Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The New Paul Ryan

In his efforts to separate himself from Mitt Romney, Ryan has provided some scary insights into his politics.

By - Mar 20th, 2014 11:42 am
U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan

U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan

Last year we were introduced to the new Paul Ryan, the compassionate Republican who was traveling the country visiting inner city neighborhoods and looking for solutions to urban poverty. As a story in the Washington Post noted, the Wisconsin Congressman and 2012 GOP candidate for vice-president had been “mortified” by the infamous remarks of his running mate Mitt Romney suggesting 47 percent of Americans saw themselves as  “victims,” “dependent upon government” and unwilling to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

“I think he was embarrassed,” Robert Woodson, who runs the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, said of Ryan. “And it propelled him to deepen his own understanding of this.”

Because Romney’s campaign advisors had so constrained his running mate, the Post was told, “you didn’t get the full Ryan.” Now we would see his compassion shine through.

But in his March 6 speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference, Ryan offered a preposterous story that seemed to undercut his newly refashioned image. The touching tale of the little poor boy who didn’t want a free school meal and instead wanted a brown bag lunch because it showed he had “someone who cared for him” turned out to be completely untrue. The source of the story, Eloise Anderson (a cabinet member in the administration of Gov. Scott Walker) admitted she knew of no such boy, and the story was from a book which made no mention of free school lunches and whose author actually opposes cutting the program. The Washington Post fact checker gave Ryan’s speech four pinocchios.

Ryan later offered a statement of regret (but no apology) for his failure to check on the story’s veracity, but what about his central point, that impoverished parents who send their kids to school without a brown bag lunch don’t care about them?

In Ryan’s home town, which he still represents as a congressman, some 52 percent of students in the Janesville School District, or 5,385 of 10,322 students, are certified for free and reduced price school lunches, according to state statistics.  Instead of Romney’s 47 percent, Ryan seems to substituting a higher number of children whose parents are “victims” that are “dependent upon government” and unwilling to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Ryan also represents Racine, Kenosha and Walworth, where 36,275 of 75,604 public school students, or 48 percent, are so unloved by their parents that their free or reduced price lunches are subsidized by taxpayers.

It’s rare to see a politician so blithely slander such a huge number of his constituents. Ryan’s district, while it was redistricted to make it more Republican-leaning, still includes classic Rustbelt cities like Janesville and Racine, which were hammered by the Great Recession and naturally became more dependent on government assistance.

Statewide the number of Food Stamp recipients more than doubled from 2007 to 2011, from about 580,000 in 2007 to nearly 1.1 million in 2011, as an April 2012 Legislative Audit Bureau Report found. The report suggests economic recession was a key cause, noting the rise in recipients paralleled the rise in the rate of unemployment.

While the increase by county was not computed, the number of people eligible for food stamps in Ryan’s district is substantial, including 35,131 in Racine County, 30,154 in Kenosha County and 12,367 in Walworth County, state statistics show.

Many of these recipients are children, the elderly or disabled, but 28 percent of adult recipients are employed and another 24 percent are unemployed and looking for work, statistics from the USDA show.

The reality is that many jobs pay so little that workers must seek food stamps and other assistance.  As Bloomberg News put it,  “the two biggest welfare queens in America today are Wal-Mart and McDonald’s.” The story noted that American fast food workers receive more than $7 billion dollars in public assistance.

An increasing number of conservatives support raising the minimum wage, which would help fast food workers earn more (and reduce government assistance to them), but Ryan opposes this.

Yet Ryan also wants to slash food stamps that help support these minimum wage workers. His refashioned long-term budget plan released last year included “cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) of $135 billion — almost 18 percent — over the next ten years (2014-2023).”

Ryan’s proposal helped push Republicans to demand reductions in SNAP as part of the bipartisan congressional bill passed in February, which ultimately cut such funding by nearly $9 billion.

For that matter, Romney’s campaign platform was heavily influenced by Ryan’s budgetary road map for America. Ryan wasn’t really at odds with Romney’s policies, he was embarrassed by Romney’s gaffe and how it gave the game away.

Ryan’s brown bag speech, while less flagrant, was just as revealing. And one week later he was quoted on the radio talk show of conservative host Bill Bennett saying this: “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Once again Ryan seemed to be slandering a large number of his constituents, in poor neighborhoods of cities like Racine and Janesville (not to mention nearby Beloit, which he used to represent). His comment caused yet another controversy, and Ryan reacted by promising to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus and backing off from his comment, saying he was “inarticulate” in how he phrased his point.

The curious thing about these two gaffes is that Republicans and many in the media laud Ryan as one of the smartest and most thoughtful members of his party. Ryan is anything but inarticulate and his statements of late seem like a classic tell in a poker game, telling us what he really thinks. Like Romney, he has simply written off huge numbers of Americans as pathetic “victims,” including the working poor, who need government help to support their family, and the parents of more than half the public school students in his home town, who depend on subsidized lunches. The New Paul Ryan is exactly like the old one, with the same heartless views and policies.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

24 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The New Paul Ryan”

  1. Andy says:

    I still don’t get why his comments on the inner city’s lack of working male role models is so controversial? One of the programs I’m most passionate about is Big Brothers Big Sisters and this is a cornerstone of why their program exists. It’s also a big concern of the YMCA’s Black Achievers.

    Having a desire to turn this around hardly seems like it should be controversial to me. Maybe it’s because a middle aged white man said it? That by itself seems ridiculous. Until we all face the facts of what sort of challenges our community has, we’re doomed to perpetuate them.

  2. GD says:

    If it wasn’t controversial, why is he denying he was speaking about black men in particular? And let’s not forget he also said he agrees with eugenicist Charles Murray, who believes government assistance incentivizes the growth of a genetically intellectually inferior underclass who can’t hold jobs in the modern economy.

  3. PVbob says:

    The question I have for Paul is: how do you know that “…generations of men not even thinking of working or learning the value and culture of work…” How do you know this as a fact Paul? Broad generalizations are easy to make. They’re part of the conservative play book. Not surprising that this tactic would be used by someone whose intellectual grounding started and apparently ended in college bolstered only by Fox News.

  4. tomw says:

    As a member of the 47% (free health care from the VA, disability payments from the VA), I find the failure of the press to consider what “thoughtful” or “smart” means. The thinness of the responses to poverty is truly overwhelming in their ignorance of how interconnected things like transportation infrastructure, funding for education, post secondary training and educational costs and availability, and health care availability are. In addition, one need only go to any job fair held anywhere in the city to know that poor people want to work and when given the opportunity will work. What we have is a political culture which fears any comparison to government funded defense contracts which when threatened are always supported because of the jobs they create to, for example, government funded transportation programs which create jobs and provide opportunities for people to travel to areas outside their neighborhoods to find employment. Ryan, Walker, and, yes, the Dems, too, need to have some courage and be more “thoughtful” and “smarter” if they truly want to address poverty in the city.

  5. Andy says:

    PVBob and GD, his statement was nothing new. I hear community leaders and non-profit leaders say the exact thing all the time. The only difference, the only reason he’s being attacked, and the only reason he’s defensive, is because when a white middle aged man says it then suddenly he can be called a racist. I don’t think he should back down from the comment. Yes, the inner city is largely African American, and yes he said that this is an issue in the inner city. It is what it is…

    When the leaders in Young Achievers say it, they straight up say that a lack of strong male role models showing the youth the value of working hard in school and their jobs is a major problem for the urban black community. They don’t hide behind euphemisms and weasel out of saying what they’re actually talking about. Just because they say this, doesn’t mean all black people lack a strong work ethic or that poor white or latino children don’t lack for the role models… but not saying that doesn’t make their statement any less true.

    If you want to really address these issues then stop being so PC about it just because a middle aged white man addressed it. If anything, welcome them in to help solve our problems.

  6. Chris Kuhl says:

    How is he saying anything that isn’t true? Skin color was never mentioned and if your a young man, who has never worked and multiple generations before you have never worked, your friends and neighbors have never worked, you have little to no education, let alone marketable job skills, how would you ever be expected to escape this Liberal-created ‘walled garden’ of dependency? You have no examples to turn to.

    He just had the guts to admit what the Dependency Culture technocrats can never own up to. It’s the only to way to have anything change, is to openly admit that THERE IS A PROBLEM.

  7. GD says:

    “because when a white middle aged man says it then suddenly he can be called a racist”

    Then he should stop citing the patently racist work of Charles Murray.

  8. Jim says:

    Please tell us the difference between the following statements;

    “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”


    “In troubled neighborhoods all across this country—many of them heavily African American—too few of our citizens have role models to guide them. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households…. We know the statistics—that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. We know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be ‘disconnected’—not in school, not working.”

    Really, please tell me why there is any difference, other than one quote is from Ryan and the second is from President Obama?

    (quotes taken from Politico)

  9. Bruce Thompson says:

    Here is the reason I find Ryan’s statements bothersome. Challenges like poverty are like complex puzzles where no one has all the pieces. But rather than playing the pieces they have it is safer and more fun to stand back and criticize others for not playing their pieces right. Ryan’s statement is part of that syndrome: pointing the finger at someone else rather than asking himself what he an the congress can do to make things better. So blaming black families becomes an excuse for congress not to do its part and Ryan has become part of the culture of finer-pointing.

  10. Bruce Thompson says:

    Sorry: culture of finger pointing.
    A further thought: Ryan has virtually no influence over decisions by inner city residents; if that was his interest he would find a better way to communicate than a speech to CPAC or an interview with Bill Bennett. He does have considerable power in the Congress, so why isn’t he using that power to, for instance, push legislation that would offer more jobs in the inner city?

  11. len zubrensky says:

    ryan should be drafted to the army with rank of major because he is a major B.S artist.

  12. Michael Leon says:

    Ryan separating himself from Romney was not his objective, I don’t believe.

    Ryan was bashing African Americans in the tried-and-true Tea Party fashion, self-consciously.

    Without bashing gays, minorities and that entity of working people organizing to sell their work product known as a union, the GOP is losing its appeal.

    Ryan is against a woman’s choice what to do with her body, so he has the misogyny element covered.

    “Once again Ryan seemed to be slandering a large number of his constituents, in poor neighborhoods of cities like Racine and Janesville (not to mention nearby Beloit, which he used to represent),” you point out.

    Indeed, without doing so, Ryan is finished with this, new Republican Party.

  13. Andy says:

    I just do not accept that something can be a fact when one group says it but then becomes the “blame game” when another says it. I never heard Ryan say anything about that being the only challenge faced in our inner city. The fact of the matter is, as companies moved out of the city, state, and country, they left a vacuum of jobs in the city and there are now MULTIPLE generations of people who haven’t had steady work. Besides high unemployment, we see many families without a strong male role model which is increasingly recognized as important in a child’s development.

    Quite frankly, I don’t care who talks about it and who they are telling. I hope this is talked about by all political parties to people at all levels of society. It’ll take political power players all the way to those struggling to survive to change society together. Trying to find answers to our problems can’t be done by only one group.

    And I agree, Ryan and the rest of the federal government have a hand in trying to foster job growth. I believe he does try to do just that through conservative policies. But any way you slice it, state and local governments play a much larger hand in creating jobs. Milwaukee is affected far more by local legislation than it is Federal.

    -mandatory sick days
    -“living wage” requirements (of which almost killed a hotel project)
    -high taxes
    -being half of the tit-for-tat battle w/ the burbs
    -shooting down specific businesses because they don’t fit a perfect mold (grocery store on MLK/North and Buy Seasons)
    -a general anti-business and anti-wealth attitude

    These are all things at the local level that will trump anything Ryan can do in Congress.

    Sorry for the novel, but politically driven default antagonism of ideas just because they’re said by a Republican will only perpetuate our divisive society and exacerbate the challenges in solving our problems. This is by no means the only problem in the inner city, but for all the kids who grow up in a household where they don’t get to experience working parents who are trying to improve their situation… it’s probably one of the most prominent.

  14. tim haering says:

    Pretty rough on Ryan, who is just a white man of humbler wealth and privilege than his running mate Romney. That’s why I dubbed him “Mini Mitt” from the outset. I still like him, he’s still a budget/economic hero. And I think he’s still right: There are a lot of folks out there trapped in govt subsidies as a way to, as Obama quoth, “make the paycheck fit the bills.” Folks who have never had to tone down their personalities to hold a job as long as govt funds give them the freedom to be who they are. Who want the middle class trappings without that middle class responsibilities, like jobs. The rest of us pay for their ego-trip.

    CBC-ers like Moore don’t want their inner city brethren to follow their example of hard work and compromise to achieve their goals. CBCers want their constituency reliant on the CBC to fight their battles for them. So they will always attack the Ryans who are trying, like Roddy Piper in “They LIve”, to help them see the truth and fight their way out of economic repression.

  15. Dave K. says:

    Life’s a lot easier for a person like Ryan who has access to capital, resources, connections, and an education. It’s easy (for political gain and for grabbing headlines) to scapegoat entire swaths of people for being “lazy”. Yesterday I saw a guy walking down the street picking up cans and scrap metal. You can’t tell me that’s not hard work.

    I also wonder if arguments like this will drive a wedge between the unholy alliance of fiscal conservatives and religious conservatives. Christians should be bristling with anger over Ryan’s comments.

  16. Liz Stuart says:

    If anything, our public assistance, education, and healthcare are totally inadequate. We know that when young children do not receive intellectual stimulation and proper nourishment, they lose intellectual capacity they will never regain, and yet we’re perfectly happy to allow this to continue. Until we wake up and recognize that those who want to lower taxes, regulations, and reduce spending on healthcare, education, and social services are solely in it for themselves and greedily looking for ways to further increase their wealth for bragging rights on the golf course, no matter how many people’s lives are damaged or destroyed, we will continue to slide down the slope into oblivion and has-been status as a nation.

  17. Bruce Thompson says:

    Contrary to several comments, it can make a huge difference who says something and in what comment. If the prime minister of Israel says that settlements should stop and the president of Palestine says that Palestine should find ways to prevent attacks on Israel, I would interpret that as a sign both want peace. However, if the comments are reversed, that would signal they are intent in continuing the conflict.

    Coming from one individual comes through as a call for shared responsibility. From another, it looks like a denial of responsibility.

  18. Peter says:

    I am glad to see you uncover the truth about the CPAC story.
    But apparently Paul Ryan prefaces the remark that you cite from the Bennett interview with a reference to Charles Murray. Although there is some debate as to whether the citation was to “The Bell Curve,” “Losing Ground,” or “Coming Apart.” is it not more scary that Mr. Ryan’s thinking is shaped by Charles Murray. I am not sure why you omitted this detail from your story, but the fact that Ryan’s thinking is shaped in part by Murray is pretty darn scary.

  19. Andy says:

    Bruce Thompson, that is total bull. Anyone who takes some time to step back and use some unbiased critical thinking would take note that Ryan has long championed fighting the effects of poverty. Further, the context of his comments (in this particular instance, and on an ongoing basis) show a call to action, not a dismissal of responsibility.

    The left has made it almost an automatic reaction to dismiss anyone on the right who wishes to address issues related to poverty as somehow being racist, elitist, greedy, etc. This works amongst yourselves in the blogosphere and within your social circles… creating great confirmation bias, but the majority of “regular” non-political people do not make the same connection.

  20. Bruce Thompson says:

    Is there a summary of Ryan’s proposals for fighting poverty? After reading your comment, I listened to Ryan’s speech to CPAC on You Tube (the one with the brown paper bag story), but the only call to action there is to win the next election.

    I would be the first to acknowledge that conservatives have sometimes come up with good ideas (Romneycare, the EITC, pollution taxes, etc.) that have subsequently adopted by liberals and in many cases now rejected by the conservative establishment. (In fact, I still hope they will adopt vouchers for low income students, but that seems a long way off at this time). But if Ryan’s only proposal is to cut government anti-poverty programs and hope that the private sector picks up the slack, I don’t think he is credible.

  21. Andy says:

    Bruce Thompson,

    First, I just want to say it is a pleasure having these discussions with you. I very much appreciate that you take the time to have real exchange of ideas and views on these topics.

    Back on topic, I’ll have to go watch the CPAC speech myself, up till now I was only referring to his radio interview. However, regarding his policies on fighting poverty as I see them, I note two factors. First, he does not want to unabashedly cut anti-poverty programs. Much to the dismay of more conservative republicans, he values and supports many of these social programs. However, as is explained in the congressional budget office’s report on the war on poverty over the last 50 years - – there are a number of problems with the programs that need to be addressed. They include such things as overlapping benefits, disincentives to work due to effective marginal tax rates as high as 80-100%, failure to show successful outcomes, and more. His idea is to do a thorough review of all of these programs, keep the good parts, fix the problems, build incentives to work into many programs where there are none, and eliminate overlap. Is that so unreasonable?

    The second large area he seems to support, is the idea that getting people to work is ultimately the best (arguably the only) way to pull them out of poverty. This does mean, in his opinion, that a lot of this is influenced by fostering private sector job growth. Also, he recognizes there are societal factors that create major challenges in this area… including education, family structure, and cultural/societal influences. That last part is the thing that seems to be most controversial to you. My question for you is, how can you have a discussion about the rest of this if you don’t recognize those challenges? It seems many people just pull out that last section as their rallying cry against a politician that for all intents and purposes supports many of the programs that democrats and liberals support.

    I understand it’s good politics for a party to find a reason to rake the other party over the coals for… but for non-politicians who seek a real dialog on solving our societal problems it seems to me we would be more open to fostering discussions on improving our legislation… even if it means no changes actually take place. Instead I see people blindly following the demonization of a moderate politician for a few items taken out of context.

  22. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Glad that someone has brought this up as the Left has screwed up the inner cities throughout the country, the worst being Detroit. Corruption, vote buying pandering to guys like Sharpton and Jackson but never any solutions.
    Why do the Leftists think that if they continue doing the same thing that something different is going to happen. I look at David Clarke, Thomas Sowell, Bill Cosby and many others that must lead the way cause the race hustlers have brought disaster to the community.
    Look at the last 50 years of Leftwing policies and the last ten. What a disaster that Barrett has been, Obama has made things worse. Course it is all because of Halliburton, Bush and Walker that this has come about. The people in charge bear no blame , they can always find someone else to blame for their incompetence. “My little sister did it” when I was a kid..
    Look at a direct example between West Allis and Milwaukee. West Allis is rebuilt and Milwaukee has become one of the top ten most violent cities in country. West allis historically was one of the three poorest cities in county.

  23. Mariothepoet says:

    No need to say much about this article. Hits the nail on the head at every turn.

    CHEERS, to you Mr. Murphy, for getting it.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us