Paul Ryan convinces reporter he cares about poverty by spending time with black people

But reality doesn’t jive with Congressman’s words


By Laura Clawson, Daily Kos Labor 

Rep. Paul Ryan’s crusade to brand himself as a Republican poverty crusader has run into a few snags. But lucky for him, Ryan has Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins to issue a lavish, 7,000-word tongue bath paying tribute to Ryan’s willingness to step outside Republican norms and make himself all uncomfortable and awkward by talking to poor people (black ones, even).

When it comes to fighting poverty, Ryan — so unafraid to think big when it comes to ending Medicare as we know it — highlights small-bore solutions. His answer to astonishingly high poverty among black men in some communities, and to discrimination against people with criminal records? They should go to programs run by local pastors who can then refer them for jobs. The results of the program Ryan visits with Coppins “speak for themselves,” Coppins writes:

Since 2005, [Pastor Darryl Webster] has put about 900 men through the program and nearly 70% of them have overcome an addiction, according to the church. Scores of local men credit Webster with helping them start their careers.

That’s nice and all, but 900 men since 2005 breaks down to roughly 100 a year, the 70 percent addiction-overcoming rate is self-reported, and “scores” of people now have careers as a result. Replicate this five times in each and every major American city and you’re still not beginning to put a dent in poverty. But Coppins predictably allows to go unchallenged Ryan’s portrayal of the results of federal anti-poverty programs:

If his rhetoric lacks poetry, his arguments against the current state-centric approach to aiding the poor is compelling. Since Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” the U.S. government has spent an estimated $13 trillion on federal programs that have resulted, 50 years later, in the highest deep poverty rate on record. The failure, Ryan contends, is in the notion that anti-poverty programs are best managed from the top, with Washington bureaucrats crunching numbers and then issuing lowest-common-denominator directives.

In fact, according to the government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, safety net programs cut poverty in half, with food stamps improving children’s health and educational and out comes the Earned Income Tax Credit boosting employment among single mothers. Not to mention, there are a few other things going on in the economy that might be affecting poverty rates. Like, say, a decade of stagnating wages, a financial collapse brought on by barely regulated big banks, and a poverty-level minimum wage kept that way by Ryan’s own party. Coppins is equally credulous when it comes to Ryan’s explanation for why his signature legislation, his budget, is so brutal toward poor and middle-class people:

I’ve got two roles,” he says. “I’m chairman of the House Budget Committee representing my conference and I’m a House member representing Wisconsin doing my own thing. I can’t speak for everybody and put my stuff in their budget. My work on poverty is a separate thing.”

Yeah, it’s a thing he does to get adoring profiles of Paul Ryan, Republican Who Cares About Poverty, separate from his actual efforts to get legislation passed or shape the national political debate.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Kos.