"If Paul Ryan Knew What Poverty Was, He Wouldn't Be Giving This Speech".
By Stephanie Mencimer,
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House budget committee, knew some Catholics were spoiling for a fight with him Thursday when he was scheduled to speak at Georgetown University, a Catholic institution. Nearly 90 faculty members and administrators sent him a letter expressing concerns with his recent comments that his proposed budget, which includes massive spending cuts to programs for the poor but not a single tax increase, was inspired by his Catholic faith.
"I am afraid that Chairman Ryan's budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ," said Father Thomas Reese, a fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown, in a press release Tuesday. "Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love."
The complaints seemed to resonate with Ryan. On Thursday, he went on record denouncing Ayn Rand, who believed altruism is evil, brushing off his well-documented obsession with her as a teenage romance. Ryan told the National Review's Robert Costa: "I reject her philosophy. It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don't give me Ayn Rand."
Our budget builds on the historic welfare reforms of the 1990s—reforms proven to work. We aim to empower state and local governments, communities, and individuals—those closest to the problem. And we aim to promote opportunity and upward mobility by strengthening job training programs, to help those who have fallen on hard times. My mentor, Jack Kemp, used to say, "You can't help America's poor by making America poor."
During the Q&A; session that followed, where Ryan fielded questions submitted by students, he insisted that welfare reform had brought down child poverty rates. The claim is false, especially in Ryan's home state. According to the most recent data, the child poverty rate in Wisconsin jumped 42 percent between 2000 and 2010. The suffering would have been more significant but for the large increases in federal food assistance that Ryan wants to scale back. Welfare reform is more likely a contributing factor to child poverty, not a solution to it, making it a dubious model for for combating poverty "at its roots," as Ryan said he wants to do.
That's why Catholics at Georgetown, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other Catholic organizations were so outraged when Ryan told a Christian TV show earlier this month that his budget was wholly in keeping with Catholic teachings and practically endorsed by the Pope himself, whom Ryan told the students Thursday was down on debt. His speech was protested on Thursday by Catholics who are in the trenches with the people who would suffer from his budget proposal. They were folks who work at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other social-service agencies run by Catholic organizations, who see first hand the complexities and needs of the poor.
James Salt, the executive director of Catholics United, which organized one of the protests outside the hall where Ryan was speaking, told gathered reporters that his group was there because "the dignity of the poor should be at the forefront of our minds." Taking a dig at Ryan's attempts to cast his budget as a boon for poor people, Salt noted, "If Paul Ryan knew what poverty was, he wouldn't be giving this speech."
It kind of reminds you of Ryan's problem last year trying to sell Medicare vouchers to his constituents in Wisconsin, doesn't it?
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