Speaker Ryan, House Republicans Offer a Better Way to Fight Poverty
By Mark Uncapher
Last week Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a House Republican initiative aimed at lifting people out of poverty and onto the ladder of opportunity. Developed by the House Republican Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility, it is part one of a six-point initiative titled, ‘A Better Way.’ The plan aims to transition government policy from just treating the symptoms of poverty to more directly helping people improve their lives. The proposal unveiling occurred at the House of Help City of Hope in Southeast DC.
Little progress unfortunately is being made against poverty under our current government policies. Overall U.S. poverty has grown since President Obama took office by 5.5 million to over 45 million people. The current poverty rate of 14.5% remains at essentially at the level as it was fifty years ago when it was 15%.
Speaker Ryan described the House Republican proposals as part of a positive Republican vision that will show Americans what the party is for, rather than focusing on what it’s against. According to Ryan, “Instead of trapping people in poverty, we can get them on the ladder of opportunity, reward work, and open our economy so everyone can make the most of their lives.”
In order to do so, Ryan’s poverty policy proposal outlines five transformative approaches from previous government efforts.
First, hard work must be rewarded by incentivizing and requiring participation back into the labor force.
Second, benefits and programs must be particularized and tailored to fit the diverse economic and social challenges of those living in poverty today.
Third, improving skills and schooling will ensure that young Americans in poverty will have a better pathway to success while also creating a more productive labor force, thus assuring an economically stable future for all Americans.
Fourth, transitioning from “dependence to independence” will be facilitated through long-term based preparedness for the future and retirement.
Fifth, relinquishing power back to localities aims to increase accountability by empowering communities to reach the poverty stricken on a one-to-one level.
More specifically the task force has identified four key principles that will guide their efforts to reform the welfare system:
- Reward work. A good job is the surest way out of poverty. If you are capable, we will expect you to work or prepare for work.
- Tailor benefits to people’s needs. Instead of the same failed one-size-fits-all approach, we will match poverty-fighting programs with your needs so that it’s easier to keep a job and start a family.
- Improve skills and schools. To help protect the next generation from poverty, we will make sure that poor kids have more opportunities to succeed at every stage, from childhood through college.
- Plan and save for the future. To help you stay on the path from dependence to independence, we will make it easier for you and your family to plan for the future and be retirement-ready.
- Demand results. We will open up the system to accountability and collaboration with local communities, backing ideas that work on the front lines every day.
According to the House GOP task force, government money ought to be spent on programs that “actually achieve results,” not those just “intended to help.” And more data should be shared between agencies to help make those evaluations while reducing improper payments from social programs, the report says.
The federal government in fiscal 2015 wrongly paid out $10 billion for unemployment benefits, food stamps, rental assistance and school breakfast and lunch programs. The payments accounted for between 4% and 23% of all payments made under those programs, according to federal figures.
As an alternative, the plan would encourage the government to work with private-sector providers through pay-for-results partnerships. Thus if a program achieves its stated goals the investment will be repaid by the government. This method of goal-setting fosters state competition and filters out programs that are not meeting goals, which ultimately holds companies accountable and ensures taxpayer dollars are well spent.
Fully implemented with its six planks including poverty, jobs, taxes, security, healthcare, and government itself,” ‘A Better Way’ aims to restore what Speaker Ryan describes as America’s “timeless principles—liberty, free markets, consent of the governed” and apply them to the challenges facing our nation today.
According to Speaker Ryan, “all of us—not government—should have the biggest role to play in our lives. That’s what this is about.”