Listen, People: Paul Ryan Explains How To Be Poor The Right Way
July 24, 2014

Another "brilliant" pile of crap from Rep. Paul Ryan's big fat genius brain! Discuss the obvious flaws in the comments:

On Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his much-anticipated proposal for reforming the way the federal government tries to alleviate poverty. The core part of his proposal, the Opportunity Grant, would give participating states a lump sum of money rather than funding virtually all the current anti-poverty programs. And states would be instructed to hand that money down to community groups that work with poor people, because, as Ryan writes, “They are more effective than distant federal bureaucracies” and have “intimate knowledge of the people they serve—as well as their ability to take the long view.”

The underlying thesis is that those who are closest to actual poor people will be best able to figure out how to help them. But Ryan fails to take this idea to its end conclusion: that poor people themselves, being the closest to their own situations, are the most knowledgable about what they need to improve their lives. Instead, his proposal calls for low-income people to meet with providers to create a “customized life plan,” a contract that includes goals and benchmarks, as well as penalties for missing any steps.In describing what this would look like, Ryan outlines the minimum requirements:

• A contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success
• A timeline for meeting these benchmarks
• Sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract
• Incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract
• Time limits for remaining on cash assistance

There would be bonuses for people who meet their goals ahead of time, such as finding a job before the time allotted, although the bonus wouldn’t likely come in the form of cash but in something like a savings bond. But if they miss those goals — say, in the current American economy where there are more than two job seekers for every opening, they struggle to find a job in that time period — the poor person would face consequences, “most likely immediate sanctions and a reduction in benefits,” Ryan writes.

An entirely different approach would take out the middle man of the providers and let poor people decide for themselves how best to improve their lives. This could be done by simply giving money, without strings attached, to the poor. While it may sound radical, there have been experiments that have done just this and found positive results.

Also: what Greg Sargent says.

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