Paul Ryan should keep talking about poverty, even if it annoys The New York Times

U.S. House Budget Committee

U.S. House Budget Committee

Some folks on the left are miffed that Republicans and conservatives are talking a lot lately about poverty. Maybe they think the attention to the issue is disingenuous. Perhaps they don’t like that the “War on Poverty” isn’t accepted by many on the right as a roaring and unquestioned success. Or maybe they don’t like center-right policy ideas. Probably all of the above.

Anyway, this unhelpful attitude certainly seems present in a New York Times editorial about the new poverty report put forward by Paul Ryan’s House Budget Commitee. The study documents the 92 federal programs, spending some $800 billion annually, designed to help lower-income Americans. Team NYT :

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, has an important role to play within the Republican Party. He provides polished intellectual cover for his party to mow down as many antipoverty programs as it can see. Most Congressional Republicans would love nothing more than to eviscerate programs like Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps. But so as not to appear cruel and uncaring, they need a high-minded excuse to do so.

And the piece goes on from there in a similar manner. Now I don’t know what Ryan is going to propose to reform a system that he suggests creates a poverty trap rather than exit. He has spoken favorably, for instance, about a British idea to merge means-tested programs into a single mean-tested credit.

But at the heart of the Ryan critique, as I see it, is that the War on Poverty has enhanced material well being but not opportunity. The official poverty rate is roughly where it was 50 years. Now that measure is “flawed” in that it fails to includes the value of government assistance programs, and thus gives a misleading picture of incomes at the bottom. But this calculation has an upside, too, says AEI’s Robert Doar:

In leaving out all that government does to help the poor, the official measure focuses on what poor Americans are able to earn for themselves. It is a measure of their independence and ability to work and earn a sufficient amount to support themselves and their families on their own – which is what they want. … So while government programs are clearly helping the poor escape the material want that comes with low earnings, our economy and our government interventions are not providing sufficient opportunity for them to do what they want to do more than anything.

America needs to advance the War on Poverty by providing greater opportunity and upward mobility for the poor. The Ryan poverty report is an appropriate opening move in this new mission.

Follow James Pethokoukis on Twitter at @JimPethokoukis, and AEIdeas at @AEIdeas.

7 thoughts on “Paul Ryan should keep talking about poverty, even if it annoys The New York Times

  1. But interviews with economists – a number of whom are cited in Ryan’s paper – suggest that he may be building his house on sand“…

    What did you expect lefties to say, especially those lefties that built a career on the premise that pandering to parasites by extorting from the productive is somehow a good thing and the reporter Garver who’s in bed with them?

    War on Poverty Is a Failure

    • right wing argument?“…

      First and foremost its NOT a right wing argument except to people like you and RINO Ryan…

      There is NO clause in the Constitution and its attendent Bill of Rights that mandates the federal government to do wealth transfer, basically stealing from the productive in order to buy your vote with their silly socialist Ponzi schemes…

      Anti-Logic and the Keynesian “Stimulus”
      Mises Daily: Monday, March 03, 2014 by William L. Anderson

      • I clicked a link and got here. What I thought might be thought provoking dialog is……You don’t buy votes. Period. If that were the case, there would never have been a Republican President since welfare was started. Matter of fact, i doubt there’d be a Republican party. What have they done to help the poor? Elderly?…ah yes…Medicare Part D. Of course!!
        And how does the Government steal what is actually theirs? They print the money….It’s not ours.

  2. The war on poverty was sold as a way to reduce poverty, and reduce the amount spent on welfare over the long run. It has been a complete failure on that score. In truth its is a permanent vote-buying scheme giving money to far more people than those living in poverty. It spends enough money to put all the poverty cases at or above the median family income. After 50 years of failure, it is time to revamp the welfare state money pit, and find a way to restore the reduction of poverty, the 20-year trend before the “war” began. The war on poverty has subsidized and preserved what it was supposed to reduce.

    • And what about the welfare programs for elites?“…

      What are these alledged ‘welfare programs for the elities‘ and do these supposed programs bring down the amount they owe in taxes to the level you pay?

      That’s not a rhetorical question…

      I’m still trying to sift through the leftist logic of why a person who make $250K/year should pay one more penny in taxes than someone making $25K/year…

      • “I’m still trying to sift through the leftist logic of why a person who make $250K/year should pay one more penny in taxes than someone making $25K/year…”

        well for starters there’s an extra “0″ in 250K

  3. Basic employment, let alone upward mobility, is more difficult to acquire especially when business’s ethic is the maximization of profits and where technological unemployment and the increased supply of labor through globalization are forever reducing jobs here. The worker is at the mercy of our current economy.

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