Dave Weigel comes to Paul Ryan's defense, arguing that Ryan didn't say anything on William Bennett's radio show that wasn't said by President Obama last month when he discussed "promise zones." Weigel:
ThinkProgress provides the clip.... Ryan says there's a problem "in our inner cities in particular," of "generations of men not even thinking about working."OK, here's the difference between what Ryan and Bennett said and what the president said: Ryan and Bennett blamed persistent poverty on young people not seeing older people working, virtually to the exclusion of all other causes. The president spoke of the interaction between larger economic changes and individual actions. That didn't fit Weigel's thesis, so he edited it out.
... Ryan's problem, it seems, is that he's talking about inner cities while being 1) a Republican who is 2) about to unleash poverty legislation heavy on work requirements. If you're a Democrat, you can talk about the inner city in the same way Ryan does.
"There are communities where for too many young people it feels like their future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town," said President Obama in his speech to announce new "promise zones" in poor (some rural) areas. "Too many communities where no matter how hard you work, your destiny feels like it's already been determined for you before you took that first step. I'm not just talking about pockets of poverty in our inner cities. That's the stereotype."
Ryan and Bennett:
Bill Bennett: A boy has to see a man working doesn't he?See? It's culture, according to Ryan and Bennett. It's adult individuals being lousy role models to younger individuals. That's the big problem.
Paul Ryan: Absolutely.
PR: That's this tailspin or spiral that we're looking at in our communities. Your buddy Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this. Which is, 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. And so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.
Now here's what the president said in the public appearance Weigel quoted, in context:
In a speech 50 years ago, President Johnson talked about communities "on the outskirts of hope where opportunity was hard to come by." Well, today's economic challenges are different but they've still resulted in communities where in recent decades wrenching economic change has made opportunity harder and harder to come by. There are communities where for too many young people it feels like their future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town, too many communities where no matter how hard you work, your destiny feels like it's already been determined for you before you took that first step.The president talked about the end of the manufacturing economy, and about the current post-crash economic crisis. Ryan and Bennett talked about bad role models.
I'm not just talking about pockets of poverty in our inner cities. That's the stereotype. I'm talking about suburban neighborhoods that have been hammered by the housing crisis. I'm talking about manufacturing towns that still haven't recovered after the local plant shut down and jobs dried up. There are islands of rural America where jobs are scarce -- they were scarce even before the recession hit -- so that young people feel like if they want to actually succeed, they've got to leave town, they've got to leave their communities.
That's the difference, Dave.
Think Progress posted the now-famous minute-long clip of the Ryan-Bennett exchange on Wednesday, but TP also posted a longer clip -- eight minutes' worth -- at SoundCloud. Here it is, and it's even worse than you think:
Right at the outset, at 0:17, Ryan says that, as a result of government programs, "There are incentives not to work and to stay where you are." (Before that, right at the start of the clip, he says, "Welfare people should go to work, and [public assistance] should be a bridge, not a -- not a permanent system." There's a bit of a stammer after "not a." Is that Ryan checking himself as he's about to say "not a hammock"?)
At 1:16, we learn that what poor youths need is to be more like ... Paul Ryan:
BENNETT: ... Part of it is the economy, part of it is policy. But there's a cultural aspect to this as well, right?Even Bennett thinks this hunting reference is a bit much.
RYAN: That's right.
BENNETT: Boys -- boys particularly -- learn how to work. Who teaches boys how to work? You lost your dad at an early age. Who taught you how to work?
RYAN: Mentors and my mom. You know, my dad's friends, his buddies, you know, taught me how to hunt, taught me a lot of things -- and my mom. And so --
BENNETT: Hunting's not working, is it?They both seem to find this terribly amusing. (Question: Is that what we're going to get if Ryan becomes president? NRA-sponsored mentoring of poor youths by hunters?)
RYAN: Well, no, but you can learn a lot of good ethic -- by the way, you can --
BENNETT: I just, I just wonder, I just -- (Laughing.)
RYAN: You can teach a kid character in the woods.
BENNETT (laughing): I just wondered whether I stepped in it when I said that. You know, "Bill, stay away from this."
RYAN: A lot of good life lessons are learned in the tree stand, Bill.
Yes, Ryan and Bennett agree -- it's all about them. Poor youths should take Bill Bennett and Paul Ryan as role models.
So at 3:30 we have Bennett praising Ryan's work ethic, and his own:
BENNETT: Well, you work as hard as anybody I know. One of the things I've said, like, in commencement addresses, is, you know, you don't really enjoy the leisure unless you work. I mean, what's the leisure for? What's the relief --? I tell people, "'Thank God it's Friday,' I understand that, but 'thank God it's Monday,' too." Are you eager to get -- sort of roll your sleeves up and get back into it?So there you have it, poor, aimless young men. Just be like Bill and Paul. They are the living embodiment of gainful employment, if they do say so themselves.
RYAN: And produce. To just -- I mean, there's -- achievement and accomplishment are so self-rewarding. It's earned success, and that's how people flourish.