A week ago, I was scrolling through Buzzfeed hoping to take the latest quiz or find a shockingly specific, but relevant list to post on Facebook. Instead, I came across one of the most interesting articles I have read in a while.
McKay Coppins wrote an in depth piece titled “Paul Ryan’s Inner City Education.” As I started reading the article, I was prepared to become defensive and argumentative, assuming it was just another effort to slam the Republican Party. Surprisingly, the article praised Paul Ryan and the work he is doing. This piece has the potential to impact conservatives, the Republican Party, and the future of our welfare system.
With Ryan leading the way, conservatives are addressing a topic often avoided: welfare and the American poor. These leaders continue to prove that the system of handouts and dependency needs to change. Ryan is developing his own proposal, but with a level of compassion and empathy that is surprising for any policy. By making an effort to actually understand the devastating conditions in some American cities, Ryan approaches welfare in a way that few politicians (Democrat or Republican) ever do.
He includes the voice of those people actually a part of our welfare system—a voice so often ignored. Congress repeatedly makes decisions without consulting the American’s who are directly affected. How can we keep reforming education without the help of teachers, healthcare without consulting doctors, and welfare without including actual poor people? Paul Ryan is a privileged, elite politician along with most of D.C., but unlike his colleagues, he is finally recognizing it.
Most importantly, Ryan brought up a tough conversation. He is confronting major institutional problems that bring about questions of racism, classism, and sexism in America. Like any politician, he has to tread carefully. He has and will continue to make mistakes and the American public should always hold him accountable for those. That being said, he is trying to address issues that most members of Congress avoid at all costs. To that, we should be thankful.
I don’t think Paul Ryan has the ability to solve America’s greatest problems, but I do think he started a productive conversation. He has the potential to pressure the Republican Party to defend its platforms and produce real welfare policies that can change lives. He can also push the debate and make the Democratic Party propose reforms to a system that was established 50 years ago.
Paul Ryan is neither a prophet nor genius. To some he is not even a well-intentioned politician. He is, however, starting a conversation that is long overdue.