Even though he lost a shot at becoming Vice President two years ago, Paul Ryan remains a major player in the Republican establishment as a high ranking Congressman and overall budget expert in the legislature.  Once or twice a year we can count on him rolling out budget proposals that are unrealistic and have no chance of actually becoming law.  Long-term plans have included just about every imaginable proposal that would offend a Democratic lawmaker.  But this week Ryan shifted gears and unveiled a framework for addressing poverty.  It’s not designed to reduce spending or cut the deficit.  He just wants to show the US that Republicans want to solve this problem too.

The idea is relatively straightforward.  All the anti-poverty programs the US offers are disaggregated.  If you need food stamps go here.  If you need Medicaid head over there.  Need a housing voucher, that’s over that way.  Ryan would bring them all under one roof at the federal level.  The federal government would then issue block grants to the states and the states manage their own anti-poverty programs with federal oversight.  Ryan’s vision is that someone in need of assistance will go to a case worker that sets up everything they need.  The case worker would also set expectations on how long this support will last.  This allows a more targeted approach.  Likewise the providers of these services could be state agencies, non-profits, or even for-profits.  The idea is to let them compete and have the best providers win out.

There would be no change in the budgeting of anti-poverty programs.  Which is why Ryan says there will be no change to the deficit.  Critic quickly came out of the wood-work to pick apart the proposal.  Block grants don’t have a great historyPaul Ryan is the wrong messenger.  These are valid complaints.  But they’re being made by liberal commentators that get paid to more or less not trust the GOP.  Ryan may indeed have a long term agenda.  Block grants not indexed to inflation are easier to cut over time than the programs in place today.  States could support programs that teach abstinence or the importance of marriage over others.  These are legitimate concerns.

But Ryan should be commended for offering a reform that at a high level looks pretty good.  Let the states decide what’s best for their people.  Make it easier to get the support our country offers.  Put in place some accountability to receiving the support.  If liberal lawmakers follow in the footsteps of these commentators and have no faith before pen is put to paper, they’re no better than the Republicans who have worked so hard to block the president at every step.  There are two halls of Congress and a chief executive.  Between these people they might be able to hammer out a plan everyone can get behind.  But everyone has to work together in good faith.

Read: G.O.P. Congressman’s Plan to Fight Poverty Shifts Efforts to States (NY Times)

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categories: economics, government