Paul Ryan, Poverty, and the Culture of Millennial Men

Paul Ryan, Poverty, and the Culture of Millennial MenPaul Ryan seems to have thrown himself into the shark tank this week with comments he made during an interview, in which he expressed his belief that much of American poverty is the result of the culture that men from the inner city Millennial generation were raised in. The former 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate made these controversial statements during a live radio show hosted by Bill Bennett, the former Secretary of Education. So why does this statement have so many Democrats licking their teeth and sharpening their claws, ready to gleefully shred Ryan’s reputation to bits?

A good guess would probably be the way he framed his statement, which seemed aimed specifically toward individuals living in inner city neighborhoods. The conclusion drawn by Democrats such as Rep. Barbara Lee from California, is that since most of the poor in inner city communities are African-American, that must mean that Ryan was implying that poverty is a result of lazy black men. While it is easy to see where Lee might get such an idea from Ryan’s comments, was that really what he meant, or is Lee being hyper-sensitive? Could this be another attempt at race baiting by Democrats to draw attention away from the issues that really matter? It’s hard to say.

Paul Ryan certainly could have more clearly articulated his views on poverty and how modern culture has impacted men from the Millennial generation. That much is certainly true. This is something that even he has admitted. Instead of just dismissing Ryan’s comments or writing them off as “racist”, a term which gets thrown around a lot in our day, perhaps the American people would be better served by asking whether or not there is any merit to what was said. Remove the whole deal about focusing on men living in the inner city, and look at Millennial men as a whole.  Is there evidence to support that today’s young men lack a serious work ethic? Are men less ambitious today than in previous generations?

Unfortunately, the results of numerous studies conducted within the last few years clearly answer both questions in the affirmative. A Pew Research Center study found that 40 percent of men between the ages of 18 to 31 still live at home with their parents. Granted, a large part of the reason for this can be contributed to the rising costs of a college education, but it is hard to ignore the fact that men are living at home well into their thirties or forties, years after the completion of a typical four-year degree program.

The employment rate among Millennials, both male and female was found to be around 80 percent, with only 44 percent working full-time jobs. The number of young men working full time is at record lows. Fewer men are getting married (26 percent), but are still having children outside of marriage or a committed relationship. This means that men are not working, despite having a family to feed. While a shaky economy is definitely a contributing factor to unemployment, it does not account for the shift in attitude many young men have toward working and committing to their partners and children.

So what is happening? What could cause men to shirk their responsibilities? This is where Paul Ryan may have hit the nail on the head. The values in modern culture have shifted from seeing work as something valuable and honorable, to something that sucks the joy and meaning out of life. Movies, music, and television shows glamorize the lovable slacker who is unemployed, plays video games all day, and lives in his parent’s basement. In other words, it is cool to be a consumer, and it is a drag to be a producer.

It has become acceptable in modern culture to be dependent on government assistance programs. The notion that the government exists to provide for your needs and “take care of you” is something that the Millennial generation has had presented to them for years on in end in the state-run education system. Things are tough, debt is high, and jobs are few and far in between, but there is no need to fret, since one can always go on welfare. This mentality has taken away the positive pressure of being responsible for oneself, and the satisfaction that goes along with being independent. When taking a look at the bigger picture, is Ryan’s statement about poverty, culture, and Millennial men really so off base?

Opinion by Michael Cantrell

Chicago Sun-Times
PewResearch Socal & Demographic Trends
USA Today

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