The PJ Tatler

Ryan Says He's Learned Lessons About 'Slighting People Who are Depending Upon Government'

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is out with a new book on his 2012 vice presidential run and beyond, says he’s “learned a lot” from the experiences of the past few years.

“I made some mistakes. And I think you need to own up. That’s the other thing. People in public life, for some reason they don’t think it is right to own up to mistakes,” Ryan told PBS. “In private lives we are supposed to, I mean as adults. So I made some mistakes and I own up to those mistakes. I can learn from that.”

That includes using the phrase “makers and takers” to describe those using public assistance programs.

“What I meant when I said it was that we have a system where too many people are becoming dependent upon the government, and there won’t be enough people paying for the government to keep that kind of a system going,” Ryan said. “And what I meant to say is we need to focus on getting people off of welfare into work. We need to focus on getting people to where they want to get in life so that they can be upwardly mobile, so they can be self-sufficient. So they can reach their dreams. Because the whole American idea as I describe here is that the condition of your birth in this country doesn’t determine the outcome of your life.”

“And the role and goal of government is to protect our natural rights and promote equality of opportunity so we can make the most of our lives. And I was trying to articulate the fact that our system, our federal government has gotten too big, has gotten to top down, too coercive and a lot of people aren’t seeing this. A lot of people aren’t getting this opportunity.”

What it sounded like, the congressman said, “is I was slighting people who are depending upon government who earned benefits.”

“And so that was not what I meant to say but it is — it took a liberal Democrat at the Rock County Fair in Janesville, Wisconsin, to come up to me and tell me really what it sounded like. And I realized after this guy kind of laid into me, you know, he is right,” Ryan continued.

“I think it does come across that way so I need to change the way I talked, and the thinking behind it, so that I can communicate more effectively, which is we want a system where everybody can make the most of their lives. Those of us who are conservatives, that doesn’t mean we are for no government. We want government to be effective and limited so that it can do what it is supposed to do well to help get people where they need to be.”

Ryan admitted that his running mate on the GOP ticket, 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had the same problem with his 47 percent comments.

“What I am trying to say is in this hyperpolarized time we are in, I would like to think that there is a majority in this country that if given a very clear mandate, a very clear choice, built upon a clear governing philosophy that we can recapture that spirit in this country and get these reforms passed,” he said. “…What I think is prevailing is a government-centered view of American life that is based on collaboration, that is more top- down, that is not respecting people in communities, that is not respecting local control.”