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Fecteau: A House Speaker’s Sad Departure

Thursday, April 12, 2018


Paul Ryan

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan will not be seeking reelection. Under Mr. Ryan, the Republican party is increasingly fractured, and the Republican President – Mr. Donald Trump – is inching ever closer to an indictment. Mr. Ryan’s legacy will be debated for some time; history will be the ultimate judge, but until that time, people like you and I can chime in. So far, Mr. Ryan leaves behind a mixed track record at best; at worst, he has few if any tangible accomplishments.

Mr. Ryan had a number of alleged conservative victories or so some argue. He did pass the largest tax reform package since the Reagan-era. Some – I am included here – maintain that his alleged “tax reform” was just a massive tax cut to the rich, giving many of the rest of us simply scraps off their affluent, financial table. Mr. Ryan’s increased military spending was another supposed accomplishment.

Looking a little closer to those supposed victories, it doesn’t look too pretty. As an individual so influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand, Mr. Ryan let government spending and deficits continue to grow out of control. The Congressional Budget Office projects that under the current budget plan deficit and debt will grow by hundreds of billions each year because of the increased spending for the military and tax breaks disguised as tax reform. By 2020, the deficit levels will be almost a trillion a year until there is a revision or a government readjustment.

Mr. Ryan also has some and more overt significant failures – to conservatives and Republicans at least. The most prominent disaster was the repeal of Obamacare which is still a law. Despite numerous tries, Republicans just couldn’t muster up enough support to repeal then President Barack Obama’s signature Healthcare legislation. Even with a Republican-controlled Congress, and a Republican President Trump, Mr. Ryan couldn’t dismantle Obamacare – to the relief of millions.

Mr. Ryan did seem more consumed in later years by a candidate and then President that was more interested in attention than helping his fellow Americans (we are talking about Mr. Trump of course). Mr. Trump’s constant Tweets seemed to throw Mr. Ryan’s delicate political calculus out of whack; angering and isolating key allies. Mr. Ryan had to almost routinely apologize or do damage control for Mr. Trump’s occasional bullish, pigheaded, and as Mr. Ryan said, “racist” behavior. This is something everyone should recognize, and respect (though the Republicans did bring this on themselves).

However, despite it all, Mr. Ryan did promote his viewpoint, and did attempt to herd the cats in the U.S. House; for that, everyone has to give him some credit. He is a public servant, and someone I disagreed with most of the time, but an individual that deserves to be recognized in history for his service in this tumultuous time.

We all need to wish Mr. Ryan the best, and hope he enjoys his retirement with his family, but, what next? That is a question that not even Mr. Ryan can answer.


Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an Iraq War veteran.


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