Political News

What to know about Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan

Posted June 11

House Speaker Paul Ryan this week unveiled a 35-page strategy to combat poverty that was met with a contentious, partisan response by legislators and experts on both sides of the aisle.

Shortly after the Wisconsin Republican revealed the “Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility” plan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement criticizing the plan for showing “families in poverty nothing but indifference and contempt.”

“Sadly, beneath the sugary rhetoric of the poverty proposal unveiled today, Republicans are advancing the same callous, trickle-down policies they’ve been pushing for years,” Pelosi said.

Republican leaders, however, welcomed the opportunity to — as Ryan said in his latest weekly address — clearly demonstrate what exactly Republicans support and “restore our Constitution.”

“Our report departs from the flawed approach of the last several decades and provides a different perspective on how to help our fellow Americans rise up out of poverty,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in a Washington Post op-ed published Tuesday. “Decades of experience show that the most effective anti-poverty program is not one of the 80 disjointed programs run by the federal government — but instead, it’s a job.”

According to the plan’s text, the “complex, disorganized maze of programs” that constitutes the federal welfare system will face major changes. Institutions like Social Security and Pell Grants will be susceptible to reforms.

It also lays out ideas for improving access to better nutrition and educational programs for children.

Critics say the plan contains no new solutions to a poverty problem the government has long failed to eradicate. One Slate reporter said the plan is “a rehash of, or at least a variation on, material Ryan has trotted out before.”

Senior business and economics correspondent Jordan Weissmann penned the article Tuesday called “Why I Can’t Stop Laughing at Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Plan,” in which he wrote that much of the plan is “inspired by the welfare reforms of the 1990s; the speaker still wants to push more safety-net beneficiaries to go to work, devolve more program control down to state and local officials, and yet somehow increase accountability. …”

The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham tweeted Weissmann’s article criticizing Ryan's plan Tuesday. But Forbes contributor Scott Winship wrote that Democrats are too quick to criticize the plan, and that it actually gives states more freedom while holding the federal government accountable.

“It is clearer than ever that the freshest thinking around anti-poverty policy today comes from conservatives,” Winship said. “(W)hat is included in the blueprint constitutes an impressive and distinctive approach to poverty reduction and opportunity promotion that deserves consideration by Democrats.”

The anti-poverty plan is part of a six-category agenda, called “A Better Way,” and is intended to put the nation "back on track” should a Republican candidate win the presidency, Ryan said in a weekly address.

Days later, he spoke about the plan in a speech in Anacostia, a historic D.C. neighborhood known for its high poverty levels."We think the way to fight poverty is to fight its symptoms," Ryan said at the news conference. “We need to get to the root causes of poverty to fight the cycle of poverty."

Ryan’s agenda will, alongside poverty, focus on national security, the economy, the Constitution, health care and tax reform. Those plans are set to be released over the next three weeks.

Sara Weber is an intern with Deseret National and a recent graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Sara can be reached at sweber@deseretdigital.com.

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