In his speech Wednesday calling for civility in politics, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) dramatically backed away from his own past rhetoric against people on welfare — which to many people seemed like the foundation of his entire political agenda for many years.
The key moment comes at the 16:30 mark below:
“I’m certainly not going to stand here and tell you I have always met this standard,” Ryan said. “There was a time when I would talk about a difference between ‘makers’ and ‘takers’ in our country, referring to people who accepted government benefits. But as I spent more time listening, and really learning the root causes of poverty, I realized I was wrong.”
“‘Takers’ wasn’t how to refer to a single mom stuck in a poverty trap, just trying to take care of her family. Most people don’t want to be dependent. And to label a whole group of Americans that way was wrong. I shouldn’t castigate a large group of Americans to make a point. So I stopped thinking about it that way—and talking about it that way. But I didn’t come out and say all this to be politically correct. I was just wrong.”
This seems to be a marked shift away from Ryan’s past devotion to the author Ayn Rand, who used the term “looters” for people relying not only on government benefits but even private charity and support from others.
Here is a video of Ryan in 2009, singing the praises of Rand and her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, the story of which involved wealthy businesspeople fleeing society to their own secret community (which Ryan jokingly mentions here) in order to bring down the entire economy and the welfare state:
And here is a montage of Ryan’s past “makers and takers” talk, compiled in 2012 by Mother Jones, including denunciations by Ryan of such past waves of the social welfare system as the New Deal and the Great Society.