Ryan: Poverty remarks 'inarticulate'

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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday he made an “inarticulate” statement about inner city poverty during an interview this week.

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“After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make,” Ryan said in a statement. “I was not implicating the culture of one community — but of society as a whole.”

Democrats accused Ryan of making racially charged remarks when describing what he called a culture of people not working or learning the value of hard work. Ryan said it was the “culture in our inner cities in particular.”

“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 so there’s a cultural problem that has to be dealt with,” Ryan said in the interview Wednesday.

Ryan added that relying on the government to fix the problem is not enough, “You need to get involved yourself.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a member of the Budget Committee that Ryan leads as chairman, said his comments were offensive.  

“My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about 'inner city' poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated,” Lee said.

In his statement Thursday, Ryan said his larger point was about encouraging people to rethink their approach to fighting poverty.

“We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities,” he said. “The predictable result has been multi-generational poverty and little opportunity. I also believe the government’s response has inadvertently created a poverty trap that builds barriers to work. A stable, good-paying job is the best bridge out of poverty.”

Ryan, who is preparing the House’s budget resolution, recently issued a lengthy report finding many anti-poverty programs are in need of reform and sometimes counterproductive.

The report, which has been criticized by Democrats, found that the poverty rate has remained high despite billions of dollars in government spending.