Paul Ryan Says He Regrets Calling the Poor “Takers.” That Isn’t Enough.


Here is Speaker Paul Ryan today in an address to a group of House interns:

Instead of playing to your anxieties, we can appeal to your aspirations…We don’t resort to scaring you, we dare to inspire you…We question each other’s ideas—vigorously—but we don’t question each other’s motives…People with different ideas are not traitors. They are not our enemies. They are our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow citizens.

…I’m certainly not going to stand here and tell you I have always met this standard. There was a time when I would talk about a difference between “makers” and “takers” in our country, referring to people who accepted government benefits. But as I spent more time listening, and really learning the root causes of poverty, I realized I was wrong…So I stopped thinking about it that way—and talking about it that way.

The obvious pushback is that while Ryan may have stopped talking about “makers and takers,” his policies are exactly the same as they’ve always been. After all that time spent listening, he changed his rhetoric but apparently none of his substantive views.

Which is true enough. If all Ryan is doing is telling a bunch of interns that they can get more done if they watch their language and hide their true intentions, then there’s nothing much to applaud here. At the same time, it’s still good to say this stuff out loud, regardless of how sincere it is. Not many people do anymore. Now, how about doing it again in front of a more important audience and with a few explicit references to Donald Trump thrown in?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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