Speaker Ryan’s Poverty Hypocrisy

Paul Ryan offers to show us “A Better Way” to gut programs that help struggling families.

Paul Ryan Offers To Show Us “A Better Way” To Gut Programs That Help Struggling Families

At an event at a Washington drug rehab center today, Speaker Paul Ryan, along with other GOP House Leaders, announced a self-styled “poverty plan” as a part of his “A Better Way” series—the Speaker’s “full slate of ideas to address some of the biggest challenges of our time.” (Expect similar series on health care and other areas at a press conference near you.) During his remarks, Ryan declared that his plan is “how you create opportunity… help people move onward and upward.” But, as the saying goes—it was nothing more than a new shade of lipstick on the same pig: though Speaker Ryan has tried to position himself and the Republican Party as “poverty warriors,” Ryan’s policies remain a blueprint for exacerbating poverty and inequality, by slashing the investments that help families access child care, nutrition, education, and more.

Speaker Ryan’s “poverty plan” comes on the heels of years of House GOP’s budgets that have repeatedly attacked vital programs that serve the very people Ryan claims he’s trying to help “move up the ladder of opportunity.” In fact, the Ryan-endorsed budget that the House Budget Committee Republicans adopted in March of this year gets three-fifths of its cuts from programs that help low- and moderate-income Americans, cutting these programs by 42 percent overall by 2026, all while protecting tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. And while Ryan says he wants to “push wages up,” he opposes raising the federal minimum wage.

While much of their plan is too vague to understand the true impact their proposals would have on working families, Ryan showed no restraint in attacking the social safety net, which—despite what Ryan may claim—has been incredibly effective at reducing poverty and boosting economic mobility. Indeed, without vital programs such as Social Security, nutrition assistance, and tax credits for working families, our nation’s poverty rate would be nearly twice as high as it is today. These anti-poverty tools not only reduce poverty and hardship in the short-term, but have been proven to boost economic mobility in the long-term by increasing educational attainment and earnings and improving the health of those who receive them. In attacking the safety net, the House GOP is attacking a critical resource that seventy percent of Americans will need to turn to at some point in their lives.

Offering a stark contrast to the House GOP’s plan, the Center for American Progress released a blueprint this week which lays out a policy framework for dramatically reducing poverty through detailed policies along five core areas: 1) building better jobs and wages, 2) valuing all families, 3) ensuring basic living standards, 4) investing in human capital, and 5) removing barriers to opportunity.

The Center for American Progress Action Fund also hosted an event today discussing progressive poverty solutions with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI). Check out the conversation on a progressive policy agenda to cut poverty and expand opportunity here.

BOTTOM LINE: With his new so-called poverty “plan,” Speaker Paul Ryan is doing what he does best: hiding the fact that his policies are actually just massive cuts to anti-poverty programs, which will exacerbate poverty. If Ryan and his GOP colleagues are serious about cutting poverty and expanding opportunity for American families, they will reject policies that put their millionaire and billionaire friends first and embrace policies that actually benefit working families. Americans need more than just fancy rhetoric from congressional Republicans; they need policies like those outlined in CAP’s blueprint that would actually move the needle on poverty and build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.

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