Traditional Democrat spin dictates their party cares about the concerns of the poor, while Republicans care about the rich. However, the person who has been spending perhaps the most time addressing the problem of poverty in the United States is none other than Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan.
Even before Ryan was a vice presidential candidate, he was attending to the concerns of the nation’s poor. In April of this year, when Ryan opened a House Budget Committee hearing on the topic of strengthening the country’s social safety net, he framed this issue in the context of how government waste prevents careful targeting of tax dollars to public assistance programs for those who need them most. Note that, contrary to what his critics say, Ryan never suggested that public assistance programs be eliminated.
Ryan’s plan for helping those who are disabled or who have experienced a difficult time in life reads very differently from the typical “big government” proposals of throwing money indiscriminately at the problem or adding more government programs to the already bloated heap. It’s rare, if ever, that we hear of “ending wasteful practices, promoting independence, and protecting the safety net from the threat of a debt crisis,” as remedies to help the neediest among us. Yet, these solutions are exactly what the man who hopes to be our next vice president plans to help make a reality.
At the start of the April Budget Committee hearing on the public safety net, Ryan discussed the importance of learning from “the extraordinary success of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.” He brought up the fact that, at the time, some Democrats had raised their concerns that the reform bill would turn America into a Third World country, leaving “children hungry and homeless . . . begging for money, begging for food, and even at eight and nine years old engaging in prostitution.”
Ryan observed, however, that, transforming welfare into a program that enacted “meaningful work requirements, setting time limits, and empowering states to design more effective programs” led to “the single greatest reduction in poverty among children since the 1960’s.”
Despite the success of welfare reform, Ryan said he was hearing the same “hysterical predictions” from those who criticized his budget in 2012. In defense of his budget, Ryan intelligently asserted:
This budget treats all Americans with respect and dignity. It recognizes that the federal government’s attempts to help can often do more harm than good. What honest observer of government could disagree?
Is it in our national interest to create a class of people permanently dependent on the government? More to the point, is it in the best interest of these individuals to become dependent on government?
We must also ask: What happens to those who are most in need of government assistance when the government can no longer pay its bills?
Indeed, have any of the current Obama-Pelosi-Reid Democrats shown the relationship between the debt crisis and its effect on those in poverty in the United States? Ryan said, “We face the most predictable debt crisis in history – and if this crisis hits, those who rely on the safety net the most will be hurt the first and the worst.”
Ryan stated that “a debt crisis would force sharp, immediate cuts in spending, hurting those who cannot help themselves. Meanwhile, sharp, immediate increases in taxes would stunt job growth and opportunity for those who can.” He concluded, “Opponents of reform were wrong in 1996, and today – as we act to prevent a debt crisis that truly would devastate the poor – they are even more wrong.”
Seven months later, Ryan is still showing the poor in America that they are not forgotten. Last week in Cleveland, the vice presidential candidate devoted an entire speech to the issue of poverty in the U.S. In short, he presented the image of the American dream that most of us have had since childhood. He said, “No matter where you come from, you should have the opportunity in America to rise, to escape from poverty, and to achieve whatever your God-given talents and hard work enable you to achieve.”
Reminding us that, over the last four years, the American dream has seemed more elusive than ever, Ryan drew the sharp contrast we have seen each day during this election campaign. “In this war on poverty, poverty is winning,” he said. “Mitt Romney and I are running because we believe that Americans are better off in a dynamic, free-enterprise-based economy that fosters economic growth, opportunity and upward mobility instead of a stagnant, government-directed economy that stifles job creation and fosters government dependency.”
There is a drastic difference between the “plans” of Barack Obama and other liberal Democrats, who seem content to “fund” poverty, and those of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, who emphasize that upward mobility is not just for the middle class. The ability to move ahead should be a goal that is within the hopes and dreams of those in poverty as well. In a pro-growth America, the poor will not simply get money “thrown” at them; they will have the opportunity to earn it for themselves.