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When Paul Ryan leaves government, the federal deficit will be $1.2 trillion higher than when he arrived

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) made a name for himself as a deficit hawk, but backed a tax plan and a spending bill that are ballooning the national debt. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

One fun thing about the Nexis online news archive at Nexis is that you can search for how many times certain people have been described in certain ways in news reports. For example, one can learn that, since June 2008, Paul Ryan has been called a “deficit hawk” more than 400 times in English-language news reports. The first included in the index is an article from Roll Call titled, “Ryan Campaigns for Fiscal Fitness” — sadly written before Time magazine snapped some of the most iconic images of any legislator in history.

The House speaker is a deficit hawk, you see, because of his long-standing crusade for lower federal budget deficits. It has been the cause with which the Wisconsin Republican has been associated for most of his career since getting to Capitol Hill in 1999 — cutting spending and bringing the budget under control.

However, Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis made an interesting observation about Ryan’s tenure on Twitter.

Those figures are accurate. Under Ryan’s tenure as speaker, the deficit will have more than doubled. If we extend that idea backward, though, it’s worse: Since he joined Congress in 1999, the budget will have gone from a $125 billion surplus to a $1.1 trillion deficit — a swing of $1.2 trillion to the red.

It’s certainly not fair to hold Ryan accountable for the federal budget when he was one of 435 members of the House. But over time he assumed more and more significant roles, culminating in his current position. And while the deficit has grown over the past several years (after spiking in the wake of the recession), there’s one significant reason that next year’s deficit is expected to be so large — the tax cuts passed by Congress in December, tax cuts that Ryan not only supported but championed. Those cuts slashed personal and corporate taxes, the latter permanently. Less money coming in and little change in spending means bigger deficits.

What will be interesting to see is how the articles about Ryan at the point of his departure in January describe him.