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Ryan outlines philosophies on poverty

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May 05, 2014 | comments

BY Deneen Smith, Kenosha News

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is focusing on poverty in recent months, looking to bring a focus to anti-poverty programs that fit with his small-government philosophy.

photo by KEVIN POIRIER | Kenosha News
KEVIN POIRIER | Kenosha News
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, shown during a listening session at the Snap-on Inc. headquarters in Kenosha in March, has turned his focus to poverty, meeting with people to discuss the issue in his southeastern Wisconsin district and beyond.

Ryan has been arguing that in the 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson launched his War on Poverty, federal programs have failed to address poverty and improve social mobility.

“We have the highest poverty rate in a generation and deep poverty is the highest since we’ve been recording it,” Ryan said in a Monday telephone interview.

The Janesville Republican said he has been talking about the issue and meeting with people, including in communities like Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.

“What you find is that there are people doing amazing things on a daily basis,” he said. “I think when we look at federal policy, we want to make sure it doesn’t displace the great things people are doing.”

What’s working

Asked what federal programs he thinks are working, Ryan said he believes “the homeless programs work best,” saying they “take an approach of consumer-based servicing, talking to people who actually are homeless to find out what they really need and address those needs.”

Ryan also called the earned income tax credit a good program.

“There are others I think need a lot of improving,” Ryan said.

What’s not

Among the problems, Ryan said, are job training training programs that are spread between too many agencies, with possible redundancies.

He was also critical of food stamp programs, which he said are marked with fraud and which, he believes, are a disincentive to work.

“I think we need to do a better job rewarding work,” Ryan said. “I think we need to figure out how to fix that program so it always pays to work.”

Program use growing

Between 2000 and 2011, the number of food stamp participants grew 171 percent to reach about 47 million people, roughly 14 percent of the population, according to a study by the Center for Poverty Research. According to the study, a growing number of people receiving food assistance work full time, but have wages low enough to qualify for assistance.

Ryan’s proposed budgets have been criticized for concentrating cuts on programs for the poor.

According to a study from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 69 percent of his plan’s $4.8 trillion in total non-defense budget cuts would come from programs for low and moderate-income Americans, including Pell Grants, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and Medicaid.

“No one is suggesting getting rid of food stamps, but we want to make sure that abuses are taken care of, and that we are not hurting people who are doing everything right,” Ryan said. “We can’t assume we have all the best answers in Washington.”


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