Congressman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, waves to the crowd after speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., March 6, 2014.
Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME
By Eliana Dockterman
Updated: December 6, 2016 9:32 PM ET | Originally published: March 6, 2014

Paul Ryan argued that liberal government programs give people comfort but not dignity.

In a speech he made at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the country’s largest gathering of conservative leaders and activists, Thursday, he shared a story he heard from Eloise Anderson, who serves in the Cabinet for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as a way of criticizing the Affordable Care Act.

Take Obamacare—not literally, but figuratively, here OK? We now know that this law will discourage millions of people from working. The Left thinks this is a good thing. They say, hey, this is a new freedom—the freedom not to work. I don’t think the problem is too many people are working. I think the problem is not enough people can find work. And if people leave the workforce, our economy will shrink. There will be less opportunity, not more. The Left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that.

You know, this reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the Cabinet of my buddy, Gov. Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.

This is what the Left does not understand. We don’t want people to leave the workforce. We want them to share their skills and their talents with the rest of us. People don’t just want a life of comfort; they want a life of dignity; they want a life of self-determination.

Update: The story has been updated to add a fuller quote and context to Ryan’s remarks at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference. A spokeswoman for Anderson later told the Washington Post that she had misspoken while testifying before Congress, and that the quote about a brown-paper bag came from a TV interview she saw.

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