The GOP’s alleged boy genius and Ayn Rand fanboy, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, unveils anti-poverty proposal as part of election-year policy agenda:
After months of deliberation over how to create House Republican consensus on an election-year policy agenda, Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday unveiled a proposal for fighting poverty that identifies a long list of policy ills but stops short of prescribing specific legislative fixes.
The anti-poverty plan, formally announced at a nonprofit social services and housing provider in the hardscrabble Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, includes a list of problems with the current social welfare system and recommendations for how to fix them — largely by shifting money and programs from federal control to groups like Anacostia’s House of Help City of Hope.
The 35-page document is the first piece of a larger agenda effort Ryan launched earlier this year, aimed at allowing rank-and-file members to craft a substantive blueprint during a presidential campaign where much of the focus has been on party infighting and concerns about bombastic presidential front-runner, Donald Trump.
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The policy principles laid out in the anti-poverty plan are plenty familiar to denizens of conservative think tanks. Broadly speaking, the proposals seek to expand work requirements for those receiving federal benefits, to give states and local jurisdictions a greater role in administering those benefits, to better measure the results of federal programs for the poor, and to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse.
The lack of specific policy prescriptions could open Ryan to criticism from the left, but it reduces the risk that any of the proposals could be rejected by Trump who has said very little about specific ways to help the poor.
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Ryan plans to roll out the rest of the project, entitled “A Better Way Forward: Our Vision for a Confident America” (I’m going to need a new graphic), in a series of events between now and the July 4 break.
Ryan will be joined Thursday by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the Council on Foreign Relations for the release of the House GOP’s national security proposals. The other four planks to be rolled out in the coming weeks will focus on health care, taxes, regulatory reform and reasserting Congress’s constitutional authority.
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The [poverty] plan does not include some of Ryan’s past signature anti-poverty proposals, such as expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to provide assistance to single, childless workers, or a new social services block-grant program for states and local governments. Instead, the document focuses on painting a broad picture of a GOP-led social welfare system and the types of policies that could be created in the event a Republican is elected president.
Many of the specific policy prescriptions aimed at addressing the problems identified in the paper were left out because members couldn’t agree on details such as how to prevent waste and fraud, according to aides.
The proposal also stops short of embracing specific welfare reform legislation that House Republicans have introduced or passed in recent years, including drug testing requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, often called welfare.
Democrats dismissed the proposals before they were even released. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put out a memo Monday that declared the proposal “not worth the white paper it’s printed on” and used the opportunity to criticize Ryan for endorsing Trump.
“When Speaker Ryan claimed the House of Representatives would serve as a guidepost for the principles of the Republican Party, the reality quickly set in that Trump reigns supreme and Ryan’s agenda was lost in the wind,” wrote DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), a veteran advocate for federal aid to the poor, accused Ryan on using misleading statistics in order to “eviscerate social safety net programs that lift millions of people out of poverty.”
“The only ‘better way’ that Speaker Ryan’s recommendations will offer is a better way to fall into poverty,” she said in a statement.
It turns out this is a true statement. Think Progress reports, Paul Ryan’s latest ideas about how to solve poverty, which he rolled out today, would actually make poverty worse:
Three months after apologizing for calling poor people “takers,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his plan to make life harder for them.
Ryan delivered remarks about the plan, entitled A Better Way, at a drug rehab center in Anacostia, an impoverished and heavily black neighborhood of Washington, D.C., as part of a broader rollout of House Republican priorities this week.
Ryan has become the leading voice in Republican lawmakers’ crusade against welfare programs. In the past, he’s blamed poverty on a “culture problem” in “inner cities,” where he says black men are “not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” He has also argued that marriage is the cure for poverty, not government programs, and refused to allow any actual poor people testify at his hearings on poverty. He seemed to back away from some of the more racially loaded rhetoric in March, saying he was wrong to refer to people stuck in poverty as “takers.”
Despite the change of heart about his rhetoric, Ryan is apparently sticking to his guns on policy. Ryan’s previous poverty plans have targeted the federal safety net, and the new proposal seems just as fixated on the idea that people are abusing benefits. The proposal asserts that “for low-income families, it may not always pay to work,” echoing a longtime conservative theory that poor people choose not to get jobs because it’s more lucrative to rely on government benefits.
Consistent with that philosophy, the plan includes a bevy of policies designed to make it much harder for people in need to access federal programs: tougher work requirements for food stamps, housing aid, or cash welfare; eliminating benefits conservatives believe are making improper payments; cutting Social Security; eliminating funding for early childhood education lifeline Head Start; sealing off tax credits from some low-income families; and further allowing states to cut certain programs as they see fit.
The end game, judging by Ryan’s stated agenda over the years, is to cut trillions of dollars from a safety net that’s already borne heavy blows in the face of increased need in the post-financial crisis era.
The centerpiece of A Better Way is to “reward work” and get people off benefits and back to work as soon as possible. While that’s a generally popular idea, imposing stiffer work requirements on welfare recipients tends to backfire.
Under the current system, food stamp recipients are still obligated to accept any job offers that they may get. But Ryan wants to reinstate a system that forces people to spend 20 hours a week looking for work or lose their benefits by an arbitrary deadline. The work requirements Ryan espouses do little to further motivate people in desperate situations to find stable jobs; instead, they tend to punish people who are genuinely struggling to find jobs and education. Many types of education and job training don’t qualify under the requirements, and even unstable low-paying jobs can kick people off welfare before they’re actually self-sufficient, which then restarts the cycle of poverty.
Some red state governors have already charged ahead on Ryan’s anti-poverty experiments, with sometimes disastrous results. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) was one of the first governors to reinstate 20-hours-per-week work requirements for able-bodied adults with no children. Shortly after that decision, 15,000 Kansans suddenly dropped off the food stamp rolls. Brownback insisted those people relinquished their benefits of their own accord, even though the state’s economic outlook and poverty rate remained unchanged.
Not that anyone in the Beltway media who believes that the GOP’s Flimflam Man is a “very serious person” cares, or that this alternative plan has any chance of being considered on our Tea-Publican controlled Congress, but the Center for American Progress release its own poverty program on the same day. A Progressive Agenda to Cut Poverty and Expand Opportunity. Funny how the Beltway media totally failed to mention this serious and thoughtful plan while giving Paul Ryan undeserved attention for his B.S. plan.
I guess it’s good to be Speaker.