July 27, 2014

When did Robert Reich's evil twin sneak onto the Sunday shows and start spewing nonsense like this? With regard to Paul Ryan's plan to shift funding for anti-poverty programs from the federal government to the states, Reich validated the entire proposal with one paragraph:

REICH: I think it's a serious one. In fact, I was frankly very impressed. Paul Ryan, who has been cutting programs for the poor left and right, or at least trying to do that for several years now, awarding tax breaks to the rich. Suddenly, he's had a conversion of some sort. And he is now coming out with a plan that is actually a very interesting plan. Not only does it expand the earned income tax credit, which is the most important anti-poverty policy we have now in the federal government, he extends it, he expands it. He provides some guidance to the states in terms of actually helping people go forward.

It is not exactly a block grant. There are no cuts to poverty programs. This is something that is very new and different from the Republican Party. And I think it deserves a careful look by Democrats.

So wait. We're supposed to be applauding Ryan because he isn't cutting programs that are already too stretched and expect states to simply accept his "guidance?" Because he proposes an expansion to the EITC that many people don't even know to file for? Many poor folks who don't earn anything simply don't file tax returns. They're not required to, so they don't. When did we shift the goalposts to applauding a proposal that doesn't cut anti-poverty programs?

If you want a picture of how Paul Ryan's plan would work to alleviate poverty, take a look at Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, by state and compare it to poverty rates in those same states. There's a correlation there, just like the correlation that exists between states that have raised the minimum wage for workers and states that have not.

Here's an analysis from the not-so-very-liberal Washington Post:

The centerpiece of Ryan's deficit-neutral proposal is an idea to consolidate the federal government's many anti-poverty programs, including food stamps, cash assistance and housing vouchers, into a single more flexible funding stream that would be available to the states in the form of block grants. Local public or private service providers who know best would then tailor those resources to the needs of individual recipients. Maybe one family needs housing help. Maybe another requires subsidies for child care. This idea rightly recognizes the poverty isn't experienced the same way by everyone. But here is what Ryan's plan suggests should happen next:

Providers must be held accountable, and so should recipients. Each beneficiary will sign a contract with consequences for failing to meet the agreed-upon benchmarks. At the same time, there should also be incentives for people to go to work. Under each life plan, if the individual meets the benchmarks ahead of schedule, then he or she could be rewarded.

His "discussion draft" says more about the benefits to achieving these goals (like "getting a job within six months") than the sanctions for failing to meet them. But the idea is fundamentally punitive. It betrays the fact that Ryan's latest thinking has not strayed all that far from the simplistic notion that people in poverty are solely to blame for their own circumstances. An incentive system like this assumes that end goals such as employment are entirely within the control of poor people if they would just try hard enough.

Reich opened the door wide open for SE Cupp to spend the remainder of the panel bashing the Obama administration for rising poverty rates without so much as a batted eyelash toward how states have actively thwarted efforts to alleviate poverty.

How long will it be before people just give up on the state where they live and move to one where they have health care and a working wage?

A decent working wage and access to health care would go a long way toward alleviating poverty. Block grants to states to administer their own anti-poverty programs guarantees outcomes similar to what we're seeing with Medicaid expansions.

Robert Reich would know better than to call this a 'serious proposal' if it were actually Reich on that program. No, this was his evil twin Skippy, who was there to genuflect over a program guaranteed to benefit everyone but those who need it the most.


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