Paul Ryan Draws Ire Of Congressional Black Caucus For Racist Remarks About Poverty

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Following Paul Ryan’s remarks on “real” problems of poverty, the Congressional Black Caucus invited him to speak at one of their weekly meetings. Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Gwen Moore (D-WI) sent him a scathing letter in which they called his comments “offensive,” and touched on the actual issues facing poor families.

Paul Ryan proves he doesn’t understand the inner cities.

Paul Ryan appeared on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America,” show earlier this week, where he discussed the problems facing the poor. He focused heavily on the inner city, saying:

“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.” [SOURCE]

Part of the letter from the Congressional Black Caucus shot back with this:

“The problem many people in poverty face is not isolation, but rather the lack of resources to help ensure all people have the opportunity to succeed and contribute to society, such as adequate transportation, infrastructure, job training programs and other resources to search for jobs and become gainfully employed. A serious policy conversation on poverty should not begin with assumptions or stereotypes. Poverty in our nation is a critical problem that must be approached with diligence and the utmost respect for those who are trapped by poverty’s grasp.” [SOURCE]

This part of it is some of the truth about poverty, which people like Paul Ryan can’t understand. Poverty, particularly generational poverty, exists for a several significant reasons. None of these have to do with inner city men being too lazy to work. It doesn’t have to do with inner city families having lost sight of the American Dream.

What Paul Ryan isn’t understanding is the true plight of the inner city. He’s failing to understand that education and job training aren’t everything people need to get out of poverty. Even with a good education and good job training, if a family can’t afford the transportation or housing needed to live near the “good, stable jobs,” (which are not in the inner city), then all of that is useless. What’s happened in the inner cities is the result of many different things all coming together to crash down on the people living there. It’s robbed them of all the opportunities the “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” crowd claims are out there for the taking.

When people like Paul Ryan call it a matter of laziness on the part of men in certain demographics, they completely, totally, and utterly fail to understand anything about it. They fail to understand everything that’s created the problems in the inner cities. He’s looking at it through his conservative, middle- to upper-class lens, which says the problem is entirely personal choice.

Prioritizing housing and school vouchers are part of Paul Ryan’s “solution” to inner city poverty.

Paul Ryan wants to prioritize housing and school vouchers as a means of increasing opportunity for those mired in the inner cities. Back in January, he said, “We’ve got to stop quarantining the poor.” Maybe, but as Reps. Fudge and Moore said, the problem isn’t just isolation. School vouchers are useless if the poor can’t get to the schools those vouchers are supposed to help them with. They’re also useless if students don’t have all the tools necessary to do their homework (such as Internet access).

Also, while housing vouchers have helped many low-income families get into healthier neighborhoods, the program isn’t as successful as it used to be, or should be. Not everybody can find housing where vouchers work. There are other problems too, such as skyrocketing rental rates and low vacancy rates. The housing bust didn’t help that, as people who suddenly couldn’t afford to buy houses, or stay in their houses, had to look into renting.

Since Paul Ryan’s ultimate aim is to cut government spending, it’s highly unlikely he’d want to expand federal funding for housing vouchers, to say nothing of reforming and expanding federal job training programs. He talks big, but his desire for spending cuts, particularly where welfare is concerned, speaks even louder.

Did Paul Ryan actually, really study the issue?

Paul Ryan did try to look like he was changing course on some of his poverty claims for a 200-page report on the 50 years of the War on Poverty. He put on a good show of educating himself on the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs, instead of simply repeating right-wing rhetoric from right-wing pseudo-scholars. What he really did was cherry-pick the data he was looking at. He basically used only the data he liked from the War on Poverty to paint various government programs in a negative light, probably so he can get more cuts.

Paul Ryan did say that he was “inarticulate” on Bill Bennett’s show. He said he was trying to make the point that the problem is society as a whole, and that communities and families need to rethink their strategies together. It’ll be interesting to see what he says if he accepts that invitation. His “apology,” such as it was, shows he still doesn’t get it.