In our opinion: Paul Ryan's promising anti-poverty plan should be welcomed to world stage

Deseret News editorial

Published: Fri, Aug. 1, 2014, 12:00 a.m. MDT

 Representative Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty plan, “Expanding Opportunity in America\

Representative Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty plan, “Expanding Opportunity in America" is being hailed as an innovative approach to solving intractable economic problems in a way that appeals to Democrats and Republicans alike.

(Steve Helber, Associated Press)

Partisan conflicts in the United States are becoming increasingly heated. Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University, analyzed data from the American National Election Studies and concluded that “voters like their own party and its leaders as much as ever,” but that they “dislike the other party and its leaders much more than ever."

In that environment, it’s rare that any significant proposal can draw praise from both sides of the aisle. But that’s the case with Representative Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty plan, “Expanding Opportunity in America,” which is being hailed as an innovative approach to solving intractable economic problems in a way that appeals to Democrats and Republicans alike. Ron Haskins, writing for the non-partisan Brookings Institution, said, “This is the best, most comprehensive and potentially bipartisan set of ideas for promoting opportunity that has appeared in many years.”

Ryan’s plan addresses a whole host of issues, including education reform, welfare reform, regulatory reform, wage subsidies and federal sentencing laws for non-violent offenders. He proposes granting more flexibility to state and local governments in administering these programs, while at the same time creating a research mechanism to follow up and ensure that the reforms actually work. All of this is done in a revenue-neutral way – no new taxes, but no spending cuts, either.

In announcing his program, Ryan highlighted Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s supportive efforts in combating poverty. Sen. Lee is the darling of the Tea Party movement, and his backing of Ryan’s plan would give it credibility with a large number of conservatives. At the same time, liberal columnist Ezra Klein said the Ryan proposal was “a big step in the right direction for the Republican Party” and that there “are some very good ideas in there.”

If Mike Lee and Ezra Klein can find common ground that means there’s something here worth our attention.

Not all partisans have given the Ryan plan glowing reviews, however. In response to this proposal, left-wing New York Times columnist Paul Krugman labeled Ryan a “con man” and insisted that this plan is just one more of his “con jobs.” House Speaker John Boehner, when asked about the Ryan proposal, offered a non-committal acknowledgment of the importance of fighting poverty, but he was reticent to endorse Ryan’s specific approach. So while there is support from diverse quarters, there is criticism, too.

But that’s hardly surprising. No one should expect unanimity in politics, and there are certainly details of the Ryan plan that will change as a result of legislative compromises. What’s noteworthy is this plan is a critical starting point for a much-needed bipartisan dialogue about poverty. As such, it is a welcome addition to the national conversation.

1. KJB1
Eugene, OR,
Aug. 1, 2014

Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize for Economics, but his thoughts on this matter can apparently be minimized since he's "left-wing."

Stay classy, DN...

2. Hamath
Omaha, NE,
Aug. 1, 2014

It looks like a plan worth considering. This is the type of plan that Obama's bipartisan commission, Simpson Bowles, recommended. This plan may moderately ease the welfare costs by streamlining programs and allowing states to customize to the needs of the welfare constituents better and the people will be getting served better. We need to look at the tax code too and streamline some similar problems there. Some tax cuts need to be allowed to expire or modified.

3. ECR
Burke, VA,
Aug. 1, 2014

Mr. Ryan’s best idea is an expansion of the earned-income tax credit. This program currently costs $59 billion per year, and has a proven track record of helping poor families. But the current plan offers a paltry assistance to adult workers with no children. "Mr. Ryan would remedy that by doubling the maximum annual credit for such workers to $1,005 and lowering the eligibility age from 25 to 21. It’s nearly identical to a proposal in President Obama’s 2015 budget that would have cost roughly $60 billion over 10 years."

One of the issues that have caused concern is Mr. Ryan's suggestion to combine many of the current federal assistance programs - food stamps, housing, etc.) into block grants to be administered by the states. If that seems like an unfounded cause of concern - that some states don't care enough about their poor citizens - consider that 24 states are currently denying over 5.0M of their citizens access to healthcare insurance because those state governments refuse to participate in the Medicaid expansion program under the ACA. Thankfully Mr. Ryan suggests that his program be started with pilot programs in only a few states. Let's see what happens.

4. LOU Montana
Pueblo, CO,
Aug. 1, 2014

Anything that involves helping anyone other than the rich is not going to be accepted by the republican party. The "dog eat dog and my value system is the correct one" mentality of republicans will never allow any type of assistance program. These programs do allow people a chance to grow.

5. JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC,
Aug. 1, 2014

We need plans. Kudos to Ryan for putting something out there.

Any plan, regardless of author or party, should be viewed and reviewed with an open mind.

Is this a good plan or a bad plan? I dont know. But it should be given a fair review by all.