Paul Ryan, in his attempt to cultivate his image of alleged compassionate conservatism, unveiled a new plan to hurt the poor combat poverty. According to Daily Kos, he would require poor families to sign contracts that include specific roadmaps and goals for getting out of poverty, punishment for not sticking to the contract, and incentives for exceeding the contract.
He calls the poor “a vast amount of untapped potential,” and says because of that, it’s time to “rethink how to expand opportunity in America.” He’s right, there.
But when discussing welfare and wages — and how the current system discourages work because benefits phase out at certain levels — Ryan completely ignores how the virtual slave wages paid by highly profitable companies also prevent people from working their way out of poverty.
He’s right about people being unable to make a big enough leap on the income ladder to be better able to make ends meet, and some may indeed want to stay near the poverty level so they can continue to bring in the benefits they need just to stay where they are. What Paul Ryan refuses to understand is that this is less a failing of welfare, and more a consequence of the corporate greed that forces slave wages.
Ryan’s solution to this is to customize welfare programs to each family, to teach them the life skills he thinks they need to be successful. He would combine federal aid with state and local programs, and charities, to ensure that every family got the help they need. But the contracts, the punishments for violating or failing to uphold the terms in the contracts, and the incentives for exceeding those terms, fail to take into account things like the locations of better jobs, and erratic work schedules that make it hard to find, and keep, a second or third job. See? It’s all so simple, isn’t it?
But the service providers he keeps talking about in his plan would have to get results. They’d be judged on the number of people they help find work, and the number of people who get off of assistance while working with them. While these providers would, no doubt, understand their individual clients’ situations better than some anonymous state or federal agency, depending on how rigorous each state made its standards, that could lead to all sorts of problems, from coercing families to do something that won’t work for them to outright false reporting on the part of the providers.
The rest of the plan is just as short sighted, and treats poverty as though it would go away if poor people just decided to stop being poor. If they would just go back to school. If they would just get, and keep a better job. If the federal government would just stop making it all so hard on them.
And on, and on, and on. Paul Ryan’s new combat-poverty plan is just more of Paul Ryan being Paul Ryan. To someone on the outside who’s not even bothering to look in through clear glass, it seems so simple. He no doubt thinks his plan is simple and elegant, but will, at best, be totally ineffective. At worst, it will hurt the people he’s claiming to want to help.
Paul Ryan’s “plan” will punish the poor.
Watch this video from American Bridge to the 21st Century’s video on how much Paul Ryan hates the poor:
h/t Daily Kos