The Post has a big story up fleshing out more details about Paul Ryan’s history of soliciting federal funds for his district, despite the Romney camp’s efforts to present Ryan’s addition to the GOP ticket as proof of its single-minded determination to eliminate the deficit
Ryan helped his home town secure $2.8 million in transportation funds for a new city transit center, as well as funding for a local airport’s runway extension and an environmental study for a local harbor. This comes after revelations yesterday that Ryan wrote letters in 2009 seeking stimulus funds for conservation groups in his district, despite criticizing the stimulus as Big Government waste run amok.
In one sense, as Ryan’s spokesman says, it’s not contradictory for Ryan to secure stimulus funds for his district despite opposing the overall package. Ryan was right to push for funding for his district from a measure that had already become law. That’s his job.
The problem arises from the sharp ideological difference Mitt Romney and Ryan claim they have with Obama over government intervention in the economy. Romney and Ryan have repeatedly suggested Obama thinks only government deserves the credit for economic success government helps facilitate, demeaning the role that private sector individual initiative and hard work play. But Obama sees government as a partner with the private sector in facilitating economic development. Whatever Ryan actually thinks, his actions suggest — at least when it comes to his own district — he doesn’t disagree.
Another case in point: The closing of that GM plant in Janesville.
Ryan gave a big speech yesterday in which he cited that plant closing as proof that Obama’s policies had failed. Yet it turns out that it closed under George W. Bush; Jed Lewison has a great video mashup of that right here.
In this context, it’s worth reiterating government’s key role in the efforts Ryan’s home town is making to revinvent itself in the wake of the plant closing. As Ryan Lizza reported in his profile of Ryan, the town is remaking itself as a “redistribution hub for major companies.” Key to this is a major infrastructure project that Ryan has encouraged: I-90 around Janesville will be expanded from four to eight lanes, as part of a “billion-dollar federal and state highway project.”
Does that conflict with Ryan’s worldview? Ryan would argue this constitutes arguing over a straw man. He told Lizza as much in that profile, arguing that he’s no full-blown libertarian. But still, this goes back to the fact that the ideological difference he’s claiming with Obama is rooted in a caricature of the president’s views. In reality, the role of government in facilitating development in Ryan’s own district is very much in line with Obama’s view of the proper relationship between government and the economy. Ryan can claim he disagrees with Obama about the degree to which government should intervene in the economy. That’s a worthy argument to have. But Obama's overall ideological vision isn’t any more “radical” than what’s happening right in Ryan’s district and home town.