There was a time, not that many years ago, when Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin symbolized the bright future of the Republican Party.
When he was chosen to be the vice presidential running mate of Mitt Romney in 2012 he was seen as a brilliant young Congressman who understand the details of the federal budget better than anyone else. It was also thought that he was forward thinking and could fashion a Republican legislative agenda that would stop the growth in the federal deficit while at the same time bringing prosperity to all Americans.
Of course, this image of Paul Ryan was nowhere near the truth. He wasn’t nearly as smart or knowledgeable as people believed. And it turns out that his legislative agenda was to sell out to the highest bidders, meaning right-wing billionaires whose only goal is to cut their taxes while shredding the social safety net.
So a year ago it was Speaker Ryan who brought America the GOP tax scam. It did cut taxes for billionaires, and Ryan had the audacity to tell the American people that those tax cuts would have to be paid for by corresponding cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And at the same time, he has brought record deficits to the federal government.
So now Paul Ryan has retired, and the only comment he will receive from most people is this: “good riddance.”
Yesterday Paul Kane published a piece in The Washington Post describing how Republicans — and especially Ryan — are having an embarrassing end of the year.
Kane explained that for the GOP 2018 is ending exactly how it started:
“Republicans are ending the 115th Congress in an all-too-familiar spot: standing on the sidelines while President Trump picks a fight they wanted to avoid as he ignores what they consider major conservative accomplishments.”
In short, other than getting the tax scam passed, Paul Ryan has done absolutely nothing as Speaker of the House. This is true even with Republicans controlling the presidency and the Senate as well as the House.
And, in the ultimate frustration for Ryan, at every turn Trump has been critical of him and his colleagues.
In addition, Trump has focused only on the negative.
According to Kane:
“Trump used each ceremony as an opportunity to denounce Democrats for opposing his multibillion-dollar demands for U.S. taxpayer money to fund a southern border wall, launching Washington into its third partial shutdown this year.”
“It’s an embarrassing end to a two-year run for McConnell and Ryan. For months they respectively called this the ‘most successful Congress’ for Republicans and claimed it set ‘a record pace’ for legislative production.”
Whatever accomplishments there might have been for the GOP this year have been completely overshadowed by Trump and his demand for a border wall, with the corresponding government shutdown.
“Time and again, Trump has paid lip service to these issues that Republicans consider wins and instead has focused on his demands for a border wall. Early this year, after the tax cuts took effect, GOP leaders winced as Trump focused on other issues and saw public approval for the legislation fade away.”
The Post writer also pointed out that Ryan’s last moments as Speaker of the House were weak, saying that he went out “with a whimper, not a bang.”
It seemed like the government shutdown was a fitting symbol for the end of Ryan’s tenure as Speaker and for the end of one-party rule in Washington.
Trump has refused to sign off on the bipartisan budget bill until funding is approved for his border wall.
Kane described the ending of Paul Ryan’s career as follows:
“Ryan’s last moment on the House floor came Saturday evening when he gaveled the empty chamber shut, the last legislative session of 2018 going out with a whimper.”
So long, Paul Ryan, and so long, GOP control of the House of Representatives. History will long remember you for all the things you never accomplished, and all of the potential that you never fulfilled.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.