COMMENTARY | It appears that vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan might be just slightly less “inelegant” than his running mate. Not long ago the Wisconsin representative was quoted as saying that Mitt Romney’s remarks about the 47 percent having victim mentalities and not being responsible for their own lives were just that — “inelegant.” But Paul Ryan said nearly the same thing, that many Americans wanted a welfare state, just six months before Romney’s videotaped remarks. According to Huffington Post, the only difference was the total number of Americans that were comfortable with being federally dependent. For Romney, it was 47 percent. For Ryan, it was 30 percent.
For those not into mathematics, that makes Ryan’s remarks just a little over two-thirds as inelegant as Romney’s.
According to the Post, which attributes being directed to the Ryan speech by an unnamed reader, Ryan gave the keynote address at the The American Spectator’s 2011 Robert L. Bartley Gala Dinner six months prior to Romney’s inelegance, where he stated: “Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state. Before too long, we could become a society where the net majority of Americans are takers, not makers.”
That’s 17 percent less than Romney’s total that he infamously equated with those that were voting for President Obama in November, a false equality that appears as meaningless as it is untrue due to the fact that all those on various types of government assistance weren’t just Democrats and a third to at least half of that 47 percent had to have been Republicans. But, then, Ryan’s 30 percent also doesn’t hold up well under scrutiny.
Americans, by and large, are welfare averse. That is, most only participate in forms of welfare for short periods of time and almost always during periods of necessity.
Here’s the actual numbers and the American “welfare state” that that Ryan says is “wanted” by 30 percent of the American people: According to Department of Health and Human Services statistics, 15 million people (which includes workers, non-workers, senior citizens, and children) are living on welfare in the United States, which is just over 3 percent of the population. That is 4.1 percent. Not 30 percent (and certainly not 47 percent).
Most welfare recipients (more than 80 percent) find employment of some sort and return to the workforce between seven months and five years after initially applying for federal assistance. Most of those receiving some form of federal assistance also work at jobs that pay less than $1,000 per month. Be that as it may, with 80 percent rejoining the workforce, that puts the total of Americans on welfare for over five years at just 3 million people, or just over 1 percent of the present population of the country. With very few Americans existing solely on welfare and so many of them participating only for brief periods of time, it would appear that the work ethic in America far exceeds Ryan’s — and Romney’s — welfare state of dependents and those that want to be dependents of such a state.
So how elegant an argument is it that 30 percent (or 47 percent, per Romney) are freeloaders and irresponsible citizens and “takers” when the actual numbers from the federal government show that the percentages are inordinately exaggerated and that most Americans, as many as 99 percent, aren’t moochers or welfare addicts at all. They’re just mostly Americans trying to get by in an economy that has experienced a raise in the overall cost of living, cost millions their livelihoods, and where applying for government assistance wasn’t done out of “want” for some incongruously nonexistent welfare state but out of necessity for individual and familial survival in trying times.
Rep. Paul Ryan is supposedly the Republican Party’s wiz kid with numbers. Yet, he would relegate nearly one-third of Americans to a pariah status when easily obtainable statistics would suggest that the opposite is true. It looks as though he isn’t even working with real numbers. Where’s the elegance in that?