The Washington Post article quotes conservative strategist Bill Bennett on the plan, who says, “You can’t be the governing party unless you offer people a way out of poverty.” This is all well and good, however, when that vision means taking away much-needed help, this type of fight will fail. You can’t maintain an appearance of helping people when you keep cutting the very things that help them in times of crisis.
Contrary to the cold, religious beliefs of people like Paul Ryan, the social safety net is necessary.The average family is on food stamps for about 9 months. For welfare, 19% of recipients get benefits for less than 7 months, which is about the same as those that get benefits for more than 5 years. 26% get benefits for 2 to 5 years. There is no time period encompassing a majority of welfare recipients.
Bishop Shirley Holloway, from City of Hope, said that Paul Ryan wants people to dream, and people on food stamps don’t dream. Government benefits only speed up people’s downfalls, rather than lifting them up. Ryan himself says that spiritual redemption is what will save people. With that statement, he implies that the social safety net will never save people.
That may be true, but it’s also true that government programs must be there. Paul Ryan’s poverty plan likely will not take this into account. It’s also true that spiritual redemption won’t lift people out of poverty. Some of the most pious people out there receive assistance. People in emergency situations, such as suddenly losing a job or losing the ability to work, need these programs. Besides that, charity experts say that existing charities cannot fill the gaps created by cuts to government programs. When it comes to food, for instance, charities can’t make up the $4 billion per year food stamp cuts that went into effect at the beginning of November. For major disasters, such as the Oklahoma tornadoes and Superstorm Sandy, the donations may be incredible. But these experts say that for “steady-state emergencies” like hunger, there isn’t enough money coming in to compensate for government budget cuts.
If Paul Ryan’s poverty plan focuses on spiritual redemption as the primary path out of poverty, he has a sorry grasp of the actual problem.
His plan will likely boil down to more volunteerism, more charity, more tax credits and even vouchers. In other words, Paul Ryan’s poverty plan is same old story. Get rid of the safety net, cut taxes, and let charity help the poor. There aren’t many details available yet (there actually aren’t any), but it’s easy to figure out at least some of what it will have based on previous attitudes of his.