Paul Ryan & Poverty: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

By: Meredith Kelly

Since taking the reins as Speaker, Paul Ryan has been paying constant lip service to the fight against poverty in the U.S. As The Atlantic put it, “the new speaker has come blazing out of the gate with a much-ballyhooed push to get his party talking about poverty.” But that’s all Ryan’s poverty positioning is – talk and ballyhoo, because his actual record on poverty tells a completely different story. Ryan, through his budget proposals, has sought to make drastic cuts to programs that working families rely on. But more pernicious than that, Ryan has suggested that Americans on public assistance are living lives of “deficiency” and that “30 percent” of Americans “want the welfare state.”

As Speaker Ryan continues to entreat his colleagues to tackle poverty issues, we imagine his pitch goes something like this: “do as I say (now), not as I do.”


Ryan Budget’s Cuts Would Force 3.8 Million People Off Food Stamp Assistance.  “The Ryan budget cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $137 billion over the next decade.  It adopts the harsh SNAP cuts that the House passed last September — which would force 3.8 million people off the program in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office — and then converts SNAP to a block grant in 2019 and imposes still-deeper cuts.” [CBPP, 4/03/14]

CBPP: Republican Budget Would Cut $1.5 Trillion Total From Medicaid Over 10 Years. “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget again proposes to radically restructure Medicaid by converting it into a block grant, and it would cut federal Medicaid funding steeply, by $732 billion over the next decade.  It would also repeal health reform’s Medicaid expansion.  The combined total cut to Medicaid would exceed more than $1.5 trillion over ten years, relative to current law.  All told, it would add tens of millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.” [CBPP, 4/01/14]

Ryan Voted Against Increasing The Minimum Wage At Least 10 Separate Times. [HR 2206, Vote #424, 5/24/07; HR 2206, Vote #333, 5/10/07; HR 1591, Vote #186, 3/23/07; HR 2, Vote #18, 1/10/07; HR5970, Vote #425, 7/29/06; HR5970, Vote #424, 7/29/06; HR2389, Vote #382, 7/19/06; HR2990, Vote#364, 7/12/06; HR4411, Vote #360, 7/11/06; HR5672, Vote #319, 6/27/06]

Ryan: “70 Percent Of Americans Want The American Dream … 30 Percent Want The Welfare State.” RYAN: “The good news is survey after survey, poll after poll, still shows we are a center-right, 70-30 country. 70 percent of Americans want the American Dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state.” [Ryan Remarks, American Spectator’s 2011 Robert L. Bartley Gala Dinner, posted 10/2/12]

Ryan Referred To Those On Public Assistance As Living Lives Of “Deficiency.” RYAN: “What we want to do is have welfare reform that gets people off of lives of deficiency and onto to lives of self sufficiency. That’s why we couple this with job training programs and work requirements. We think we ought to make sure that we get people out of the cycle of poverty and, unfortunately, I think the plan that we have in place, the president’s agenda creates more of a dependent culture, creates people that are stuck in poverty because it denies the idea of upward mobility.” [Ryan interview with Chris Wallace, “Fox News Sunday,” Fox News Channel, 3/25/12]

U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops: Deficit Reduction “Must Protect And Not Undermine The Needs Of Poor And Vulnerable People” And Therefore Ryan Budget Cuts “Fail This Basic Moral Test.” “‘The Catholic bishops of the United States recognize the serious deficits our country faces, and we acknowledge that Congress must make difficult decisions about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs,’ wrote Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, as the House prepared to vote on a reconciliation package for the 2013 budget. ‘However, deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people. The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.’” [U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 5/08/12]