WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Wisconsin’s First District congressman and speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, spoke with Big AM 1380’s Stan Milam about A Better Way and the House Republican initiative on poverty.
Excerpts of Ryan’s interview follow:
Stan Milam: I have been following your efforts and ways to deal with poverty. It is a component of what you call ‘A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America.’ Give us a quick overview and then maybe we can get into a few specifics on what you think needs to be done to successfully address poverty.
Paul Ryan: We think we need to streamline the federal poverty bureaucracy and the programs to focus them on what works, to focus on outcomes, which is getting people out of poverty, restoring upward mobility, and helping transition people from welfare to work.
We need to make sure that those who are in our local communities, those groups and individuals who are successfully fighting poverty . . . we shouldn’t push them aside; we should back them up. We should learn and listen to them. And so that means, we need more of a community, bottom-up approach, where clearly government plays a role in providing resources. But we have right now a sort of Washington-knows-best, top-down bureaucracy system that is basically treating the symptoms of poverty but not breaking the cycle of poverty. And . . . the success of such a plan should always be measured on outcomes. Are we getting people out of poverty? And let’s find out what works and fund what works.
Stan Milam: I am predicting that you’re going to get some pushback on this. . . . What is your response to that kind of criticism?
Paul Ryan: I’d say a couple things. It isn’t about saving money. It’s about saving lives. The more people we get out of welfare, the more we get them jobs and out of poverty, the less money you spend on these programs. That’s where the savings would be . . . by making sure that people actually get out of poverty. What you’ll find, Stan, and what I’ve learned over years of working on this is that the defenders of status quo will say those things. People who want no change and the status quo to continue will have those kinds of attacks on those of us who see the status quo and don’t like it. . . . The poverty rates in America are not much lower than they were when we started the war on poverty, so we need the new approach. That is what we are pushing for.
Stan Milam: And it seems like the success now is measured by the amount of money you spend and the number of programs. How do you ratchet that or get it into a different metric or some other way of measuring success?
Paul Ryan: Success needs to be measured by results. Are people actually getting out of poverty? What actually works in our communities? And back those programs, back those people. That means streamlining and consolidating government and respecting communities, respecting local solutions. The people close to the problem often have the best answers on how to solve a problem. It’s also important to note that not everybody faces the kind of poverty. Not everyone facing poverty is in the same situation. So we shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all, top-down government approach.