Paul Ryan came out yesterday with his report “The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later”. It enumerates 100 Federal Anti-Poverty programs that he says “have actually created a poverty trap.” He cited several studies from economists to support his claims. However, the Financial Times reports that the economists behind the studies Ryan cited say he misrepresented their data.
One item that I will give Ryan credit for is pointing out the patchwork of programs that are actually wasting money. However, he does not mention how these programs should be pulled together to better serve the people they are supposed to help. Over time, pieces have been added, and we have situations where one department may actually work against another. We don’t need to slash the budget to take money away from the poor, we need to pull all of these programs under one umbrella to ensure that the poor are receiving the help they need. That should also reduce the cost of these programs as well.
Mr. Ryan naturally goes off that “broken families” are the real cause of poverty. He claims that the majority of poverty is concentrated on broken families. Like Mr. Rubio, Mr. Ryan seems to think that all you need to do to get out of poverty is “get married”. Of course, he does not mention that at the current minimum wage, even getting married will not lift you out of poverty because you still will not make enough money. I might add that he is against raising the minimum wage. Most of his colleagues even want to eliminate it completely. Economists have stated several times that over 1 million people would be lifted out of poverty tomorrow simply by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
The ripple effect on the economy would be tremendous. People might actually not need SNAP. They might actually be able to afford health care. They might actually be able to spend a little extra money, thus helping the economy. By the way, if you don’t already know this, $10.10 per hour, or the over $20,000 in annual income, is more than the lower ranks of enlisted men and women in our military currently make. That is why there are thousands of active duty military personnel who rely on SNAP to help feed their families. Mr. Ryan wants to cut SNAP!
Mr. Ryan claims that these are the issues we need to discuss. He claims that if we have honest discussions on them, his side will win the arguments. Somehow, he doesn’t seem to discuss the conflict that he now supports the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low-wage families out of poverty. Especially when you consider the EITC is actually a huge part of the story behind the “47 percent” Ryan’s running mate Mitt Romney slurred in 2012.
His report also fails to mention the decline in Union Activity in this country and the various states that passed anti-union laws called “Right to Work” legislation. What this combination has done is lower the working class wages in a big way. It is not funny that the states with the poorest populations have these Right to Work laws in effect. They have allowed companies to offer “employment” at below poverty wages. The other part that is not funny is that these are the very same states that refused to offer expanded Medicaid to their citizens. Or, that the rest of the country is paying for the safety nets that are helping their people.
But, instead of having this discussion on these issues, what does the right want to discuss and put on the ballot? Well, in Alabama, they want to put an initiative on the ballot that will allow the state to hang up the Ten Commandments in Court Houses and other Public Buildings. They want to pass anti-gay legislation. They want to pass anti-abortion legislation. Why? Because by using these social issues, they won’t have to explain to their constituents why they are so poor compared to the rest of the country, all the while these politicians and business people are making record profits. Or, why the rich’s taxes should be cut but not the poor’s. Or, why the poor’s benefits should be cut to finance subsidies to oil companies and agriculture.
As usual, Paul Ryan is leading the right’s fight against the poor. They are not fighting poverty, they are blaming the poor for being in poverty. There is so much more that Mr. Ryan and his cronies could do to really help the poor. One would be to raise the minimum wage. Another would be to pass meaningful legislation that would actually create jobs.
We have bridges falling down all around us. We have water supplies that are being carried in pipelines that are over 100 years old and crumbling. We have roads that are more like Hummer test tracks than roads. We have an electrical grid just waiting to create another blackout around the country. In short, our infrastructure is antiquated and on the verge of total collapse. The Republicans want to entice business to come to America, but who would invest in a country with such antiquated infrastructure?
If they would just pass the Infrastructure Bill, they would create millions of long-lasting, good paying jobs across the country. Isn’t that a better way to fight poverty? That would mean that the Republican Party would have to start acting like grown-ups though. I am not very confident that they are willing to do that just yet.
I know this is kind of strange and maybe even hurtful of me, but sometimes I wish the power grid would fail for a day or two. Maybe the people would wake up to the “distracting arguments” the Republicans use all of the time. Maybe then the people would realize that the Republicans are standing in the way of real progress. Maybe then, the Republican Party would expel its children and become a party of adults.
So, the next time you hear about the New Paul Ryan who really, really cares about the poor. Remember, he cares about the poor as much as he does about the cockroach in his office. All he really wants to do is exterminate it. Harsh, but taking away the safety nets for millions of people without providing good paying jobs, to me, is close to the same thing.