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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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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