Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, fired back at House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) for claiming that poverty is caused by men in “our inner cities” who are “not even thinking about working.” His comments “are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated,” Lee said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.'”
“As someone who sits on the Budget Committee with Mr. Ryan, I know that his assertions about the racial dynamics of poverty are not only statistically inaccurate, but deeply offensive,” she said. “Instead of demonizing “culture,” and blaming black men for their poverty, Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America. His uninformed policy proposals continue to increase poverty, not solve it. My colleague is demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues in urban and black communities.”
In a radio interview on Wednesday, Ryan hinted at wanting work requirements for men in inner cities in upcoming House legislation, citing the work of Charles Murray — a conservative who argues blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites — to prove his point. “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 to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” Ryan said.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told ThinkProgress that Ryan’s comments are “shameful and wrong.” “And this is coming from a House Republican leader,” spokesman Drew Hammill said. “There are few words that can describe such a deeply ignorant comment, but shameful, disturbing, and wrong offer a good start.”