I imagine we've all heard the aphorism many times: give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. As the Rev. Al Sharpton noted on Politics Nation yesterday, Paul Ryan had an interesting take on the saying yesterday.
For those who can't watch clips online, Ryan was confronted by a voter at an event yesterday who's struggling, and can't afford to give up on public assistance. The Republican vice presidential nominee responded, "The only thing that limits you is your God given talent and your own effort. We need to have that dynamic economy return. You do that by drawing the economy and giving people a hand up, not a hand out. Teach a man how to fish, he can feed himself for a life. Don't simply feed fish."
As Sharpton asked, "Don't feed fish? What does that even mean?" I don't know, but that strikes me as a good question.
But I have a related concern: since when does Paul Ryan believe in teaching people to fish? Ryan's budget plan includes some pretty brutal cuts to education and public-assistance programs. In fact, though much of his agenda is vague when it comes to reductions, if Ryan's cuts were applied evenly, his budget could cut nearly $5 billion from elementary and secondary education, and take college aid away from nearly 10 million students.
The idea of stressing education as a mechanism for growth and social mobility sounds pretty appealing, but the Republican vision is one in which struggling folks wouldn't get a fish, wouldn't be taught to fish, the lake gets drained, and those affected would be told to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives."