to lose so that the other side could prevail. Thus, Republicans have been successful in characterizing the stimulus as a failure because the economy continues to remain sluggish.
They have been making this argument not because they believe that the bill has failed to provide a boost to the economy since many took credits for jobs that came about as a result of the bill. Rather, it is a way for them to score political points against the president. Because of this take-no-prisoner attitude, the government has been unable to take more concrete steps that would strengthen the economy since such action would make it more likely that President Obama would win reelection.
Ryan, like many of his Republican colleagues, has used high minded rhetoric in criticizing the stimulus bill. He pointed out that the bill was fiscally irresponsible because it would increase the country’s debt and deficit. According to Michael Grunwald, the author of the new book: The New New Deal, Ryan voted for a $715 billion stimulus bill that was proposed by Republicans as an alternative to Obama’s. Thus, as Ryan decried the stimulus bill as a budget-busting bill, he voted for one whose price tag was almost identical to that of the president.
Based on the available evidence, it is clear that Ryan has opposed the stimulus bill not because he believed that the bill was a failure since he noted in one of his letters that the funds that he was seeking would help “stimulate the local economy by creating new jobs;” nor did he believe that the stimulus was unnecessary since he supported a similar alternative. His opposition has more to do with political posturing than principle. Furthermore, Ryan made a strong case for stimulus to boost the economy during a mild recession under Bush. Ryan, therefore, understands the importance of stimulative measures to spur economy growth.
There are still millions of people who are jobless. The government could do much more to provide jobs to millions of unemployed construction workers by fixing the country’s crumbling infrastructure. The government could do much more to rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers who have lost their jobs because state governments have engaged in massive layoffs because of budget constraints.
For most Americans, they need to have a job so that they could provide for themselves, their children and their families. Oftentimes, losing a job does not merely result in a loss of incomes but in a loss of self-esteem or even worse self-worth. Political opportunism on the part of Republicans has prevented the government from borrowing money cheaply in order to help state deal with their budget woes and revitalize the infrastructure of the country, which, in turn, would have generated millions of jobs.
As someone who has advocated for stimulus in the past, Ryan must know that the government could take more robust action to promote economic growth, thereby alleviating the suffering of millions of Americans. Since a stronger economy, however, might brighten the electoral prospects of President Obama, he would surely oppose such a bold move.
Much of the Republican opposition against the stimulus bill has reeked of partisanship and cynicism. Yet this is not surprising. After all, during the inaugural festivities, Ryan and many of his Republican colleagues hatched a plan whereby they would seek to oppose and obstruct the newly elected president in every way so that they could win back power. Hence, opposition to the stimulus bill and other stimulative policies are part and parcel of that plan.