GOP Budget Aims to Help the Poor

Sunday, 02 Mar 2014 11:11 PM

By Greg Richter

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In a pre-emptive strike on President Barack Obama's own budget set to be released Tuesday, House Republicans are releasing a report on Monday as a prelude to their own version later this month.

The GOP report is critical of the 50-year-old War on Poverty and proposes reforms to welfare and social programs, The Washington Post reports.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., is behind the effort to draw a more diverse mix of voters to the Republican ticket, The Post says.

"He is trying to move us to a place where we ought to go," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told the newspaper. "Paul Ryan remains our big-ideas guy, and he’s helping us to get beyond statistics and to start talking about these issues in human terms."

Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee and worked with his Senate counterpart Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., late last year to forge a bipartisan budget plan to avoid a government shutdown in January.

His 204-page critique of current anti-poverty programs looks at the effectiveness of the programs and proposes reductions.

"There are nearly 100 programs at the federal level that are meant to help, but they have actually created a poverty trap," Ryan told The Post. "There is no coordination with these programs, and new ones are frequently being added without much consideration to how they affect other programs."

"The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later" looks at eight areas of federal policy: cash aid, education and job training, energy, food aid, health care, housing, social services, and veterans affairs.

"The president may focus on inequality because he can’t talk about growth," Ryan said. "We’re focused on upward mobility, speaking directly to people who have fallen through the cracks."

The programs are means-tested, which means benefits decline as recipients make more money, the report notes, and poor families face "very high implicit marginal tax rates" as a result.

"The federal government effectively discourages them from making more money," it says.

Head Start is "failing to prepare children for school," and "a consolidated, well-funded system would be better," the report says.

Medicaid, which provides health coverage to low-income families, "has little effect on patients’ health," the report adds. It imposes an "implicit tax on beneficiaries," "crowds out private insurance" and "increases the likelihood of receiving welfare benefits."

The biggest cause of poverty, according to the report, is broken homes. Ryan got input from poverty experts from the United States and the Conservative Party in Great Britain on the report.

Democrats were skeptical of the report. They have planned to run on income inequality and raising the minimum wage to counter Republicans' focus on the failures of Obamacare.

"The real test is what Republicans will put in their budget this year, and if past is prologue, this report is simply laying the groundwork to slash social safety-net programs," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told The Post. "It's part of Mitt Romney’s attack on the 47 percent. Now, I hope this time is different, but I fear it won’t be."

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