THE BLOG
10/19/2012 06:24 pm ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

Paul Ryan Should Get to Know the '30 Percent'

Some six months before Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney uttered his now infamous "47 percent" remarks at a closed-door fundraiser in May, his running mate, Paul Ryan, made equally offensive remarks about 30 percent of the American people.

Mitt Romney said in effect that the approximately 47 percent of the population who do not pay federal income tax lack motivation and are content to be dependent on government. He added that "(his) job is not to worry about those people".

Paul Ryan takes a similarly dim view of a sizable chunk of the population -- claiming that 30 percent of Americans prefer the welfare state. He worries that America is headed toward a dark day when the majority of our citizenry will be "takers".

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should get to know some of the people they disparage. A visit to the real world would surely soften their hearts and change their minds.

Paul Ryan had an opportunity to do just that -- get to know some of the "30 percent" -- on a recent Saturday afternoon. It was October 13, in the Youngstown, Ohio area, when the vice presidential candidate made an uninvited, unannounced stop at a St. Vincent DePaul soup kitchen.

It was the perfect opportunity for Ryan to meet, mix, and mingle with people who are, indeed, "takers". The patrons of the soup kitchen do take advantage of the offer of a free meal.

To spend a little time with folks at a soup kitchen -- Youngstown, Ohio or elsewhere across America -- is to realize that most of the less fortunate are looking for a hand up, and not just a handout. But Paul Ryan was not at this soup kitchen to meet, mix, and mingle with the "30 percent". He was there for a photo op.

The Romney/Ryan presidential ticket had just initiated an effort to improve its image after the "47" flap; and both candidates had inserted into their campaign speeches assurance that they were for 100 percent of Americans.

According to St. Vincent DePaul Society President, Brian Antel, Paul Ryan "barged in" -- not concerned about violating St. Vincent DePaul's non-partisan, apolitical policy. Attired in a full-length while apron, Ryan smilingly cleaned a stock pot while cameras clicked. Then scant minutes after arriving, Ryan was on his way again. An irate Brian Antel said, "He did nothing. He just came here to have his picture taken".

About this same point in time, Paul Ryan embarked on a bus tour of Ohio. It was a nice bus, a spacious bus -- built for maximum comfort, not maximum capacity. It was not your typical Greyhound bus.

Learning from media accounts about that bus tour, I found myself wishing that it was, indeed, a typical Greyhound motor coach, with the usual variety of passengers.

For the better part of six years, I traveled back and forth across America on a Greyhound bus, and my book, "Homeless Isn't Hopeless", has stories of people making the best of troubled times. The vast majority of those people were not dreaming of a worry-free welfare state. They only dreamed of opportunity.

They were not the "30 percent" Paul Ryan envisions.