Paul Ryan on Welfare & Poverty

Republican nominee for Vice President; U.S. Rep. (WI-1)


Conservative vision: dynamic economy & real safety net

I believe the conservative vision can appeal to the majority of our citizens. It offers a way of life that consists of a dynamic economy, a thriving civil society, and a government that protects our rights while offering a real safety net for those in need without overpowering the private economy and the private lives of citizens.
Source: The Way Forward, by Paul Ryan, First Chapter, p. 6 , Aug 19, 2014

Switch from poverty management to get people out of poverty

Q: You are proposing to rethink entitlement programs and deal with poverty. You got to conciliate 11 federal anti-poverty programs, including programs like food stamps, public housing assistance, child care aid, low-income-energy assistance, and cash welfare. Consolidate them, have states administer them, they would get a certain amount of money and have some creativity to spend that money.

RYAN: First of all, these programs don't work with each other. In many ways, they end up being counterproductive, because poverty is a complicated problem and it needs to be customized. And secondly, we had basically a poverty management system with respect to the federal government. If you want to have a healthy economy and have real solutions, you have to have a healthy safety net. And a safety net needs to work to get people out of poverty. So my argument here is let's not focus on input, how much money you spend. Let's focus on outcomes. Are we actually getting people out of poverty?

Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 27, 2014

Customize benefits for each person, run by the states

Q: You are proposing have states administer entitlement programs. Skeptics have cited that some of the poor states are run by Republican governors who have refused to even expand access to Medicaid under the ObamaCare law. So people are skeptical that would actually lead to constructive solutions to deal with people who are poor.

RYAN: My argument is to focus on outcomes: Are we actually getting people out of poverty? And the best way to do that is to listen to people on the ground, the people who are fighting poverty person to person, and give them more flexibility in exchange for more accountability to actually get people out of poverty. We have learned good lessons about the right way to do this and not. And I would argue that we can customize the benefit to a person based on their particular needs which actually helps them get out of poverty long term. We've spend $800 billion every year on 92 different programs to fight poverty. Yet we have the highest poverty rates in a generation.

Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 27, 2014

End dependency culture; end disincentives to work

Q: Let's talk about your own attitudes about people who are poor. In January of last year you said:

RYAN (On Tape): We don't want a dependency culture. Our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able-bodied people are becoming dependent upon the government than upon themselves and their livelihoods.

Q: What you seem to be saying is that people have a problem with their own dependency here that government is only furthering.

RYAN: That's not my intent. My point is we don't want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. We want to get at the root cause of the poverty to get people out of poverty. The federal government's approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty. In many ways, it has disincentivized people to going to work. In some cases, you lose more in benefits if you go to work. We need to reemphasize getting people up & on their lives and helping them give them the tools to do that. That's the point

Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 27, 2014

Let charities & community groups compete to fight poverty

Rep. Paul Ryan proposed a new way to help poor Americans with a plan to allow charities, community groups and even for-profit firms to compete with government for federal money to fight poverty. The plan from Ryan would allow states to replace 11 programs ranging from food stamps to housing vouchers with "opportunity grants" to tailor aid to individual needs.

That would shift the federal government's anti-poverty role largely to one of vetting state programs to distribute aid, and they would have to give the poor a choice of providers. "There wouldn't just be a federal agency or a state agency," said Ryan. "Instead, they could choose from a list of certified providers. We're talking non-profits, or for-profits, or even community groups unique to your neighborhood."

Source: Reuters 2014 coverage of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 24, 2014

Opportunity plan: flexible funds with benchmarks & timeline

Illustrating his new poverty plan, Ryan said a 24-year-old single mother of two could go to a local social services provider for help. Instead of applying for food stamps, housing vouchers and welfare checks, she would meet with a case manager and draft an "opportunity plan" to achieve her goals, targeting money where it is needed most, such as transportation or child-care costs. The catch: she would have to sign a contract and meet certain benchmarks for success, such as learning new skills or seeking work. Failure would mean a cut in aid while exceeding expectations would earn her a bonus.

There would be a time limit on assistance, and Ryan said the plan would need to show strong evidence of positive outcomes and poverty reduction, arguing such data is lacking in current programs.

Democrats and liberal policy groups bashed the plan before its release as a way to do away with programs that have formed the core of federal anti-poverty efforts since the 1960s.

Source: Reuters 2014 coverage of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 24, 2014

Civil society means we give of ourselves without government

We Americans give ourselves to every kind of good cause. We do so for the simple reason that our hearts and conscience have called us to work that needs doing, to fill a place that sometimes no one else can fill. It's like that with our families and communities, too. The whole life of this nation is carried forward every day by the endless unselfish things people do for one another, without even giving it much thought.

In books, they call this civil society. In my own experience, I know it as Janesville, Wisconsin--a place, like ten thousand others, where a lot of good happens without government commanding it, directing it, or claiming credit for it. That's how life is supposed to work in a free country. And nothing undermines the essential and honorable work of government more than the abuse of government power.

Source: Speech at 2012 Values Voters Summit , Sep 14, 2012

Cold social programs have displaced civility and charity

After spending trillions of dollars on [the federal government's] centralized solutions, we have found that many of the problems we sought to solve with Washington money and Washington policy have actually worsened. Educational scores have declined. Violent crime has risen over time. Out-of-wedlock births and the social pathologies that accompany them have become commonplace. Class envy economics have placed the American dream out of reach for millions of lower income families. Cold social programs from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services have displaced civility and charity. In short, in this effort to build a great society -- we built a government that took away much of our greatness -- a greatness that was achieved through individual endeavor.

I believe that the genius of America lies within each of us and our families, our neighborhoods, and our faith; not the central planners in Washington.

Source: 2012 House campaign website, ryanforcongress.com, "Issues" , Aug 11, 2012

Subsidize and deregulate our wealth of faith based charities

Many believe the social fabric of this nation is tattered beyond recognition. We must replace moral squalor with both public decency and private civility. I believe we can begin this process of renewal by relieving the tax burden on our families and by supporting, through subsidy and deregulation, our wealth of faith based charities. We can help restore good citizenship be freeing up individuals to become good citizens.
Source: 2012 House campaign website, ryanforcongress.com, "Issues" , Aug 11, 2012

Remove anti-poverty programs that dishonor human dignity

Ryan said his budget program was crafted "using my Catholic faith" as inspiration [but] the US Conference of Catholic Bishops says it "fails to meet" the moral criteria of the Church.

[In response], Ryan argued that government welfare "dissolves the common good of society, and it dishonors the dignity of the human person." He would restore human dignity by removing anti-poverty programs.

When asked about "the moral dimension" of a budget that gives tax cuts to the wealthy and cuts spending for the poor, Ryan's answer included the phrase "subchapter S corporations." Spending on programs such as food stamps and college Pell Grants is "unsustainable," he said. If government does too much for the poor, "you make it harder" for churches and charities to do that work.

It was a bold economic--and theological--proposition. Even Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. Ryan would rather give the rich a tax cut.

Source: Dana Milbank in Washington Post, "Faith-based" , Apr 27, 2012

End federal food stamps with block grant to the states

As the sole Democrat in the South Carolina delegation (albeit one in a district protected by Voting Rights Act provisions to guarantee minority representation), Clyburn had learned how to make himself relevant in s conservative state. He was pronuclear and along with Senator Lindsey Graham had been instrumental in acquiring funding to deepen the Charleston port. Eric Cantor proposed block-granting food stamps -- a popular conservative idea that Speaker Gingrich's House Republicans had pushed in 1995 and had also been included in the Ryan budget plan. Much as with what Ryan had in mind for Medicaid, the proposal would essentially do away with the food stamp program and instead send each state a lump sum of federal money to spend on feeding the poor however they saw fit.

"If you knew the history of my state," the South Carolina African-American told the Republicans, "you wouldn't be in favor of that." Cantor backed down immediately, and the subject did not come up again.

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.230 , Apr 24, 2012

Direct federal grants to persistently impoverished districts

Cleaver, who grew up in the small Texas town of Waxahachie, had been conferring with his good friend and fellow Texan Jeb Hensarling, along with Paul Ryan and Appropriations subcommittee chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson, about a project that would redirect federal funds in grant-making agencies to the districts that had been the most persistently impoverished. Many of these were white districts, like Emerson's. The three Republicans were enthusiastic about working with Cleaver. Boehner seemed open to it as well. Cleaver dared to envision a historic press conference -- a Republican Speaker alongside the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, announcing a bipartisan initiative to attack persistent poverty in America.
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.255-256 , Apr 24, 2012

Food stamp program is rife with waste, fraud & abuse

The SNAP program (food stamps) serves an important role in the safety net by providing food aid to low-income Americans. But this program cannot continue to grow at its current rates. The cost has exploded in the last decade, from less than $18 billion in 2001 to over $80 billion today.

Much of this is due to the recession, but not all of it: Enrollment grew from 17 million recipients in 2001, to 28 million in 2008, to 46 million today. Very large increases occurred during years of economic growth, when the number of recipients should have fallen.

A flawed structure fuels unsustainable growth: State governments receive federal dollars in proportion to how many people they enroll in the program, which gives them an incentive to add more individuals to the rolls. State governments have little incentive to make sure that able-bodied adults on SNAP are working, looking for work, or enrolled in job training programs. This leads to a program rife with waste, fraud and abuse.

Source: The Path to Prosperity, by Paul Ryan, p. 29 , Apr 2, 2012

Time-limit & work requirement for need-based aid

Policymakers must reform public assistance programs to be more responsive, sustainable, and empowering to their beneficiaries. Government can play a positive role with policies that help the less fortunate get back on their feet and offer low-income Americans the opportunity to gain control over their lives.

The key to the welfare reform of the late 1990s was Congress's decision to grant states the ability to design their own systems. Congress should extend the successes of welfare reform to all assistance programs aimed at empowering lower-income Americans by implementing reforms that give states more flexibility to meet the needs of low-income populations & to make sure that the truly needy receive the assistance they need to live meaningful, independent lives.

Imposing time limits and work requirements on federal need-based aid is a positive reform. But education programs must be accountable and job-training programs must be effective so that vulnerable citizens can take advantage of them

Source: The Path to Prosperity, by Paul Ryan, p. 42 , Apr 2, 2012

Left federal barriers to community & institution empowerment

The key to the welfare reform of the late 1990s was Congress's decision to grant states the ability to design their own systems. Congress should extend the successes of welfare reform to all assistance programs aimed at empowering lower-income Americans by implementing reforms that give states more flexibility to meet the needs of low-income populations.

Above all, the role of policymakers must be to lift government-imposed barriers to stronger communities and flourishing lives. Fiscal responsibility and economic opportunity are but means to a more critical end: the rebuilding of broken communities and the empowerment of families and citizens. The ever-expansive activism of the federal government drains the vitality and displaces the primacy of the bedrock institutions that define America.

Source: The Path to Prosperity, by Paul Ryan, p. 42 , Apr 2, 2012

Voted YES on maintaining work requirement for welfare recipients.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:

Opponent's Argument for voting No: