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House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he is confident that presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, if elected president in November, would help move legislation based on the "Better Way" agenda into law. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Ryan's GOP Regurgitates "Anti-Poverty" Policies that Amount to War on Poor

"It's more about reducing government spending than it is about helping the less fortunate."

Deirdre Fulton

Continuing the GOP's war on the poor, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans unveiled an ostensibly new "anti-poverty" plan on Tuesday, marked by cuts to critical safety-net programs and further austerity.

According to Politico, "much of this latest initiative is repackaged GOP proposals"—and the last time around, those ideas weren't very popular

Politico's John Bresnahan reports that much of the plan is

focused on reforming federal welfare programs. The GOP recommendations include: expanded work requirements for those receiving federal welfare, food or housing assistance; more "flexibility" for state and local governments to improve programs, although what that means isn't always fully defined; consolidation of dozens of existing federal programs into fewer, better run efforts; improved accountability for federal programs while "rewarding" those which show the best results; more effectively target those Americans in greatest need of help; and reducing waste and duplication, a mantra for politicians in both parties every election year.

House Republicans call for the use of more "public-private partnerships" to fight poverty, better technology, and vastly improved metrics in measuring the effectiveness of federal programs, as well as more oversight by Congress into the hundreds of billions of dollars funneled to low-income Americans annually. "Altogether... total federal and state spending on programs for low-income people currently equals about $1 trillion per year," the GOP report states.

The plan also seeks to expand "school choice," which allocates public funds for charter schools and other alternatives; slash support for higher education Pell Grants; repeal the Labor Department's "fiduciary rule," which protects retirees from greedy brokers; and dismantle parts of the Dodd-Frank bank reform law—all in the name of reducing poverty, Ryan claims. 

"The Republicans would like to shed their 'party of the rich' image without actually going to the trouble of changing their policies, and the anti-poverty push is part of that."
—Simon Maloy, Salon

Unfortunately, Ryan's core argument—that anti-poverty spending has been inefficient—is spurious, political writer Simon Maloy wrote at Salon on Tuesday. In fact, programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) have done their job quite well, he argued, pointing to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis that showed the program "kept about 10.3 million people out of poverty, including about 4.9 million children" in 2012 alone.

Yet "[w]hat Ryan and the House Republicans want to do," Maloy said, "is alter its funding mechanism and cut its overall funding to make it (and other anti-poverty programs) less responsive and less effective."

Indeed, Maloy wrote:

The Republicans would like to shed their "party of the rich" image without actually going to the trouble of changing their policies, and the anti-poverty push is part of that – they're going to gut social programs that are working as they should be, all the while claiming that they’re "fixing" a problem that doesn't really exist. It's more about reducing government spending than it is about helping the less fortunate.

The anti-poverty plan is one of several proposals the GOP will unroll over the next three weeks as part of its election-year blueprint, titled "A Better Way." According to the Huffington Post, a proposal on national security will be released on Thursday while initiatives on regulation, constitutional authority, healthcare, and tax reform are in the pipeline.

On Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers lambasted not only the proposal itself but also Ryan's choice of location for the unveiling: a drug and alcohol rehab facility in Washington, D.C.

But perhaps it's not surprising that Ryan and establishment Republicans are so out of touch. As Philadelphia mom Tianna Gaines-Turner wrote in a powerful op-ed on Monday: "How would Congress ever know what they should do to address poverty if they don’t ever speak to us?"

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