In a policy speech on Wednesday, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan portrayed himself as a friend of the poor, saying that he and Mitt Romney are running because they believe that "Americans are better off in a dynamic, free-enterprise-based economy" and promising those who are struggling that "our cause is yours, and yours is ours."
But in the past, Ryan hasn't shown quite as much empathy. In fact, throughout his career, the Wisconsin congressman has blasted welfare recipients for being "takers" whose poverty is not only a matter of choice but also a major reason for the country's economic decline.
At a private Seattle-area fundraiser in early September, Ryan warned his audience that the social safety net now in place could become a "hammock" that would lull people into "lives of dependency and complacency." His remarks drew applause from the mostly wealthy crowd.
During a speech to the Atlas Society in 2005, Ryan declared that "victimization" was "not dignifying." He also said he was "trying to recruit a lot of minority legislators" to his side because it was "in their best interests."
Ryan has often said that society is made up of a majority of "takers" who don't provide for themselves. But in an interview with the Global Catholic Television Network last year, he went further, arguing that this actually does "injustice to the poor." That's rather like saying that seat belts cause car accidents.
And in a December 2011 interview for the news site Human Events, Ryan accused Obama of trying to shake down the rich in order to "equalize" society. He said that the GOP "shouldn't shy away from class warfare," but "should take [it] head on."
The Republican Party, Ryan said, needed to do more to make the "moral" case for its fight against entitlements.
At times, Ryan’s choice of words suggests that he thinks being poor is an illness. An undated interview with political activist and conservative columnist Star Parker shows Ryan prescribing "cultural antibodies" as a way to reduce the number of people who receive benefits from the federal government.
He often explain his worldview by talking about his own experience. At a Waukesha, Wis., event hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition in March, Ryan boasted of how he flipped burgers at McDonald's as a teenager. "I did not think of myself as stuck in some condition in life, as some victim," he said.
Ryan used the same talking point in Colorado this year.
But what he doesn't say when he makes this argument is that there's a difference between being a relatively unencumbered teenager and being a single mother with a mortgage to make, bills to pay and children to feed.
Again and again, Ryan has propounded tax cuts and a pro-growth message as a blanket solution to society's myriad problems. But ever since he became Romney's running mate, he won't give details about their tax plan and walks away from reporters who press him on the issue.
Watch the video above to see Rep. Ryan's remarks about poverty and reliance on government, and decide for yourself if his vision will help the country move forward.