The American Dream
The left’s response to Paul Ryan’s attempt to change the national dialogue about poverty was, perhaps, predictable.
“Shut up,” they explained.
Critics have tried to dismiss his commentary as an exercise in racist “dog whistles.” But few of them had bothered to listen to what Ryan was actually trying to say.
And that brings me to the spring edition of Wisconsin Interest. In a thoughtful interview with WPRI President Mike Nichols, Ryan explains how entrenched poverty is a symptom of the decline of the American Dream. Ryan is careful to distinguish between two frequently conflated terms: inequality and mobility. While President Obama focuses on the need for spreading wealth around, Ryan asks a very different question: What are we going to do to remove barriers to allow more people to be where they want to be and do with their lives what they want to do? In a related piece, Robert L. Woodson, Sr., founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, reflects on a listening tour that he arranged for Ryan to learn from community and faith-based leaders about the problems of poverty. "My goal in arranging these visits," explains Woodson, "was to move beyond the traditional conservative and liberal understanding of how to address the needs of the poor." Finally, Nichols provides a look at a success story in Milwaukee, with his Closer column on the Running Rebels, which he describes as "the very model of a successful, community-based, anti-poverty program with a track record of turning around lives." Also in this issue, Larry Kaufmann debunks the hype around wind energy, and John Torinus and Tom Hefty take hard-eyed look at the challenges that Wisconsin still faces in turning around its economy.