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‘We have the exact wrong fiscal policy’: Paul Ryan criticizes inflation response

Paul Ryan knew it was time to move on after 20 years in the House of Representatives. Two terms as the youngest speaker of the House since 1869 was enough for Ryan, who did not seek re-election in 2019.

“My last two terms were Speaker of the House, which is such a consuming job that it really took me away from my family so much more than I really wanted to be away,” Ryan said in an interview with The Observer. “I had three kids in or entering high school at the time, and I knew if I only saw my kids on Sundays, I just wasn’t going to have the kind of relationship I needed or wanted.”

Now, Ryan guest lectures at Notre Dame and serves on the board for the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO). Teaching at Notre Dame was appealing for Ryan after he left Capitol Hill, having grown up a Notre Dame fan in an Irish Catholic household that saw two of his brothers attend the University.

“I’ve been coming to games here since I was 10 years old,” he said.

In addition to teaching at Notre Dame, Ryan currently does additional policy work for the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank. But after 20 years in public sector economics, Ryan made sure to branch out and learn how businesses “actually work and grow.” He is now a partner at Solamere Capital, a private equity firm, and also serves as vice chairman of Teneo, a CEO advisory firm. Upon his retirement from Congress, he launched an anti-poverty foundation in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.

“In Congress, I always thought it was important to do multiple things in your life,” Ryan said of his portfolio of enterprises.

Three years after he left Congress, Ryan said he does not miss the “performance politics” that are growing increasingly prominent. Instead of working to formulate and negotiate actual policy solutions, politicians today choose to “entertain” in the culture war in an attempt to get famous fast, he said.

“I agree with conservatives on the culture war, but I’m not a culture warrior. I don’t like inflaming [the] culture war because it just polarizes,” he said. “I do think you should take a stand against ridiculous, woke extremes, but I don’t think it’s great to try to politically profit off of these things, because all you end up doing is polarizing the country.”

There are still policymakers in Congress who care about making good policy, he said, but the culture war “entertainment artists” overshadow them. If he were in office right now, he said his number one priority would be fighting inflation.

Ryan said the economy is on the cusp of a recession. The federal government has been fueling inflation by spending, threatening businesses with higher taxes and raising taxes on businesses, he said.

“We have the exact wrong fiscal policy right now. This thing is not the Inflation Reduction Act, it’s sort of the opposite,” Ryan said of the package signed into law in August.

Although he said the Federal Reserve responded to the pandemic well, they were too late to respond to inflation, he added.

“They’re playing catch up. They were late. They should have been stopping the asset purchases earlier. Money supply was too high too fast for too long,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he does not know when the economy will start to significantly improve. The Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates to about 4 or 4.25% and hold them there, he predicted. And with the war in Ukraine triggering an energy crisis in Europe and China experiencing economic struggles, Ryan expects a global recession to occur down the road.

While President Joe Biden currently mulls running for re-election in 2024, Ryan said Biden “missed the moment of being a centrist” during his term and has instead inflamed the polarization between the two parties. He explained that many Republican-leaning suburban voters voted for Biden because they disliked former President Donald Trump and expected Biden to govern from the center-left.

By catering to the progressive left, Biden passed on an opportunity to work across the aisle to put together deals, he said. As a result, populism has become more pronounced in U.S. politics, he added, and polarization is preventing major progress from occuring.

“Nothing is getting done that is substantial. No big problems are getting solved, and they just are trying to stick to their wish list of progressive things,” Ryan said, specifically referencing immigration and inflation.

The Republican party has also seen its “center of gravity” shift farther toward the extreme as well, he said.

“We have the same problem in our party, so I understand the pressure. I know very well,” he said. “But [Biden] succumbed to it.”

Contact Ryan at rpeters5@nd.edu

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Rep. Brendan Boyle, ’99, discusses career, current legislative efforts

On Friday morning, Rep. Brendan Boyle, ‘99, spoke to a group of students about his career path, pursuing opportunities in politics and current legislative priorities. 

Boyle, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania’s second district serving his fourth term, is an alumnus of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Program in Public Service and the inaugural semester in the Washington program.

Friday, he opened with brief introductory remarks and then fielded questions from students invited from various majors, minors and political clubs.

Ricardo Ramirez, director of the Hesburgh Program and an associate professor of political science and Latino studies, introduced Boyle. 

“Congressman Boyle has served as a champion for the working and middle-class families, particularly on issues related to social and economic justice. He, himself, is the first in his family to attend college, and he’s the son of a janitor and a school crossing guard,” Ramirez said.

In his introductory remarks, Boyle discussed his work across policy issues in the House of Representatives, identifying himself as a “generalist.”

“On any given day, I could be voting on energy policy, and then, next, voting on tax policy, and then voting on NATO, and then next voting on a welfare issue and next voting on a defense issue,” he said. 

Boyle, who serves on the influential Ways and Means Committee, recounted key experiences as a lawmaker.

Boyle was in Brussels days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, to which he’s a delegate.

“At our opening dinner, the vast majority of parliamentarians from the UK, France, Germany … did not believe there would be a war and did not believe there would be an invasion,” he recalled.

He tied the issue to political practice, saying he’s been especially active on the issue because of a large Ukrainian presence in his district in and around Philadelphia. 

Boyle said that this combination of constituent services and policy encapsulates the job of a congressman.

“There’s in the district and there’s in the Capitol. The time that I’m back home is not time off … So in some ways, it’s almost a hybrid of two different positions combined into one,” he said.

Many of the students identified themselves as residents of a particular representative’s district. Boyle interjected when a senior from Sarasota, Florida, mentioned he was from Republican representative Vern Buchanan’s district.

“I’m friendly with Vern, too. That should reassure people that people on both sides of the aisle actually are much more friendly with one another than cable TV would have you believe,” he said.

In response to a question about America’s role on the global stage, Boyle emphasized two priorities after reflecting on the Arab Spring and other events from the past twenty years.

“Two goals immediately come to mind, and they’re sometimes in conflict. One would be to promote democracy and human rights as much as we can around the world. And then the second is stability,” he said. “We can not retreat from the world.”

He also talked about recent legislative action. Boyle, who made history as the first House member to cast a proxy vote on behalf of a colleague amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, discussed being in committee hearings and voting during a trip to Notre Dame a year ago.

“In this very building a few floors up while my wife and daughter were enjoying campus all that Friday, I was up there casting votes and participating in hearings. So literally at Notre Dame, congressional votes have been cast, and I was casting my votes for our amendments, defeating the other side’s amendments for the Build Back Better Act, which ultimately did pass out of the Ways and Means Committee,” Boyle recalled.

He discussed the upcoming midterms and said that while “bread and butter issues” and contrasting the Republicans’ agenda with that of the Democrats under Biden, maintaining a big tent party is key.

“You have to tailor it to your district. The message I would have in northeast Philadelphia would be different than I would have in suburban Philadelphia,” he said.

Boyle also discussed moments when he had to make tough decisions in politics. Sitting on the foreign affairs committee, he opposed the Iran Nuclear Deal and remained steadfast despite pleas to support it from powerful places.

“President Obama lobbied me on Air Force One. Fortunately, it turns out the flight from D.C. to Philadelphia is a very short flight,” he said. “And I was never invited back.”

Throughout his remarks, Boyle emphasized the importance of getting involved in politics. He pointed out that people in high positions of power within congressional offices are often young and can make a significant impact.

“If you walk around Capitol Hill and you walk into congressional offices, you see just how young the individuals are who have a great deal of responsibility,” he said. “And I can tell you from the perspective of wanting to hire good people, we’re constantly looking, and the best thing you can do is be the person who, on a campaign, shows up, volunteers for things, is on time and has a great attitude.”

Contact Isa Sheikh at isheikh@nd.edu.