Ryan Meeting with Black Caucus Next Week on Poverty Comments

A Democratic congresswoman from Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) home state said that the Congressional Black Caucus is eager to meet with the House Budget Committee chairman on Wednesday to discuss his comments on inner-city 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 last month on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America when talking about welfare-to-work requirements.

The CBC sent Ryan a letter calling the original comments “highly offensive.” 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 invited Ryan to come to one of their weekly meetings to talk about poverty.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) told reporters on a House Democratic caucus call today that they see the meeting, scheduled to take place after Ryan's committee holds a hearing titled "A Progress Report on the War on Poverty: Lessons from the Frontlines," as an "opportunity."

"You know, Congressman Ryan is a nice guy. And, as such, you know, he has tried to frame the comments that he made about inner-city folks as just sort of inarticulate ways of communicating," Moore said. "We're gonna challenge his assumptions about that, and really raise with him a couple of very specific proposals."

"One is to really focus and target in on job opportunities for inner city and rural men. There is a program that was modeled in the stimulus package called the 10-20-30 program. And it was to target 10 percent of economic resources in those communities where 20 percent of the population lived in poverty for over 30 years," she continued.

"And when you look at it, this is not a partisan thing. It's not a racial thing. It's not an urban or a rural thing. If we were to implement that, it would touch Republicans, like 50/50 Democrats-Republicans, rural areas and urban communities."

Moore said they really hope to bend Ryan's ear during the meeting.

"He says that he wants to, you know, his take on talking about poverty is to say, 'We've spent billions or trillions of dollars on poverty programs and poverty won.' And we see that essentially as just a sort of playing with statistics or numbers, because in fact these poverty programs have helped raise people into the middle class by giving them job experience," she said.

"And it has literally been a lifeline to millions of people, and not just people of color, but seniors. We all know, for example, that the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Social Security, literally lifted seniors out of poverty. And so, we are happy that Representative Ryan wants to engage in this conversation and we're not going to let him get away with sort of a, you know, a sleight-of-hand on this. We know how to crunch numbers as well."