Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Report Sets Straight Rep. Ryan’s Skewed Statements About the Safety Net
Press Release

RELEASE: Report Sets Straight Rep. Ryan’s Skewed Statements About the Safety Net

What Paul Ryan gets wrong about the War on Poverty

Read the report.

Washington, D.C. — In anticipation of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) upcoming 2015 budget blueprint, which is expected to again drastically slash investments in supports for low-income Americans, the Center for American Progress today released an analysis reviewing the congressman’s misleading claims about the effectiveness of federal safety net programs.

“Once again, we expect to see Rep. Ryan put forth a budget that comes straight from the supply-side playbook,” said Sarah Ayres, author of the report and policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. “Time and time again, Rep. Ryan has twisted the truth to convince Americans that investing in the wealthiest 1 percent is the best path to prosperity for all. Not only have decades of experience proven this theory wrong, but new evidence in economics also suggests that the best way to grow the economy is to strengthen the middle class and reduce inequality, which is exactly what our safety net does.”

Rep. Ryan’s case for cutting federal safety net programs, as detailed in his recent report on poverty, is predicated on a misleading and incomplete review of social-science literature. In fact, his interpretation of the data is so inaccurate that many leading academics have publicly accused him of misrepresenting their work. By cherry-picking data points, Rep. Ryan attempted to bias Americans against the safety net programs that have actually proven enormously effective.

The CAP report released today reviews the ample research that indicates America’s safety net is indeed raising millions of families out of poverty and into the middle class. As the report details, a significant body of research also demonstrates that anti-poverty programs increase the economic mobility of recipients and support broader economic growth. Among the findings highlighted in the report are the following:

  • The War on Poverty succeeded in reducing the poverty rate by one-third, from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012.
  • Far from serving a static underclass of the perpetually poor, safety net programs benefit the majority of Americans—70 percent —at some point in their lives.
  • Safety net programs boost economic mobility, making poor children more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and enter the middle class.
  • Poverty costs the U.S. economy more than $500 billion every year, the result of low productivity, poor health, and high levels of crime and incarceration.

The report also points out that there is little evidence that the safety net reduces labor-force participation by much, if at all. Some policies—such as the Earned Income Tax Credit—have been shown to increase work among recipients. Where policies do negatively affect labor-force participation, the result is small and has a very limited impact on poverty levels.

Read the report: The Safety Net Is Good Economic Policy: What Rep. Paul Ryan Gets Wrong About the War on Poverty by Sarah Ayers

Experts available for comment: CAP’s team of economic experts will be available to comment on the upcoming House Republican Budget. To arrange time to speak with an expert, contact Katie Peters at [email protected].