Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) unveiled his plan to defeat poverty on Thursday but many left-leaning advocates told Business Insider they were unimpressed with the measures, which they said would actually result in support being cut from needy families.
Ryan’s plan is broadly based on refocusing the distribution of social services funds from the federal level to the states. The plan would also impose work or job training requirements on aid recipients and, in the name of competition, require states to set up at least two service providers, according to reports.
“There wouldn’t just be a federal agency or a state agency,” Ryan, a former vice presidential candidate and potential 2016 presidential candidate, said in his prepared remarks to the American Enterprise Institute. “Instead, they could choose from a list of certified providers. We’re talking nonprofits, or for-profits, or even community groups unique to your neighbourhood.”
But anti-poverty advocates said they had serious concerns about several of his ideas.
Allegra Baider, deputy director of public policy at Center for Community Change, praised Ryan for his willingness to address the issue but said she didn’t feel it was appropriate to have for-profit companies compete for the federal dollars.
“I definitely question why this plan would include trying to drive more money to for-profit corporations. I think we should be eliminating corporate welfare. I think we should be making corporations pay their workers better,” she said.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Lower-Basch, policy coordinator at the low-income policy advocacy group CLASP, said she disagreed with Ryan’s proposal to give states more discretion in allocating federal funds.
“We think it would put more vulnerable families at risk to have more state discretion in this area,” Lower-Basch said. “Even if states wanted to do things to help some people that would mean that other people would lose core benefits.”
The plan, which also includes “traditional Republican tax proposals to expand the earned-income tax credit” according to the New York Times, could also end up in some services being cut elsewhere, advocates said.
“Those are all new. So the only way that you can actually do that is you have to cut benefits somewhere else. So it’s unclear what that would mean. But if you’re going to provide everything one person needs, you’re going to have to take it from someone else in order to do that,” LaDonna Pavetti, vice president for Family Income Support Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy, told Business Insider.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-California), speaking on a conference call with reporters, put it more bluntly.
“Just looking through his overall plan, you’ll see many, many areas where he just robs Peter to pay Paul,” Lee said.
On the same call, Congressmen Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) also questioned Ryan’s credibility on the issue given his status as one of the most prominent advocates of fiscal austerity measures.
“I guess my problem with all of this, what Mr. Ryan is doing, is that for years we have been fighting him as he has moved time and time again to rip holes in the safety net,” McGovern said.
Van Hollen took that criticism a few steps further.
“The fundamental problem with the proposal Mr. Ryan laid out today is the total cognitive dissonance between it and the Republican budget he authored earlier this year,” Van Hollen said. “It’s a case of policy and political schizophrenia on steroids. The core idea of the Ryan proposal is not a new idea at all: it’s nothing more than a block grant gussied up with some bells and whistles.”
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