Rep. Ryan makes Philly first stop on book tour; protests outside deride him

Posted: August 22, 2014

ONE DAY after publication of his first book, The Way Forward, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan made Philly the first stop on his book tour last night, chatting with broadcast personality and columnist Michael Smerconish in front of more than 300 people at the Union League.

The Wisconsin Republican and onetime vice-presidential candidate got a warm welcome, with a cocktail reception and a meet-and-greet before speaking to the audience in an evening hosted by the World Affairs Council.

For more than an hour, Ryan touched on: the state of the conservative movement; U.S. foreign policy; Ferguson, Mo.; Obamacare; his life as the youngest of four children and a fifth-generation Wisconsinite; and his early career, starting with a stint behind the counter at McDonald's. (Smerconish has that in common with him.)

Meanwhile, demonstrators circled outside the building on South Broad Street, holding protest signs.

"For us retirees, he's done everything he could to mess with our Medicare, our Medicaid and Social Security," said Dorothea Wilson, president of the District Council 47 retirees and a Democrat. She held a mock sign of the cover of Ryan's book depicting him gently shoving an old woman off a cliff.

"He doesn't seem to think that older citizens need anything. Everything we have, he wants to take it away from us. Medicare isn't being bankrupt.

"We're in good shape with Social Security, as long as they don't keep borrowing it."

Ryan addressed that issue indoors, claiming that the nation is doing just that - borrowing from the future, which he says is unsustainable.

"We've got to do something to fix these programs because they are very important," he told Smerconish.

"A lot of folks say that because we're conservative, that means we're against all government. I am for a limited government. That means I want it to be effective in what it's supposed to do, and that is be a safety net for those who can't help themselves, so when they are down on their luck, they can get back up on their feet. That, to me, is what a real, good, limited government should be doing."

James Salt, director of Catholics United, said that Ryan sounded like a hypocrite.

Ryan "claims to be pro-Catholic, and Pope Francis is overwhelmingly, eminently clear about the need to stand up on behalf of the poor, yet Paul Ryan is spending his entire career finding deficit cuts from social-welfare programs simply aimed at helping those on the margin of society," Salt told the Daily News.

"It strikes me as discordant that he is apparently claiming a moral prerogative with his policies despite the fact he spent his entire career attacking working families."

In an interview with the Daily News, Ryan said that "good Catholics can agree to disagree on matters of prudential judgment."

"I applied Catholic social teaching to the best of my ability, and I explain exactly how I apply it in the book. I think we should save Medicare and Social Security from bankruptcy and I put specific plans in the program to do that because I think they're important programs. They made a lot of difference in my family's life, and I hope that by taking a good look at the reforms I've proposed, we will save them from bankruptcy."

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