Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Ryan Poverty Proposal Will Exacerbate Poverty and Inequality
Press Release

RELEASE: Ryan Poverty Proposal Will Exacerbate Poverty and Inequality

Read the analysis.

Washington, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plans to overhaul our nation’s safety net are either another version of his radical budget or a complete about-face from his commitment to balance the budget, according to an analysis released today by Center for American Progress poverty experts Melissa Boteach and Rebecca Vallas.

For the past four years, Rep. Ryan has set forth budgets that get approximately two-thirds of their cuts from programs that help low- and moderate-income families. His most recent iteration, released in April 2014, would turn Medicare into a voucher; cause more than 40 million people to lose their health care coverage; kick up to 10 million people off of nutrition assistance; and starve the part of the budget that funds education, child care, the Head Start program, worker training, and housing. These savings would go toward financing new tax cuts primarily for millionaires and large corporations.

In his speech today, however, Rep. Ryan claims that his new proposal to reform the safety net is “deficit neutral.” But it cannot be separated from his most recent budget proposal, in which 69 percent of his nearly $5 trillion in cuts over 10 years comes from programs helping low- and moderate-income families. Either his new recommendations will ultimately result in cuts to programs helping struggling families or he will fail to balance the budget. While creative language on community and flexibility can dress up these radical proposals and perhaps even move us, in the end, the numbers on the ledger don’t lie.

Moreover, while Rep. Ryan’s stated goals of streamlining access to the safety net and promoting work are ones that progressives share, his approach replicates past policy failures while disregarding promising approaches to solve the very problems he is flagging. For example, by proposing to consolidate multiple programs and send them to the states, Rep. Ryan is opening the door to block grants—an approach that has historically resulted in cuts to key components of our nation’s safety net.

“There’s a key principle that any poverty policy reform must adhere to in order to be taken seriously: First, do no harm. Proposals to reform the safety net should not exacerbate poverty and inequality, and unfortunately, that’s just what Rep. Ryan’s overall recommendations would do,” write Boteach and Vallas. “Converting the most vital pillars of our nation’s safety net into block grants—regardless of what name Rep. Ryan chooses to call them—would be nothing short of disastrous for millions of struggling families and for our economy at large. The devil is in the details. It remains to be seen whether Rep. Ryan has abandoned his plans of balancing the budget, or whether his reforms are actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Read the full analysis here: The Ryan Budget in Sheep’s Clothing? by Melissa Boteach and Rebecca Vallas

CAP experts available for comment: The following experts are available to discuss Rep. Ryan’s speech on poverty:

  • Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress
  • Former Gov. Ted Strickland, Counselor to the Center for American Progress, President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund
  • Melissa Boteach, Vice President, Half in Ten and Poverty to Prosperity Program

To speak with a CAP expert on this topic, please contact Katie Peters at 202.741.6285 or [email protected].

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