CONGRESS | 13TH DISTRICT | When Republicans drop carefully crafted phrases like “welfare queen”, “Dred Scott” and “Barack Hussein Obama, they are called dog whistles. While they may not signify much to some on the surface they conversely ring the ears of the intended political group, in this case, Republicans.

Welfare queen denotes minorities mooching off the public dime, Dred Scott is an odd, subtle dig at Roe vs. Wade and activist judges, while using the president’s middle name is an obvious attempt to question whether he is Muslim and not even American.

So when Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, went on a popular conservative radio program Wednesday and uttered the phrase “inner city” in response to a question about the “fatherless problem” in poor neighborhoods, it may have been intended to titillate the angst of conservatives.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular,” said Ryan, “of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

The comments raised the ire of East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee.

She issued a statement Thursday saying she knows exactly Ryan was trying to say. “My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about “inner city” poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says “inner city,” when he says, “culture,” these are simply code words for what he really means: “black.”

Ryan’s assertion over the racial breakdown of poverty in America is also incorrect, Lee added. “Instead of demonizing “culture,” and blaming black men for their poverty, Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America. His uninformed policy proposals continue to increase poverty, not solve it. My colleague is demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues in urban and black communities.”

Later, Ryan denied his remarks were tinged with racism. “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race,” he told a conservative Web site, “It never even occurred to me. This has nothing to do with race whatsoever.”