Apr 01 2014

Paul Ryan, Ideology and the Poor

Published by at 9:59 am under Counseling & Psychotherapy,Politics

Paul Ryan, whose own personal narrative does not include much work outside the DC political beltway, has come under fire for comments seen as insensitive to African American men and the poor in general.

There are two main schools of thought as to the causes of poverty. One is the idea that people are poor because of their personal failings, such as laziness, dropping out of school, criminal behavior, etc.

The second school of thought is poverty is results from “structural failings”, such as inadequate pay, jobs, education, access to health care, racism and other subtle rules and patterns in society which affect citizens.

Ryan got into trouble with his comments suggesting urban men do not want to work and have created generational patterns of unemployment. He stated:

”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…you need to get involved, you need to get involved yourself, whether through a good mentor program or some religious charity, whatever it is to make a difference. And that’s how we resuscitate our culture.” (Baragona, 2014)

It’s great that Ryan is speaking to the issue of poverty in America, but his psychological message tends to focus almost entirely on the “personal failings” cause of poverty idea. African American leaders and others quickly focused on the ambiguous language, like, “inner city” “men” “not working” suggesting it is the personal failings of these individuals for not working.

He does not look at the structural causes of poverty, such as unemployment, lack of jobs, low minimum wages, poor health care, no health care, drug and alcohol  abuse, mental health problems like PTSD, the powerful effects of racism and legacy issues dating back to the slavery era.

Now Ryan has released his budget and the focus on “personal failings” is more widely visible. Ryan wants to reduce or eliminate many of the safety net provisions built into our economic support for American citizens. Read more about his budget here.

Baragona, J. (2014, April 1). Politicus. Retrieved 2014, from Politicus USA: http://www.politicususa.com/2014/03/12/paul-ryan-claims-black-men-lazy-poverty-country.html

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