David Gregory Suggests Paul Ryan Doesn’t Have ‘A Lot of Sympathy’ For Poor People

Meet the Press moderator David Gregory did his best to condemn Congressman Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty proposal during an interview on Sunday, July 27. 

The NBC host played a clip of Ryan from 2013 in which he criticized a “dependency culture” in America which Gregory interpreted as not sounding “like there’s a lot of sympathy for people you think need the government's help. What you seem to be saying is that people have a problem with their own dependency here the government is only furthering.” [See video below.]  

Gregory began his questioning of Ryan by pushing liberal talking points that more government policies are needed to combat poverty: 

Skeptics have cited one thing that really struck me which is that some of the poor states are run by Republican governors who have refused to even expand access to Medicaid under the ObamaCare law. So you can understand why people would be skeptical that giving them that kind of power would actually lead to constructive solutions to deal with people who are poor.

For his part, Congressman Ryan pushed back against Gregory and argued that “these programs don't work with each other. In many ways, they end up being counterproductive, because poverty is a complicated problem and it needs to be customized. And secondly, we had basically a poverty management system with respect to the federal government.”

After the Meet the Press moderator maintained that Ryan’s view towards poverty lacked compassion, the GOP congressman shot back: 

We don't want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. We want to get at the root causes of poverty to get people out of poverty. And I would argue that that is the best way to go forward and that's what we're proposing here. Which is have benefits that are customized to a unique person's problems because poverty is very complicated. To not just keep them where they are but help them get to where they want to be. 

Gregory’s criticism towards Ryan’s anti-poverty program is especially ironic given recent reports that the NBC host just purchased a new $5.4 million house in D.C. but he then finds it appropriate to then criticize someone else for supposedly lacking compassion. 

See relevant transcript below. 


NBC

Meet the Press

July 27, 2014

DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you about poverty. I want to just put up a summary of what you are proposing for how to rethink entitlement programs and deal with poverty. You got to conciliate 11 federal anti-poverty programs, including programs like food stamps, public housing assistance, child care aid, low-income-energy assistance, and cash welfare. Consolidate them, have states administer them, they would get a certain amount of money and have some creativity to spend that money, even talk about the creation of kind of individual case officers at a state level who can deal with a poor family, for instance, and try to give them a path out. Skeptics have cited one thing that really struck me which is that some of the poor states are run by Republican governors who have refused to even expand access to Medicaid under the ObamaCare law. So you can understand why people would be skeptical that giving them that kind of power would actually lead to constructive solutions to deal with people who are poor.

PAUL RYAN: Well, look, first of all, these programs don't work with each other. In many ways, they end up being counterproductive, because poverty is a complicated problem and it needs to be customized. And secondly, we had basically a poverty management system with respect to the federal government. If you want to have a healthy economy and have real solutions, you have to have a healthy safety net. And a safety net needs to work to get people out of poverty. So my argument here is let's not focus on effort, on input, how much money you spend. Let's focus on outcomes. Are we actually getting people out of poverty? And the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to listen to people on the ground, the people who are fighting poverty person to person, and give them more flexibility in exchange for more accountability to actually get people out of poverty. We have learned good lessons about the right way to do this and not. And I would argue that we can customize the benefit to a person based on their particular needs which actually helps them get out of poverty long term. We've spend $800 billion every year on 92 different programs to fight poverty. Yet we have the highest poverty rates in a generation.

DAVID GREGORY:But let's talk about--

RYAN: You change the focus. And I think this is a very good step in the right direction. I want to have a conversation about how to improve the outcomes.

DAVID GREGORY: Lets talk about your own attitudes about people who are poor and their views on government. You were on this program in January of last year and you said the following.

RYAN: We don't want a dependency culture. Our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able-bodied people are becoming dependent on the government than upon themselves or their livelihoods. 

GREGORY: It doesn't sound like there’s a lot of sympathy for people you think need the government's help. What you seem to be saying is that people have a problem with their own dependency here the government is only furthering. 

RYAN: That's not my intent and that’s far from it. My point, and I'll make it again, is we don't want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. We want to get at the root causes of poverty to get people out of poverty. And I would argue that that is the best way to go forward and that's what we're proposing here. Which is have benefits that are customized to a unique person's problems because poverty is very complicated. To not just keep them where they are but help them get to where they want to be. That is what is the thrust of these proposals. The federal government's approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty. In many ways it has disincentivized people from going to work. In some cases you lose more in benefits if you to work so people don't go to work because of the federal disincentive to do so. So we need to reemphasize getting people up and on their lives, giving them the tools to do that. That's the point. Able-bodied people should go to work and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential. That to me is a far better system, to get people out of poverty long-term than just spend more hardworking taxpayer dollars on a program that is not getting the results that people deserve. 

GREGORY: Chairman Paul Ryan, a debate that will continue. Thank you very much for your thoughts on it this morning.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.