After years of talking about poverty but voting against minimum wage hikes and unemployment insurance extensions while putting forth budgets that would dramatically cut Medicaid and food stamps, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) today unveiled a so-called anti-poverty plan.
Mostly, it stinks--and it would make things harder, not easier, for those in poverty.
There's plenty to read about the plan, but here's a summary:
- Ryan wants to deliver poverty assistance through state block grants. But every time we try block grants, it's a disaster for recipients of assistance, and as an added bonus, it wreaks havoc on the economy.
- Ryan's plan would freeze food stamp funding. Under the current system, when need increases, funding increases automatically.
- It says nothing about extending unemployment insurance to the millions who need it during this economic downturn.
- It ups work requirements but is silent on child care, which parents need in order to go to work.
- The numbers don't add up. Ryan didn't want people talking about how he's proposing massive cuts, so he says his plan is neutral on cost. But his latest budget plan squeezed 69 percent of its savings directly from programs for people with low or moderate incomes.
- Perhaps most disturbingly, Ryan's plan is implicitly distrustful of people in poverty simply because they are in poverty. American values aren't reflected in a plan that suggests that some people "deserve" help and others don't. As author Stephen Pimpare said on Twitter today, "Poverty is a money problem, not a moral problem."
- Don't forget who we're talking about here. Ryan's plan is a bunch of words on paper, but we can judge him by his actions. He has voted several times against minimum wage increases. He voted against extending unemployment insurance. The 2014 budget he lovingly crafted and proposed would have gutted Medicaid, cutting it by 26 percent, and it would have torn a hole in the food stamp program big enough for nearly 4 million families to fall through. Our friends at Wisconsin Jobs Now remember when a 71-year-old man was taken down during Ryan's only public appearance during the summer of 2011. Does this sound like someone who cares about people who are struggling?
There are a handful of positives, like a path toward reductions in mandatory minimum sentencing and an affirmation that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is effective at reducing poverty. But it's impossible to separate these bits of useful insight from a plan that, in its totality, would do vastly more harm than good for the millions of Americans seeking a way out of poverty.
No wonder we found this headline in the Washington Post this afternoon: "Paul Ryan's poverty plan attacks the wrong problem and comes up with the wrong solution."