Good News, Poors! Paul Ryan Vows To Win the War On Poverty
According to some conservative observers, Paul Ryan is ripening nicely into an even more serious fellow and Big Thinker than we might have guessed, based on his previous performance in Romney/Ryan 2012.
In a departure from his earlier Conservative Tough Love position, Ryan’s most recent philopsophical meanderings have led him to investigate the plight of America’s Poor and how sadly the bleeding-heart-liberals’ Big Government War on Poverty has failed them for so long.
As he shared with his fellow Big Thinkers at The Wall Street Journal:
For 50 years, we’ve been going in the wrong direction, and liberals want to march on. Some in Washington insist that you’re concerned for the poor only if you’re committed to a path that has failed the poor. But the question isn’t whether we should do more or less of the same. It is which new direction will work best.
The MSM editors at Bloomberg Review beg to disagree:
Ryan paints the past five decades of fighting poverty as a lost cause. He is mostly wrong: Presidents from Johnson to Reagan to Clinton all made their contributions, and evidence shows federal programs reduce the poverty rate by almost half. At the same time, it would be a mistake to call the welfare state an unmitigated success. Its programs must be constantly re-evaluated, and its failures terminated.
Ryan has recently issued a rather voluminous [for House Republicans] and uncharacteristically fact-laden review of the past 50 years of the War on Poverty imaginatively entitled The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later.
In his introduction, Ryan characterizes the federal government’s anti-poverty programs as “duplicative and complex.” Furthermore, Ryan argues that federal programs have actually made poverty in America worse by creating what he calls “the poverty trap”:
There are so many anti-poverty programs—and there is so little coordination between them—that they often work at cross purposes and penalize families for getting ahead.
So. We have a pretty clear definition of what Paul Ryan believes is The Problem. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with bold, conservative policy statements, 204 pages later we are no closer to solving The Problem. The closest we get are some nebulous reform notions so broad that they don’t constitute a proper outline, let alone a plan.
When Alex Rogers of Time inquired about that, this was the answer:
Ryan’s aides said the report was never intended to be a policy blueprint. “The purpose of this report is to inform the public debate,” says a Ryan aide. “It challenges critics of reform to defend the status quo—to go beyond mere intentions and focus on results. I would expect Paul Ryan to have more to say in this area in the year ahead.” Speaker of the House John Boehner said Thursday that he expects Ryan to produce a complete, balanced budget this year, which may include reforms to anti-poverty programs.
OK. I’m sorry but there is nothing on heaven or Earth that will persuade me that what Ryan is up to here is starting an across-the-aisle policy dialogue. What the aide meant to say is that “the purpose of this report is to inform the public that Republicans think the Democrats have failed miserably at everything they touch.” Now that Republicans aren’t confident that repealing Obamacare will win 2014 for them, and now that the economy and deficit are not trending in their favor, they are falling back on the old “party of fiscal responsibility” playbook to boost their failing brand.
What I do see here is a fairly transparent effort on the part of Paul Ryan to position himself for his current heart’s desire which is to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He has stated as much and this recent scholarly “report” is his audition, meant to further cement his House rep as an economic guru and ideas man.
Some believe that Ryan is still positioning himself to run for president in 2016. I’m not one of them. If that were the case, I think that he would be defending this New War on Poverty turf more aggressively because all of a sudden The Lost Boys—Rand Paul and Marco Rubio—are trying this on for size.
It’s probably best that Ryan isn’t planning to get too very far with this particular vehicle because the scholars that he cited so heavily in this report are already grumbling, disowning Ryan’s conclusions and accusing him of cherry-picking convenient facts and burying others. Asked about the scholars’ criticism of Ryan’s sometimes misleading use of their studies, a Ryan spokesperson said:
We’re glad to hear the report is encouraging a debate on the performance record of federal anti-poverty programs.
Someone needs to clue them in that facts are not “debatable.”
All of a sudden, Republicans seem to have awoken to the notion that facts actually do count and they’re also probably sick of being called liars and having multiple Pinocchio noses and flames attached to their persons. The outcry from the cited scholars on this House report and the multiple charges of plagiarism that have been piled on Rand Paul, though, indicate that the GOP might not yet be ready for reality-based prime time.
Let’s not forget that this is the same man who ran a marathon in under three hours and claimed to have only 6% body fat . . .