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Expecting Fiscal Responsibility from a Republican Administration: The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

George Will tells what should be a joke about Republicans and fiscal responsibility:

Why, then, should we expect Romney to reverse Republican complicity? Because by embracing Paul Ryan, Romney embraced Ryan’s emphasis on the entitlement state’s moral as well as financial costs.

There are not many “closing arguments” for Romney less persuasive than this one. Will acknowledges that decades of experience teach us that Republican administrations are not normally fiscally responsible and have contributed greatly to the expansion of entitlements, but now he thinks we should expect fiscal responsibility from a Romney administration because Romney has “embraced” Paul Ryan. This is the same Paul Ryan whose record is littered with votes in favor of every major Bush-era piece of legislation, including several that added significantly to the debt and one in particular that added trillions more to the government’s unfunded liabilities.

Ryan was complicit in the largest expansion of the welfare state in a generation when he voted for Medicare Part D, and it was done entirely at the expense of future generations. This is a perfect example of “piling up public debt that binds unconsenting future generations to finance current consumption.” When it comes to “mugging our descendants,” the members of Congress responsible for passing Medicare Part D take first prize. If this degrades our political system, Ryan was on the side of degradation until very recently.

Before he became a fiscal conservative hero in the last two years, Ryan was a typical Bush-era Republican with all of the considerable baggage that goes with it. The idea that we can trust a Romney administration to be better fiscal stewards than most of their Republican predecessors is to ignore everything we know about how Republicans typically act once in power. Assuming that Ryan’s presence in that administration is some sort of guarantee of fiscal responsibility is simply the triumph of hope over experience.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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