Rep. Ryan: Obama's "Spending Spree" Is The "Whole Reason" We Have To Raise The Debt Ceiling Now

May 16, 2011 12:39 pm ET — Alan Pyke

Republicans twisting economic facts to support their talking points is, sadly, nothing new. But even the most cynical of Americans probably expects the chairman of the House Budget Committee to be able to accurately identify the sources of our rising debt. However, when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) went on CNN Sunday morning to talk about the debt ceiling and negotiations with Democrats, he took leave of the facts and blamed Democrats for just about everything:

REP. PAUL RYAN: We need to address the drivers of our debt. The whole reason we're running into this debt limit so soon is because of the spending spree that has occurred over the last two years.


Ryan admitted moments later under pressure that Republicans contributed to the debt — but that doesn't change how wrong he is to claim that "the whole reason" for this year's debt ceiling vote is recent spending.

The true "drivers of our debt" are the Bush tax cuts — which not only failed to pay for themselves as promised but produced the worst decade our economy has seen since World War II — and the recession itself, which undermined tax revenue even as it forced recovery spending to spare us from an outright depression. The CBO estimates that the tax cuts alone have added $886 billion to the debt since 2009, and over $2 trillion since 2002. Yet when Ryan looks in the camera today to tell Americans about the debt, he lays the entire problem at Democrats' feet.

Remember, this is the man the GOP put in charge of budget issues. This is, in theory, the most "serious" voice on the debt among elected Republicans. And he's telling a national TV audience that "the whole reason" that the debt limit has to be raised is those nasty Democrats.

Ryan's credibility is mostly based on the notion that he's a serious man in a town full of craven politicians, an adult amongst children, someone regular folks can trust to shoot us straight on the complicated issues of federal spending and debt. That reputation somehow survived his budget rollout, where he relied upon Heritage Foundation economic growth projections so astonishingly unrealistic that an MIT economist called them "insane," and Heritage disappeared them from their website days later. If people pick up on how dishonest Ryan is being in his media blame-game, maybe we'll stop seeing pundits laud his supposed courage.