Saying they were “deeply troubled” by recent comments about inner-city work ethics, the Congressional Black Caucus has invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to come to one of their weekly meetings to talk about poverty.
“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,” Ryan said on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America on Wednesday when talking about welfare-to-work requirements.
On Thursday, Ryan said his comments had “nothing to do whatsoever with race.”
“After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make,” he said in a statement. “I was not implicating the culture of one community — but of society as a whole. We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities.”
The CBC sent Ryan a letter Thursday calling the original comments “highly offensive.”
“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,” the letter states. “Each year, the Congressional Black Caucus releases a budget that seeks to create opportunity for all Americans, including those in both urban and rural communities. We encourage you to analyze our budget and work with us to positively address the great needs of impoverished Americans.”
CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said on MSNBC last night that Ryan “should be not only ashamed of himself, but to go and drive in his own community and talk to the 29,000 households in his community who receive food stamps and ask them if they’re lazy.”
“Ask them if they want to work. Ask them if it’s OK to feel bad about not being able to feed their families. I think it will give him an earful and I think it would very different from what he said in his interview the other day.”
Fudge added that Ryan “underestimates the intelligence of the people of America.”
“He has done everything he can to derail every single program that would help the poor, that would help children, that would help the elderly. He will say that it is a dependency. It is a culture of dependency,” the congresswoman said. “All he is doing is continuing to denigrate the people who want to — for themselves to find the American dream. And he has no intention of letting them get it, because the only people he is concerned with is the people who had trust funds like he did when he grew up, or the people who give money to his campaigns. He is not in the least bit concerned about the poor people in this country.”