On July 24th, Rep. Paul Ryan released his much hyped plan to help eradicate poverty in America and it has not been received well. Even though he now throws his full support behind our social safety nets, his ideas are laughable. He joined NBC's Meet The Press to discuss it briefly and surprisingly host David Gregory went right at the heart of Paul Ryan's beliefs by playing a clip of Ryan discussing one of his pet peeves, the dependency culture. Gregory made the correct observation that Rep. Ryan doesn't sound sympathetic to the people who actually do need government help.
DAVID GREGORY: Let's talk about your own attitudes about people who are poor and their views on government. You were on this program of January of last year and you said the following:
REP. PAUL RYAN (On Tape): We don't want a dependency culture. Our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able-bodied people are becoming dependent upon the government than upon themselves and their livelihoods.
DAVID GREGORY: It doesn't sound like there's a lot of sympathy for people you think need the government's help. What you seem to be saying is that people have a problem with their own dependency here that government is only furthering.
REP. PAUL RYAN: That's not my intent and it's far from it. And my point, and I'll make it again, is we don't want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. We want to get at the root cause of the poverty to get people out of poverty. And I would argue that that is the best way to go forward.
And that's what we're proposing here, which is have benefits that are customized to either person's problems, because poverty is very complicated. And not just keep them where they are, but have them get to where they want to be. And that is what is the trust of these proposals. The federal government's approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty.
In many ways, it has disincentivized people to going to work. In some cases, you lose more in benefits if you go to work. So people don't go to work because of the federal disincentives that do so. So we need to reemphasize getting people up and on their lives and helping them give them the tools to do that. That's the point.
Able-bodied people should go to work and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential. That for me is a far better system to get people out of poverty long term than to just spend more hardworking taxpayer dollars on a program that is not getting the results that people deserve.
Rep. Paul responded that that wasn't his intent, but history and his own words refute his denial. Most social safety nets aren't supposed to give you more opportunities to get out of poverty hence, the "safety net" moniker.
The main problem faced by the American poor is not that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the safety net. It’s that they lack the employment and earnings opportunities necessary to work their way out of poverty.
MaxSpeaks unmasks Ryan's flimflam "block grant" proposal.
A block grant is a fixed pot of money provided to a state or local government for broadly-defined purposes. Ryan’s report is at pains to assert that the conversion would not entail spending cuts. This could not be further from the truth.
Block grants transfer control to state governments. They have the fun of spending the money, Congress has the fun of raising the taxes to pay for it. The other is that the more vague — “flexible” — the purposes of the grant, the less focused is its political support.
State officials are always happy to play this game because the money is front-loaded. In the initial years the grant is close to what they were getting before, and by the time the grant shrinks, they will be out of office anyway.
The transfer of program responsibility from the Federal government to the states is known as devolution. It is the standard way of attacking domestic spending for social purposes, going back to Richard Nixon’s dismantling of the original, more interesting War on Poverty launched by Lyndon Johnson.
Jamelle Bouie writes: The Poor Don’t Need a Life Coach
America’s poor need bigger checks, not a “life plan.”
Annie Lowrey calls it Paternalistic and outlines many of the flaws in Ryan's proposal.
First, it presupposes that the poor somehow want to be poor; that they don’t have the skills to plan and achieve and grow their way out of poverty.
Second, it isolates the poor. Middle-class families don’t need to justify and prostrate themselves for tax credits.
Third, it threatens to punish the poorest and most unstable families for their poverty and instability.
Fourth, it does not address the core problem of a lack of jobs — or the problem of a lack of jobs paying a living wage and affording a middle-class lifestyle.