"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Paul Ryan’s Glossy New Poverty Plan”: Not Much Doubt What The Effect On Poor People Will Be

Every year or so Paul Ryan comes up with a glossy new plan to deal with poverty or spending on social programs. The plans never go anywhere, but they’re not really intended to: They’re designed to make the Republican Party (and Mr. Ryan himself) appear more thoughtful than it actually is on these subjects.

The one he released today is somewhat better than previous efforts, in that it doesn’t propose massive cuts in overall spending (unlike his House budgets), and would even increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the government’s most successful anti-poverty programs. Democrats have also embraced a larger credit, although unlike Mr. Ryan, they would pay for it by raising taxes on the rich rather than slashing federal nutrition programs that Mr. Ryan thinks are a waste of money.

But the lack of seriousness in the plan is demonstrated by its supposedly big idea: It would combine 11 of the most important federal poverty programs into something called an “opportunity grant” that would be given to the states to spend as they see fit. The eliminated programs would include food stamps, what remains of the welfare system (known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), Section 8 housing vouchers, and low-income heating assistance, among others.

This technique should sound familiar. Members of Mr. Ryan’s party have spent years promoting the idea that states can do things better than Washington. As Rick Santorum repeated endlessly in 2012, “Cap it, cut it, freeze it, and block-grant it to the states.” Mr. Ryan’s running mate that year, Mitt Romney, would have turned all of Medicaid into a block grant system dumped onto the steps of 50 state capitols.

Putting programs like food stamps into a block grant means they could not be expanded on a national basis during economic emergencies, when unemployment or poverty soars. If a state were to have a budget crisis, perhaps due to tax cuts, social spending would be the first to go.

The broader problem is the sharp division between the states, which exposes the gap between Mr. Ryan’s attempt at high-mindedness and the petty grievances of the Republican majority. The proponents of these consolidation ideas know that while blue states would shoulder their responsibilities and protect their poorest residents, many red states would not. If Washington were not in the anti-poverty business, Republicans would have an opportunity to reduce spending on social programs in about half the country.

The attitude of red states toward social spending has been made brutally clear by their reaction to the Affordable Care Act. In 36 states, lawmakers refused to set up health care exchanges, putting the insurance subsidies for poor people at risk if a recent court decision is upheld. And only 27 states, including the District of Columbia, have agreed to expand their Medicaid programs. The effect on lowering the number of uninsured people in states with expanded programs is clear, but lawmakers elsewhere don’t care.

In Florida, the Republicans who rule the state have not created exchanges or expanded Medicaid, and have offered nothing to the 760,000 state residents with no insurance. The state has even banned volunteers who were helping poor people sign up for the federal exchange. The president of the Florida Senate, Don Gaetz, summed up the prevailing attitude perfectly this week: “As long as I serve in the Senate, I will never support the state of Florida serving as the instrument by which individuals and businesses are forced into a federal mandate to purchase a health insurance product they may not want.”

Mr. Ryan would never say so, but the real effect of his plan is to turn over a series of highly successful federal poverty programs into the hands of Don Gaetz and other anti-government ideologues. There’s not much doubt what the effect on poor people would be.


By: David Firestone, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editors Blog; The New York Times, July 24, 2014

July 26, 2014 - Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Paul Ryan, Poverty | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Members of Congress should be required to live with the results of their votes to experience for themselves the results that they may impose on others.


    Comment by walthe310 | July 26, 2014 | Reply

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