We’ve often struggled to reconcile Congressman Paul Ryan’s apparent difficulty separating what we believe are his genuine beliefs and values from his statements on behalf of others of his political persuasion. His comments on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio program are but the latest example.
Ryan’s statements combining “our inner cities,” tailspin of culture,” and “men not even thinking about working,” sound tailor-made for Bennett’s conservative listeners and Ryan’s party’s base. We just don’t believe Ryan really believes that. So why does he say it? Indeed why does any politician, Democrat or Republican, fall into that trap?
Our elected leaders have to do better in understanding the impact of their words. As the Race to Equity report has shown, issues like employment disparity are far more complicated and serious than careless rhetoric about “learning the value and the culture of work.” Again, we don’t think Ryan really thinks that. But he and others have to realize words matter, and putting political gain ahead of understanding, compassion and wisdom does far more harm than they might think.