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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 19th, 2014
06:17 PM ET

Rep. Paul Ryan weighs in on Ferguson, poverty

(CNN) – It is difficult to talk about what's been happening in Ferguson, Missouri, without talking not just about the issue of race, but also about poverty and class.

Like many American suburbs these days, more than one-fifth of the population in Ferguson lives below the federal poverty line. How does a statistic like that play into this crisis? Some would say tremendously.

"We have to address the situation not just as another acts of systemic racism but as what it is: class warfare. To many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal," NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in Time Magazine op-ed titled "The Coming Race War Won't Be About Race."

"We have a long ways to go to cure and fight systemic poverty in America," said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who notes that he is not trying to link his policies or political agenda to the situation in Ferguson.

The House Budget Committee chairman says his proposal to fight poverty would give states more flexibility to customize aid for families' needs.

"We shouldn't use this sort of Washington, one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter solution," Ryan said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

"Let's customize aid to families in need and let's also break up the welfare agency monopolies that are not performing like they need to and give families in need more choices on where they can get their services," he said.

In his new book "The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea," Ryan said he regrets using the phrase "makers and takers" to describe economic disparity.

"It sounds like we're saying people that are struggling are deadbeats," he wrote.

"That was convenient shorthand which applied too broad of a brush to a problem that we're facing in America," said Ryan.

"I was misdiagnosing the issue and the problem. The problem isn't people are struggling to survive in America," said Ryan. "The problem is policies that don't work to help people get to where they want to get in life."

For more of our interview with Rep. Paul Ryan, check out the video above.

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