My must read of the day is “Mr. Ryan’s Small Ideas on Poverty,” by the editorial board of the New York Times.Read More
My must read of the day is “Mr. Ryan’s Small Ideas on Poverty,” by the editorial board of the New York Times:
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.
That’s what Mr. Ryan gave them on Monday in a 204-page report that finds flaws with almost every attempt the government has made to relieve poverty and its effects since the 1960s. […]
The ideas are actually small and tired. There are scores of duplicative antipoverty programs, the report says, and since poverty persists, they are obviously wasteful and ineffective. “Federal programs are not only failing to address the problem,” it says, “they are also in some significant respects making it worse.”
Ryan’s report begins by saying, “Not every program is counterproductive or unnecessary; indeed, some are very important. But the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty is an opportunity to review the record in full. And we should seize it.” That is the exact opposite of mowing down “as many antipoverty programs as it can see.”
“It’s easy to find flaws or waste in any government program,” the editorial notes, “but the proper response is to fix those flaws.” OK: What are the Times’ suggestions for which program is flawed? And how should we fix them?
Ryan called the report a “precursor.” It’s meant to begin a debate, not define it. Many antipoverty programs are incredibly wasteful and achieve little. When you have reports from government agencies saying that some of them, such as Head Start, have no real impact, common sense says we should pause before throwing more money at the problem—which is what the president and Democrats want to do.
The last significant bipartisan effort to deal with poverty occurred in 1996. How are you supposed to achieve anything similar or even have that debate when the other side immediately labels your position as insincere?
Maybe this is all a case of displacement. The Times very much acts like the left-wing version of its Paul Ryan caricature. It provides intellectual cover for liberals to continue peddling the antiquated and puerile argument that Republicans and conservatives hate poor people. The problem isn’t Ryan’s report. It’s the stonewalling and lack of new ideas on the left.Read Less