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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Paul Ryan, fool or fraud?

This Friday, Notre Dame is hosting former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to discuss evidence-based policymaking. When I first received an email about this, I burst out laughing due to the sheer absurdity of hosting someone like Paul Ryan for any event with the word “evidence” in the title. But after my initial amusement, anger and frustration took its place. Not because the University was hosting a politician with whom I fundamentally disagree with on nearly every issue, but rather due to the University’s complicity and active participation in propping Ryan up as some sort of “policy wonk,” a title he unequivocally does not deserve.There is a litany of examples of Ryan ignoring expert opinions, past policy successes and reality to push forth his own agenda. Let’s have a look at the receipts.In 2013, Ryan said that debt will “weigh our country down like an anchor.” He has also repeatedly claimed the mantle of “deficit hawk” to bolster his position of reducing government spending programs. Yet under his leadership as speaker of the house, he passed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which was projected to add trillions (with a “t”) to the deficit and was only projected to produce a modest growth of 0.3% in GDP. In fact, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects that the bill will add 1.8 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2029. Putting aside the hypocrisy of this whole situation, let’s examine this within the context of “evidence-based policy.” The evidence from numerous nonpartisan groups, including the Congressional Budget Office, indicated the bill would exacerbate the deficit without producing much growth at all. Yet Ryan ignored this to do what he loves most in this world: making the rich richer. It also underlines the convenience of being a deficit hawk when it means taking aid away from the most vulnerable in our society and then abandoning it the minute it stops suiting your goals. Turning to health care, Ryan’s refusal to abide by both reality and his own words is stunning. When the Affordable Care Act was first in the process of being passed, Ryan said “I don’t think we should pass bills we haven’t read, [and] that we don’t know what they cost.” Yet, that is exactly what “policy wonk” Ryan did when it came time to pass his own health care legislation, The American Health Care Act (AHCA). On May 4, 2017, the AHCA passed the House without a CBO score and with many representatives admitting they never read the bill. Again, I will step back from this hypocrisy and instead focus on how absurd it is Ryan is speaking on evidence-based policy when he brazenly ignored Congress’s best tool in making informed decisions. His open aversion to making any decision based on facts should clearly disqualify him from ever speaking on the subject. This is exacerbated by the fact that once the CBO report was released after the House passed the AHCA, it found that 23 million people would lose health insurance by 2026. Ryan played fast and loose with something as vital as health care, and yet the University has the audacity to perpetuate the myth that he is a “policy wonk” in any sense of the word.While these are only two examples of Ryan eschewing evidence to pass legislation that drastically impacts people’s lives, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Notre Dame should be ashamed of itself for legitimizing Ryan as someone who cares about evidence-based policy when the only basis Ryan makes policy decisions on is his own self interest.

Sheila Gregory

co-president, College Democrats of Notre Dame


Sept. 12

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.