Paul Ryan's controversial comments

Congressman responds to critics for speaking bluntly about poverty


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 25, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Personal Story" segment tonight, Congressman Paul Ryan under fire for speaking bluntly about poverty.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: 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 working so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.


O'REILLY: Now after hearing that Congresswoman Barbara Lee released a statement pretty much calling Mr. Ryan a racist and saying his words quote "cannot be tolerated".

And joining us from Washington is Congressman Ryan. So I understand you had a phone call with Ms. Lee. How did that go?

RYAN: Well, I have known Barbara for many years. Look, there was nothing racial whatsoever in what I said. And if you listen to the full context of all of my remarks, it's pretty clear.

So what I would like to do and I mentioned this is let's get beyond throwing baseless charges at people. Let's not impugn people's motives or characters and let's have a real conversation about what we really need to do is to truly fight poverty in America. If the status quo was working so well, then we wouldn't have to do that. It's not.

O'REILLY: All right --

RYAN: The highest poverty rates in a generation. So we should have a conversation about addressing these root causes of poverty and the problems that are facing poverty without throwing names at each other.

O'REILLY: Ok did Congressman Lee apologize? Congresswoman Lee apologized?

RYAN: No but look Barbara and I have known each other for many years. And look I just want to clarify the point that I've been making --

O'REILLY: But wait -- how did she reply to your clarification?

RYAN: Well she does not believe -- she does -- she does not believe that I have these views. She knows me well.

O'REILLY: Then why did she say you did.

RYAN: And she knows that I don't have a racist bone in my body.

O'REILLY: Then why did she imply you did.

RYAN: So well you would have to ask Barbara that.

O'REILLY: But did you ask her?

RYAN: But the point I'm making Bill --

O'REILLY: Did you ask her?

RYAN: Yes I -- I made it very clear that what I said had nothing to do with race.

O'REILLY: Are you mad at her?

RYAN: No, I'm not mad at her.

O'REILLY: I would be.

RYAN: I'm a big boy I understand that if you challenge the status quo, that if you get into these issues, sometimes you will be misinterpreted but also I believe we have to have a real conversation about how to fix these things.


O'REILLY: It's intentional, Congressman. They don't want conversation. With all due respect to you because I think you are a good man they don't want a conversation. They don't want to solve the problem.

RYAN: I do.

O'REILLY: These race hustlers make a big living and they get voted into office by portraying their constituents as victims and it's all your fault and it's my fault. It's the rich people's fault. It's the Republicans' fault. It's everybody's fault except what's going on. And what's going on as you know is a dissolution of the family and you don't have proper supervision of children and they grow up with no skills. And they can't read and speak and they have tattoos on their neck and can't compete in the marketplace. And that's what's going on.

But if you say that, you're a racist. So no matter what you say, Congressman, you are going to be branded because the race hustlers don't want to solve the problem. How is that?

RYAN: Well look. Here is what I want to do. I want to solve the problem and I want to talk about how to solve the problem.

Here is the issue, Bill, if it was working so well -- I just put out a study that said we spend about $800 billion a year on about 100 different government programs to fight poverty and it's not working. So why don't we instead of looking at the input, how much money we throw at these programs, concentrate on outcomes. What does it take to get people out of poverty? And here is another idea. Why don't we go listen to people in poverty? Why don't we go visit with the poor and see what's working and what's not. And if you go do that as I have been doing all year long, you will find tremendously impressive and inspiring stories about people successfully fighting poverty and getting themselves out of it.

So there is a lot we can learn instead of just handing ideas down from Washington. That's point number one.

O'REILLY: All right.

RYAN: Point number two is we've got to focus on outcomes, not on inputs. Not on servicing poverty but on solving poverty. And that to me is the mindset that's going to have to change. And when you question that status quo it's going to upset some people. But we need to question that status quo if we're actually going to solve this problem.

O'REILLY: Give me the big one, not the most important but one very vital thing that the federal government can do specifically now, not philosophically, specifically to alleviate poverty? One very important thing that you guys could do.

RYAN: Job training skills. That's a big deal. We have a bill that we passed out of the House to address this skills gap so people who are stuck and down and out in life can get the skills they need to get a good career.

O'REILLY: So how would that work? Tell us how that would work.

RYAN: Well, there are about 49 different job training programs across nine different government agencies much of which we don't even measure whether they work or not. And we passed a bill already in the House consolidating these programs, sending them back to the states so that people can go get a scholarship, a voucher, and get training at a community college, at a technical college, at an employer who qualifies to get a skill they need, to get a job they want, to get a career that can get them out of poverty.

The earned income tax credit that is an idea that came from the right in the first place which makes it pay-to-work. The point I was making in that interview, one of the points is we have elected all these barriers to work from the government.

Obamacare in and of itself is knocking the 40-hour workweek down to 29 hours. That doesn't help get people out of poverty. The CBO is telling us the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs will not be worked by the end of the decade as a result of Obamacare. And it's disincentives to work.

O'REILLY: All right.

RYAN: That hurts the poor the most. So my point is, remove these barriers to work and you will get a lot of people back in the workforce.

O'REILLY: One last question 30 seconds who would oppose the job training bill? Nobody would oppose that would they?

RYAN: Harry Reid won't even let us have a vote on it in the House -- in the Senate excuse me.

O'REILLY: Why? Why would he put it up?

RYAN: It's a good question -- because we're taking on the status quo there a lot of bureaucracies.

O'REILLY: All right. So he wants to keep the chaos across the nine different agencies instead of consolidating --

RYAN: That's right. Yes.

O'REILLY: So the government can remain as big as it is.

RYAN: Yes and we want to consolidate and get this aid back to people in our communities so they can get the skills they need to get out of poverty.

O'REILLY: All right, Congressman, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

RYAN: You bet.

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