WHEN HOUSE Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) justified his endorsement of Donald Trump on the grounds that the reality television star would, as president, sign some of the House GOP agenda into law, it seemed fair to suppose that Mr. Ryan’s proposals must be truly transformational. What else could possibly justify making common cause with someone whose views and values run so counter to the speaker’s?
But last week , after Mr. Trump hurled bigoted attacks at a federal judge, Mr. Ryan released an exceedingly modest anti-poverty plan. This week, after Mr. Trump accused “the Muslims” in the United States of being complicit in terrorist attacks, Mr. Ryan unveiled an unimpressive regulatory reform plan. Not only do its virtues pale in comparison to the permanent dishonor of endorsing Mr. Trump, but the speaker’s latest plan also contains some bad ideas that no president should sign into law.
Mr. Ryan’s latest rollout, which highlights the way that federal regulations can slow the economy, contains some elements of wisdom. How long it can take to build public infrastructure in the United States is a scandal. Traditional, command-and-control regulation should not be the first choice when less costly yet equally effective, market-based options are available.
But in their anti-regulatory zeal, Mr. Ryan and the House GOP would, among other things, repeal or weaken a host of environmental regulations, particularly those concerning air pollution. They also would end the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to slow global warming, arguing that the climate regulations would have practically no benefit for the planet by dishonestly ignoring the international emissions-cutting these regulations spurred. Unlike on other issues, the proposal does not offer any alternative to replace the climate policy the House Republicans would rip up, even though there are many policies that a true conservative could embrace. Part of the problem is that, on climate change, Republicans are not conservatives: They oppose market-based policies to cut emissions, such as a carbon tax, instead risking the fate of the planet on a decidedly imprudent wish that experts are wrong.
Then again, Mr. Ryan is making a similarly improvident bet on Mr. Trump. No policy or principle Mr. Ryan has articulated comes close to justifying the indelible stain of supporting a dangerous demagogue. Speaking up when Mr. Trump says reprehensible things is more than some Republicans have managed but insufficient. It is not reasonable for Mr. Ryan to say, as he did Tuesday, that he will not “get into the day-to-day habit of commenting” on “what our nominee says.” The speaker says he supports Mr. Trump, so he owes it to Americans to explain whether he agrees with the GOP nominee and, if not, how he can claim to be a man of principle and continue supporting him.