Rep. Paul Ryan did something that is all too rare in politics.
<h2>He admitted he was wrong. </h2><p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUxNTU3Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTQxNDk5MX0.yw0pOCVxA1d550El0hRNep2hVIk29Sb3WNq7CxJmMHI/img.jpg?width=980" id="fdf90" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="288b529a6a39cd012c5ef96481522996" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption">Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.</p><h2>For a long time, Ryan (R-Wisconsin) had divided Americans into two groups: "makers," working people who contribute to society, and "takers," (mostly) poorer people who depend on government benefits. <br></h2><p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUxNTU3OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNjc1MzcyNn0.hpzmxFt7yp-iFCOPC4SK71xCL7JlepiqmkrdQknKmLE/img.jpg?width=980" id="38aa5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91e1e64d13df1b99c6d6a2607d85a025" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption">A Florida woman looks for a job at a placement office in 2014. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.</p><p>Here's how he put it at a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx0bKz7uN30" target="_blank">fundraiser in Wisconsin in 2012</a>:</p><blockquote>"Do you want the American idea of an opportunity society with a safety net where you can take a risk, start a business, make a difference, succeed and be honored for being successful? <strong>Or do we go down the path the president is proposing — a social welfare state, a cradle-to-the-grave society where we have more takers than makers.</strong>"</blockquote><p>And here's how he framed it earlier, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/05/paul-ryan-60-percent-of-a_n_1943073.html" target="_blank">speaking to a fellow Republican congressman in 2010</a>:</p><blockquote>"Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. <strong>So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that</strong>."</blockquote><h2>But this year, Ryan had a revelation: Most people don't take government aid because they like free stuff. They take it because they need it to survive.</h2><p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUxNTU3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTkzNzIzM30.Wd2NNMdFN_BdZhUScC_UZ6_Dm8ryVzcBJduS9Oox_O0/img.jpg?width=980" id="5eb4c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8c6791338013793e0394d3f09a018bab" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption">A girl pays for food with an EBT card. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.</p><p>According to the USDA, in <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/able-bodied-adults-without-dependents-abawds" target="_blank">75% of all households that both received food stamps</a> and had a member who was able to work, that person had a job in the year before or after receiving the benefit.</p><h2>How did Ryan realize he was wrong? By listening to actual poor people.</h2><p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUxNTU4MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5ODM1NDI5M30.fkckBwR-fWPJinR-IEUPR5_AooscFEVDhkI3VaMrlPg/img.jpg?width=980" id="3d11e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="103ed6b7d273cad813cbe93c8ddcbe4e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption">A New York City man guides a cart of recyclable cans down the street. Photo by Jewel Samad/Getty Images.</p><p>Here's what he had to say in his speech. It's really, really different than the way he's framed the issue many times before (emphasis added):</p><blockquote>"There was a time that 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 something. I realized that I was wrong. 'Takers' wasn’t how to refer to a single mom stuck in a poverty trap, trying to take care of her family. <strong>Most people don’t want to be dependent. And to label a whole group of Americans that way was wrong.</strong> I shouldn’t castigate a large group of Americans to make a point."</blockquote><h2>It's not just poor people who benefit from government assistance. Most of us do at some point in our lives. <br></h2><p>The thing is, we're often unaware of it, according political scientist Suzanne Mettler, whose arguments were <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/07/the-double-standard-of-making-poor-people-prove-theyre-worthy-of-government-benefits/" target="_blank">summarized by The Washington Post in 2015</a>. That's because the benefits that most of us receive — for things like housing and health care or through the GI Bill, if we're veterans — often come to us through lower tax bills rather than as cash handed directly to us.</p><p>If we live long enough, most of us will eventually collect Social Security or have our medical bills paid through Medicare.</p><h2>There's still plenty not to love about Ryan's approach to poverty, which doesn't do much to reflect his change of heart. Yet.</h2><p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUxNTU4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODMzNjY2Nn0.-3OTdL912XEEXB6TkUPWDiU9OHnRk3oiBepI-f23nbk/img.jpg?width=980" id="57728" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8414e3784877d4d70ebe77d53e11bbc5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption">Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.</p><p>His 2014 anti-poverty plan still includes provisions that make the poorest Americans <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/07/paul_ryan_s_anti_poverty_plan_the_house_budget_chairman_s_paternalistic.html" target="_blank">jump through hoops</a> in order to receive benefits while wealthier Americans continue to receive tax credits for things like mortgages and college tuition "just because."</p><h2>But at least where his thinking is concerned, he's starting to get it. And that's progress. </h2><p>As Ryan said in his speech, "People with different ideas, they're not traitors. They're not our enemies. They're our neighbors."</p><p>It's possible to disagree with Ryan — on this or even on most things — and still believe he deserves credit for listening, grappling, and changing his tune on the poorest Americans.</p><p><strong>You can watch Ryan's full address here. The important part starts at 9:40:</strong></p><p> <span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bad8c42905b8b07bc2095ee6647e970c"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TneqwiyjztM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span></p>
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