Ryan’s ideas would hopefully decrease the size of government by reducing otherwise higher levels of federal spending. But promises to reduce spending in the future don’t mean a lot when you have a federal government that has the ability to spend money on pretty much anything it wants. And under Ryan’s plan, the federal government would be able to continue spending money on pretty much anything it wants. For example, whereas a budget proposal from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) would eliminate entire departments, Ryan would leave the bureaucratic monstrosity we have now intact. While Paul doesn’t leave the military’s bloated budget unscathed, my colleague Christopher Preble notes that Ryan wants to spend more than we did during much of the Cold War.
What this all means is that with Paul Ryan on the ticket, the left and the right will spend the rest of the campaign arguing over how much money the federal government should spend, where it should be spent, and how it should be paid for. Sadly, the question of whether the federal government should continue spending any money on particular activities will likely fall by the wayside. That means that those of us who believe that the federal government should be dramatically downsized don’t have a dog in this fight.
Tad DeHaven is a budget analyst at the Cato Institute and co-editor of www.downsizinggovernment.org.