A funny thing happened last week when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delivered a big speech on poverty at Hillsdale College: it was ignored. The former vice presidential candidate can usually generate some Beltway buzz with his speeches, but last week’s remarks were largely overlooked.
Brian Beutler noticed, however, that the speech highlighted the rhetorical evolution of Ryan’s far-right ideology. The congressman and Ayn Rand fan “replaced his oft-drawn dichotomy between makers and takers, and the linked concepts of debt and dependency, with ‘the American Idea.’” And as it turns out, Ryan believes “the American Idea,” as enshrined by the Declaration of Independence, just happens to be his Republican vision for dismantling social-insurance programs.
On the heels of last week’s unnoticed speech, the Wisconsin Republican was at it again today, delivering another speech on his anti-poverty vision, including the usual conservative call for block grants to states in areas such as food stamps and housing aid. As msnbc’s Suzy Khimm explained, however, Ryan’s vision now includes a twist.
Individuals would receive aid by going to certified case managers who would tailor aid based on “a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty,” according to proposal. […]All participants would be required to meet work requirements to receive aid, and states would be required to give beneficiaries the option of going to non-profit and for-profit organizations for case management. Ryan suggests having participants “sign a contract with consequences for failing to meet the agreed-upon benchmarks” for achieving life goals, as well as rewards for meeting goals ahead of schedule, such as saving bonds.
Recipients would face “sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract.”
We’ll probably need some more information about this new anti-poverty bureaucracy that Ryan has in mind, but the plan is actually quite broad. As Dylan Matthews explained, it includes, among other things, EITC expansion, sentencing reforms, and changes to occupational licensing.
Jared Bernstein sees a plan that’s “misguided” for all sorts of reasons.
The broader reason his plan is misguided is because Ryan starts from the mistaken assumption that the current U.S. anti-poverty system is broken, when in fact it’s actually quite effective, and not just in lowering market-based poverty rates, which it does by almost half, but also by investing in the longer term well-being of its beneficiaries…. That’s not good enough by a long shot, but neither is it motivation to radically change the system in ways that introduce a dangerous set of new risks, as this new plan does, I fear. […]I don’t mean to go all the way to “it-ain’t-broke-so-don’t-fix-it” regarding our anti-poverty system. More granular input on the ground could surely be helpful, although not in the way Ryan argues here. Remember, the problem faced by the poor is not that anti-poverty programs are ineffective or that they’re administered at the federal vs. the state level. It’s that the poor don’t have the job and earnings opportunities they need.
Bernstein concluded that Ryan’s plan is ultimately “the wrong answer to the wrong question.”