Commentary: Paul Ryan's Misguided View of Inner-City Folk

The onetime vice presidential candidate says that the problem with inner-city Americans is their deep-set cultural problems.

Posted: 03/13/2014 05:46 PM EDT

Somehow, Republican officials seem to have a difficult time attracting the voters that they want diligently to court. They constantly talk about the need to do a better outreach to African-American and Latino voters. Yet, their rhetoric frequently reveals their real views on issues, and they are often wholly distasteful to those they claim to attract to the GOP.

The latest episode in this saga comes at the hands of Congressman Paul Ryan, the man who would have been vice president of the United States had the GOP been able to achieve victory in the 2012 elections.

Rather than lead an effort to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan initiative aimed at helping millions of urban American residents to find employment, Ryan decided to take another approach, accusing residents of the “inner city” of having a “real culture problem.” That culture problem, he said, was distinguished by a lack of work ethic.

“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 to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” Ryan said, speaking on Bill Bennett’s radio show on Wednesday.

Ryan, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, is interested in developing new requirements that he described as aiming to “re-emphasize work and reform our welfare programs.”

In Ryan’s world, the problem with jobless people in the inner city — and it’s clear who he means by that — is simply a culture of dependency and a lack a desire to work. It matters little in his calculation the long history of discrimination in this country that has established a real cultural problem of underfunded schools, housing bias and a host of other systemic problems that have placed these so-called inner-city residents at a perennial disadvantage.

It is troubling that so many Republican officials are quick to cast broad aspersions on an entire population of people while offering little in concrete terms to genuinely lift disadvantaged people from their plight. Ryan sees no problem whatsoever in tightening the access to welfare payments for those who need them but allowing corporate welfare initiatives to thrive, unfettered.

Those inner-city people whom Ryan castigates as culturally deficient are at least clever enough to keep such pronouncements and philosophies in mind when it comes time to go to the ballot box. And that’s the reason so many of Ryan’s fellow Republican lawmakers are doing what they can to make it more challenging for such folk to vote. With Ryan’s party at the forefront of such undemocratic tactics, who is it indeed with the real cultural problem?

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 (Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

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