PoliticsUSA points out that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), whose 2012 budget proposal (PDF) presents significant cuts and alterations to welfare programs, put himself through college using, in part, Social Security benefits he received following the death of his father.
“Representative Paul Ryan is one example of the millions of people whose lives have depended on our social contract with the American people,” writes PoliticsUSA. “Without this benefit, his mother would have had to make even tougher decisions and Representative Paul Ryan may not have been able to pay for his college education.”
Ryan’s background with government assistance was revealed in a July 2010 cover story by Wisconsin Policy Research Institute magazine, which also noted that Ryan was born the day former President Richard Nixon unveiled a $200.8 billion federal budget proposal for the upcoming year, which included a large increase in Social Security payments.
The backstory from WPRI:
One day as a 16 year old, Ryan came upon the lifeless body of his father. Paul Ryan, Sr. had died of a heart attack at age 55, leaving the Janesville Craig High School 10th grader, his three older brothers and sisters and his mother alone. It was Paul who told the family of his father’s death.
With his father’s passing, young Paul collected Social Security benefits until age 18, which he put away for college. To make ends meet, Paul’s mother returned to school to study interior design. His siblings were off at college. Ryan remembers this difficult time bringing him and his mother closer.
Within months, Paul’s maternal grandmother moved into the house. She suffered from Alzheimer’s, and it often fell on young Paul to care for her, including brushing and braiding her hair. Ryan credits his father’s death and the care of his grandmother as giving him first-hand experience as to how social service programs work.
Ryan has frequently spoken about the need for reforming American entitlement programs throughout his political career, and he supports the Republican Study Committee’s proposed Welfare Reform Act of 2011 introduced in March.
Just as he wants to transform Medicare, Ryan also wants to redesign Social Security, transforming it into an investment rather than insurance program, wherein workers under 55 would have the option to move into a new system where they would contribute to personal accounts and then invest “a significant portion” of their payroll taxes into various funds managed by the U.S. government.
In his Roadmap for America’s Future, Ryan predicts that as the personal accounts accumulate wealth, they will eventually replace the current “pay-as-you-go system.”
The chapter in Ryan’s budget proposal on “Strengthening the Social Safety Net” reads:
There is a widely shared consensus in this country in support of a strong safety net for Americans who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times. However, the government programs that make up this safety net are failing both the citizens who rely on them and the taxpayers who fund them. It should not come as a surprise that a system designed in the 1960s is not equipped to deal with the unique pressures of the 21st century.
The safety net should never become a hammock, lulling able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency. Instead, the aim should be to empower individuals, putting them in stronger position to achieve.
The Associated Press has also pointed to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) as another former welfare recipient who now advocates for drastic cuts.