Paul Ryan Has a Plan for the Poor. It’s Terrible.

How his 2015 budget could sink America’s neediest deeper into poverty.

Tony Alter/ Flickr

House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has lately rebranded himself as an advocate for the poor, albeit with his own makers-versus-takers, Ayn Randian twist. He recently issued a lengthy study of federal anti-poverty programs and over the past year and a half he has embarked on a “listening tour” to hear from low-income Americans. On Tuesday, Ryan issued the House GOP’s 2015 budget proposal, which would make major changes to two of the federal government’s primary anti-poverty programs, food stamps and Medicaid. Using as his model the supposedly successful welfare reform effort of the 1990s, Ryan envisions turning these programs into block grants that are handed over to the states to administer. But his plan to “help families in need lead lives of dignity” is likely to make matters worse for America’s neediest. Here’s why.

In 1996, Congress reengineered the federal program that provided cash assistance to the poorest families. Along with imposing stiff work requirements, Congress turned the old entitlement program, whose budget rose and fell automatically with need, into a block grant with a fixed budget. The grant was then distributed to the states, with few strings attached, under the premise that they were “laboratories of innovation” that would revolutionize the way the government helped the poor.

But as welfare reform has shown, giving states this sort of flexibility in how they spend federal money can lead to a lot of abuse that Republicans are so keen on rooting out.

According to data crunched by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states have diverted billions of dollars of welfare block grants for uses these funds were not intended to support. In the first year of welfare reform, about 70 percent of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant went to pay for basic cash assistance for poor families. By 2012, that number had fallen to 29 percent and states were spending just 8 percent on providing transportation, job training, and other services intended to help people transition from welfare into the workforce.

The numbers are even more dismal in some individual states. In 2012, Louisiana spent 7 percent of its $261 million in TANF funds on basic assistance, down from 36 percent in 2001. Just 4 percent of the funds went to programs to help welfare recipients get back into the workforce. A mere 2 percent of the funds paid for child care, another critical component of a reform effort that was geared toward nudging women with small children into low-wage jobs.

What happened to the rest of the money? According to CBBP, 71 percent of it went to other services, including “other nonassistance,” a nebulous category used to mask payments for a hodgepodge of programs that the state didn’t want to spend its own tax revenues on.

Read more at Mother Jones

Support quality journalism. Subscribe to Mother Jones.

And if you feel like you need still more Paul Ryan, you can check out Michael Thomasky’s article in the The Daily Beast: Paul Ryan: Still a Total Jerk

Paul Ryan Claims Black Men Are Lazy And The Cause Of Poverty In This Country

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was on the conservative radio show ‘Morning In America’, which is hosted by Bill Bennett. Bennett is the former Secretary of Education under President Reagan. He is also known for gambling away millions of dollars while at the same time preaching about living a virtuous life. Anyway, Bennett had Ryan on to discuss Ryan’s recent ‘War on Poverty’ report, where Ryan stated that anti-poverty programs developed under President Lyndon Johnson and after were actually the root cause for the continued existence of poverty in this country.

During the interview, Ryan used thinly-veiled ‘code’ language to claim that black men do not want to work and are satisfied with being poor. He also stated that anti-poverty programs create a culture of laziness and that what we really need is for affluent white people from the suburbs to spend more of their time mentoring those in the inner-city. Obviously, the answer for those living in abject poverty in a jobless environment is to have someone come down from their lofty perch and whitesplain about how to lift yourself up by your bootstraps.

Read more at PoliticusUSA