Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rep. Paul Ryan speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo:  Gage Skidmore)

Paul Ryan’s Case Against Himself

Melissa Boteach

 by TalkPoverty.org

Yesterday, Rep. Ryan proposed a plan that would eliminate a program that consolidates multiple antipoverty programs into a single grant to states in the name of providing greater flexibility. Yep, you read that right.

While the press coverage has focused on Rep. Ryan’s “new” idea of consolidating multiple programs into a single “Opportunity Grant,” most of the coverage missed the fact that he proposed to pay for part of his plan by eliminating the Social Service Block Grant (SSBG).

The SSBG is a capped, flexible stream of funding to states that funds services such as adoption, childcare, counseling, child abuse prevention, community-based care for seniors and people with disabilities, and employment services. Last year it helped approximately 23 million people, about half of them children. The program dates back to 1981, when a series of social services were consolidated into this single grant, and since then, many nonprofits have been funded by it to provide services like case management. Sounds a lot like Rep. Ryan’s “Opportunity Grant”, right?

Unfortunately, while SSBG provides states with enormous flexibility, over time it lost a lot of political capital. Politicians began to complain that it was duplicative of other programs. Policymakers could cut it time and again without having to cite any specific consequences since the money was “flexible.”  Over time, it has lost 77 percent of its value due to inflation, cuts, and funding freezes, and in recent years, there have been attempts to eliminate it altogether.  This is surely predictive of Rep. Ryan’s new proposal.

Which brings me back to the “Opportunity Grants.”  Right now, Rep. Ryan is claiming that his plan is completely deficit neutral, and states would not lose any money.

Yet, in a cautionary tale, calls for elimination of SSBG have been supported by none other than Rep. Ryan, who out of the other side of his mouth is proposing an eerily similar idea: to consolidate, in the name of flexibility, major funding streams that currently help low-income families. In fact, Rep. Ryan proposes eliminating the Social Service Block Grant altogether to pay for his proposed EITC expansion for childless workers. In an ironic twist that he seems to miss, he claims that SSBG is “ineffective.”

Thank you, Paul Ryan, for illustrating more clearly than anyone else possibly could why your proposal is so dangerous.


© 2021 TalkPoverty.org

Melissa Boteach

Melissa Boteach is the Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program and Half in Ten Education Fund at the Center for American Progress.  You can follow her on Twitter @mboteach.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems Threaten to Subpoena FTI Consulting Over 'Blanket Refusal' to Provide Info on Fossil Fuel Work

"FTI's refusal to cooperate with this congressional inquiry shows that they have something to hide, which will reveal the dangerous ways agencies like theirs have promoted fossil fuel greenwash and misinformation," said the Clean Creatives campaign's leader.

Jessica Corbett ·


Bad Day for DeSantis as 'Stop WOKE Act' Hit With Injunction, Lawsuit

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case," a federal judge wrote in blocking part of the controversial law. "But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

Brett Wilkins ·


US Judge Says Mar-a-Lago Affidavit 'Can Be Unsealed' With Redactions

"This is going to be a considered, careful process, where everybody's rights, the government's and the media's, will be protected," declared U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Jessica Corbett ·


Federal Judge Orders Starbucks to Rehire Fired Union Organizers in Memphis

"It was a ruling in favor of what's right," said one member of the Memphis Seven. "We knew from day one that we were going to win this, it just took time."

Brett Wilkins ·


Activists Arrested While Protesting 'Dirty Pipeline Deal' Outside Schumer's Office

"Sen. Schumer is sacrificing frontline communities and our clean energy future, all to placate a coal baron," said one organizer, referring to the majority leader's side agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo