Paul Ryan: On the roadThe New Republic magazine, which increasingly has trended conservative after decades of moderate-left commentary, gets it right about Rep. Paul Ryan and his new-found preoccupation with ending deficits. Jonathan Chait:
Ten years ago, the Republican pose was surplus hysteria. The surplus is huge, we must eliminate it it lest the government pay off the entire national debt and start buying up private industry. As part of this argument, conservative Republicans were fervently insisting that the Congressional Budget Office was underestimating surpluses over the next decade...
... Of course, Ryan now takes an extremely dire view of thing government's long-term fiscal position, as opposed to the wildly optimistic view he took under Bush. I'm sure events have played a role here. But there's also a clear partisan tint. Republicans dismissed any concerns about the debt under Bush, which allowed their side to freely push fiscal policy in their direction and boost their own popularity by avoiding difficult trade-offs. As soon as Obama took office, they reversed themselves and successfully made fiscal conservatism a powerful constraining force on Obama's agenda.
The argument for a bipartisan debt implicitly assumes that such an arrangement would hold, and it would constrain both parties in the future. But who's to say Republicans would abide it? I think it's far more likely that, as soon as Republicans gain simultaneous control of Congress and the White House, they'll resume their wildly Panglossian stance on the fiscal outlook and push through more debt-financed tax cuts. Indeed, I'll further bet Ryan will be leading the charge -- his endorsement will be especially powerful because he'll have "credibility" on the budget. He's a serious budget hawk, you know.