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CBC Takes Paul Ryan to Task for Poverty Remarks

James Wright | 3/14/2014, 12:10 p.m.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (Courtesy of paulryan.house.gov)

The leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, for remarks he made during a recent television appearance belittling Americans who live in poverty.

Ryan, who was the running mate of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, said on Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" show that "there is a 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 culture of work."

U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), CBC chair, and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), a strong advocate of the working poor, blasted Ryan in a letter sent to the congressman on Thursday, calling his comments "highly offensive."

"The problem many people in poverty face is not isolation, but rather lack of resources to help ensure all people have the opportunity to succeed and contribute to society, such as adequate transportation, infrastructure, job training programs and other resources to search for jobs and become gainfully employed," the letter said. "A serious policy conversation should not begin with assumptions or stereotypes. Poverty in our nation is a critical problem that must be approached with diligence and the utmost respect for those who are trapped by poverty's grasp."

The letter ended with an invitation to Ryan to address the CBC on poverty.

Ryan later clarified his remarks but did not back away from the meaning of his words, which bothered the CBC.

"We may have many disagreements on the best way to approach this critical issue, yet despite our differences, we all agree on the pressing need to eradicate poverty in our nation," the letter said.

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