Paul Ryan makes forceful case in convention speech, but some context missing
In his acceptance speech Wednesday night, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan played fast and loose with the context of his remarks -- if not the actual facts.
One of Ryan’s main points was that President Obama’s efforts have not done enough to spur economic recovery. As an example, he cited the General Motors factory in his hometown of Janesville, Wis.
“A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant,” Ryan said. “Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”
Ryan made similar remarks about the factory during an appearance in Ohio two weeks ago, saying he recalled “President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open.”
Ryan’s earlier comment overstated Obama’s words, suggesting Obama had promised to prevent the plant’s closure. Obama said he believed the plant would survive another century if the government provided “the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition” to “hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles.” On Wednesday, Ryan quoted Obama more closely.
But in both cases, Ryan disregarded the fact that most of the plant’s operations ended in December 2008, before Obama became president. The rest of the plant shut down in April 2009, three months after Obama took office.
Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, faulted Obama for calling debt growth under President George W. Bush “unpatriotic,” then adding trillions more to the national debt during his term.
“He created a bipartisan debt commission,” Ryan said. “They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”
Ryan failed to mention that the Simpson-Bowles Commission, on which he served, made recommendations that he, too, rejected.
Defending Ryan’s omission in an interview on CNN Thursday morning, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush noted that Ryan followed his “no” vote with a budget proposal that included entitlement reforms, in an effort to address what he viewed as the commission’s deficiency.
Ryan also left out his own voting record Wednesday night when he levied the familiar charge that Obama “funneled” $716 billion out of Medicare to help fund the national health care law that passed in 2010. The Obama campaign has defended the move by pointing out that the $716 billion figure represents estimated cost savings achieved over the next 10 years by reducing payments to health care providers, not by slashing benefits for seniors.
But when Ryan and other House Republicans passed his budget proposal this spring, they called for the same Medicare savings outlined by Obama.
Ryan blasted Obama for an early term stimulus package that cost roughly $800 billion, calling it “a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst.”
“You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal,” Ryan said.
The Washington Post reported in February that some renewable energy companies that received government loans were backed by firms that previously employed Obama administration staff members, raising questions about favoritism.
But middle-class Americans were not “cut out” of the bulk of the stimulus package, which included public school funding, Medicaid grants and middle-class tax cuts.Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.