Ryan last week proposed a new plan to merge up to 11 anti-poverty programs -- such as food stamps, cash welfare, housing subsidies and heating aid for the poor -- into a single grant program for states designed to allow more flexibility to help lift people out of poverty.
Ryan said government safety-net programs often “disincentivized people from going to work” because in some cases “you lose more in benefits if you go to work.”
“Able-bodied people should go to work and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential,” he said. “That, to me, is a far better system to get people out of poverty long term than just spend more hard-working taxpayer dollars on a program that is not getting the results that people deserve.”
Under Ryan’s plan, states would receive federal grants as part of an overall push to develop creative ways in dealing with poverty, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all federal approach.
Democrats and other critics say that many of the nation's poorest states are controlled by Republican governors and legislatures who have resisted spending more money on entitlement programs, and in some cases have refused to expand access to Medicare under Obamacare. Ryan's plan, critics say, would offer little incentive for these states to change the status quo.
But Ryan said more coordination among existing federal programs is needed in order to maximize their potential, as well as ensuring federal money isn’t wasted.
“These programs don’t work with each other,” he said. “In many ways they end up being counterproductive because poverty is a complicated problem and it needs to be customized.”
“Let’s not focus on effort, on input, how much money we spend. Let’s focus on outcomes. Are we actually getting people out poverty? And the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to listen to people on the ground” at the state level.
Ryan push backed at accusations his plan, as well as overall GOP initiatives to fight poverty, are too harsh and blame the poor for their condition.
“That’s not my intent,” Ryan said. “We don’t want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty.”
“That’s what we’re proposing here, which is have benefits that are customized to a unique person’s problems, because poverty is very complicated, to not just keep them where they are, but help to get to where they want to be.”