The GOP’s Flimflam Man wants his war on the poor

EddieMunsterThe GOP’s alleged boy genius, Ayn Rand fanboy and “zombie-eyed grannie starver” from Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan, released a 204-page report (.pdf) on Monday purporting to analyze the effectiveness of the nation’s anti-poverty programs 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a national War on Poverty.

Ryan argues that federal anti-poverty programs have instead contributed to the nation’s high poverty rate and “created what’s known as the poverty trap,” i.e.,  the Tea-Publican”Hammock Theory” of poverty of lazy, unmotivated “moochers” and “takers.”

The report argues, “Federal programs are not only failing to address the problem. They are also in some significant respects making it worse.” Think Progress counters, Paul Ryan’s Audit Of Federal Anti-Poverty Programs Finds Many Are Actually Very Effective:

As Ryan’s own analysis points out, numerous progressive-minded spending programs have helped millions of Americans and significantly reduced the nation’s poverty rate.

Below are 16 examples from Ryan’s own report of how the government can help lower-income Americans make ends meet:

Veterans Health Administration is the largest single-payer health care system in the United States. The report finds that the program is “effective in providing access to inexpensive health care for low-income veterans. ”

The Child Tax Credit provides assistance to families with children. “According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the CTC protected about 2.9 million people from falling into poverty, including about 1.5 million children,” the report says.

The Earned Income Tax Credit provides cash assistance to low-income working families. Accord to Ryan, the “consensus among studies on the EITC is that it is an effective tool for encouraging and rewarding work among lower-income individuals, particularly single mothers.”

Rural Housing Assistance Grants fund the repair and improvement of rural housing units. The report finds that the grants “allow very low-income elderly homeowners on a fixed budget to remain at home and independent.”

Title X Family Planning “provides grants to states for family planning and related preventive health services, excluding abortion services.” The report found that the program is “moderately effective.” According to a 2005 OMB assessment, “women who utilize Title X (Family Planning program) services as their primary source of health care have significantly greater odds of receiving contraceptive services and/or care for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than women who utilize private physicians or HMOs.”

Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides funding to states in support of health care costs associated with HIV/AIDS treatments for individuals and families. The initiative “has been shown to fill gaps in Medicaid’s HIV/AIDS services and delivery programs,” the report found.

Housing Opportunities For Persons With AIDS provides housing assistance and supportive services for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. The program was found to be “effective” in “assisting a vulnerable population to achieve beneficial outcome.”

Federal Health Centers provide grants to outpatient primary-care facilities. The report found “fewer racial and ethnic disparities at community health centers” and concluded that they “perform better than private-practice primary case in some cases.” What’s more, medical expenses for health center patients were found to be lower compared to patients who receive care elsewhere.

Homeless Assistance Grants provide rehousing and supportive housing to the homeless. The program has been shown to “decrease homeless and reduce costs related to health care and institutionalization.”

Low income subsidy for Medicare Part D helps low-income seniors access medications they otherwise would not use. “A 2012 study compared two groups of seniors with similar commodities and found that seniors taking advantage of the LIS subsidy were significantly more likely to take medically necessary medications than the group not enrolled in the LIS program,” the report found.

The Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant has helped reduce infant mortality and was rated “effective” by a 2008 OMB report.

Elderly Nutrition Program funds group meals and home-delivered meals for senior citizens. “By and large, studies have found that the program is well targeted towards the low-income elderly and to those with increased risk for nutrition and health problems,” the report says.

Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children provides adequate nutrition to pregnant women, infants, and children. “Most of the academic literature supports that the WIC program increases birth weights for low-income women,” the report concludes.

School Breakfast Program increases “both nutrition and academic achievement among low-income children,” the report says, even though “it doesn’t seem to increase the likelihood that a child will eat breakfast.”

Education For Homeless Children and Youth “provides funding for states to create programs to ensure homeless children and youth have access to public education.” The initiative improves “student performance,” studies find.

Child Care and Development Fund helps low-income families afford child care. The report agrees that the subsidies “increase the likelihood of participation in the labor force” and “encourage single mothers to pursue education.”

The New York Times editorialized today, Mr. Ryan’s Small Ideas on Poverty:

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, has an important role to play within the Republican Party. He provides polished intellectual cover for his party [See Paul Krugman below refuting this media villagers belief in Ryan’s intellectual ability] to mow down as many antipoverty programs as it can see. Most Congressional Republicans would love nothing more than to eviscerate programs like Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps. But so as not to appear cruel and uncaring, they need a high-minded excuse to do so.

That’s what Mr. Ryan gave them on Monday in a 204-page report that finds flaws with almost every attempt the government has made to relieve poverty and its effects since the 1960s. The report will undoubtedly become the foundation for Mr. Ryan’s budget proposal to cut financing for these programs, and Republicans sound incredibly grateful that they can now point to an official report when their votes are challenged on the campaign trail. “Paul Ryan remains our big-ideas guy,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the House leadership.

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It’s easy to find flaws or waste in any government program, but the proper response is to fix those flaws, not throw entire programs away as Mr. Ryan and his party have repeatedly proposed. It might be possible, for example, to consolidate some of the 20 different low-income housing programs identified in the report, but Congressional Democrats have no reason to negotiate with a party that fundamentally doesn’t believe government should play a significant role in reducing poverty. (Similarly, Republicans complain endlessly about flaws in health care reform, but their sole solution is to repeal the entire program, not improve it.)

The report notes that some programs, including the earned-income tax credit, have been effective, but it fails to draw the proper lessons from those examples. The most successful programs, including the tax credit, Medicaid and food stamps, have been those that are carefully designed, properly managed and well-financed. For all their glossy reports, Republicans have shown no interest in making these or any other social programs work better.

Times columnist Paul Krugman continues his disdain for Rep. Paul Ryan as the GOP’s Flimflam man, an intellectual fraud, a fact the media villagers are slow to acknowledge. Flimflam, The Next Generation:

I took Paul Ryan’s measure almost four years ago, back when everyone in Washington was determined to see him as the Serious, Honest Conservative they knew had to exist somewhere. Everything we’ve seen of him since then has confirmed that initial judgment. When you see a big report from Ryan, you shouldn’t ask “Is this a con job?” but instead skip right to “Where’s the con?”

And so it is with the new poverty report.

Give Ryan some points for originality. In his various budgets, he relied mainly on magic asterisks — unspecified savings and revenue sources to be determined later; he was able to convince many pundits that he had a grand fiscal plan when the reality was that he was just assuming his conclusions, and that the assumptions were fundamentally ridiculous. But this time he uses a quite different technique.

What he offers is a report making some strong assertions, and citing an impressive array of research papers. What you aren’t supposed to notice is that the research papers don’t actually support the assertions.

In some cases we’re talking about artful misrepresentation of what the papers say, drawing angry protests from the authors. In other cases the misdirection is more subtle.

Take the treatment of Medicaid and work incentives. I’m going to teach the best available survey on these issues tonight, which looks at the research and finds little evidence of significant disincentive effects from Medicaid (or food stamps). That’s not at all the impression you get from the Ryan report.

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[Ryan’s] research citations are just there to make the report sound well-informed; they aren’t actually used to derive the conclusions, which more or less come out of thin air.

Oh, and there are the usual Medicaid zombies too.

The GOP’s Flimflam man wants to wage a war on America’s poor, demonizing the poor as the cause of the stagnation in the economy. He will never look to the actual cause: the massive redistribution of wealth upwards to the über-rich elite plutocrats who gamble on speculative investments in the casino capitalism of Wall Street, rather than invest in brick and mortar and human capital to expand markets and to create workers capable of purchasing goods and services. That’s so Twentieth Century.

Today’s über-rich elite plutocrats are all about the accumulation of wealth, and they will steal the last dime  from the hungry, the sick and and the poor to accumulate more.

Paul Ryan’s Randian economics is intellectually bankrupt and morally depraved. Americans need to tune out the GOP’s Flimflam man. He is a sinister fraud.

UPDATE: Charles Pierce at Esquire skewers Paul Ryan. The New Adventures Of Old Paul Ryan:

Put simply, there is not now a bigger fake in national politics than Paul Ryan, who went to high school and college on my dime — You’re welcome, dickhead. — who’s never had a real adult job outside of government and/or wingnut welfare, and who nonetheless believes that government money blunts the work ethic of everybody except him.

Read the whole post.

UPDATE: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also harshes on the GOP’s alleged boy genius.  Commentary: Ryan Report Distorts Safety Net’s Picture. “Though it purports to be a balanced, evidence-based review of the safety net, it falls far short of that standard. It’s replete with misleading and selective presentations of data and research, which it uses to portray the safety net in a negative light. It also omits key research and data that point in more positive directions.”

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