Back in June, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told MSNBC, “I’m focused on poverty these days.” Given the far-right congressman’s agenda and worldview, it seemed like an odd thing to say, but it’s a line Ryan has continued to tout ever since.
For his trouble, Ryan was rewarded with a front-page piece in the Washington Post today, celebrating the congressman for his efforts “fighting poverty and winning minds.”
Paul Ryan is ready to move beyond last year’s failed presidential campaign and the budget committee chairmanship that has defined him to embark on an ambitious new project: Steering Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp.
Since February, Ryan (R-Wis.) has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods with another old Kemp ally, Bob Woodson, the 76-year-old civil rights activist and anti-poverty crusader, to talk to ex-convicts and recovering addicts about the means of their salvation.
That certainly sounds nice, doesn’t it? The conservative Budget Committee chairman may be known for his regressive budget plan, his affinity for Ayn Rand, his demands for steep cuts to social-insurance programs and domestic priorities, and his crusade for more tax breaks for the wealthiest of the wealthy, but now he’s apparently adopting some sort of new vision of compassionate conservatism.
Or so it may seem at the surface.
Dig down deeper into the same article, however, and Ryan’s vision comes into sharper focus: “His idea of a war on poverty so far relies heavily on promoting volunteerism and encouraging work through existing federal programs, including the tax code.” The piece went on to quote a conservative think tank scholar advising Ryan’s staff that his vision may also include “giving poor parents vouchers or tax credits” for private education.
And that’s about where the charade ends. Throughout his political career, Ryan has looked to shrink government and cut spending by promoting volunteerism, tax credits, and privatization vouchers. Now that he’s engaged in a vague kind of rebranding campaign, the Wisconsin Republican is still pushing volunteerism, tax credits, and privatization vouchers – but now it’s repackaged as Ryan’s vision for “fighting poverty.”
Meet the new Paul Ryan agenda; it’s the same as the old Paul Ryan agenda.
Indeed, let’s not forget that this is the same congressman whose budget plan is brutal towards families in poverty, the same congressman who supports deep cuts to food stamps, and the same congressman who wants to scrap Social Security and Medicare.
If Paul Ryan is the new model for the Republican Party’s anti-poverty crusader, struggling families should be terrified.
Ryan Poverty Plan
1. Cut spending on the poor, cut taxes on the wealthy
2. Shred safety net through block granting federal programs
3. Encourage entrepreneurism, sprinkle around some vouchers and tax credits
5. Poverty falls