A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF CONGRESSMAN PAUL RYAN’S POVERTY REFORM PROPOSAL: “EXPANDING OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA”
Donnelly, Kevin F.
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On the heels of the 50th Anniversary of the “War on Poverty” being declared by President Lyndon Johnson, and as our nation continues its recovery after the Great Recession, this paper explores why poverty remains elevated despite the vast government resources dedicated to combating it. With $22 trillion in federal funding having been allocated to alleviate poverty since the mid-1960s and a poverty rate that hovers near 15%, this paper looks at the possibility of government duplication and waste as a possible driver of stagnant poverty, and to the possibility of further social welfare reform efforts to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the social safety net. This paper examines Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Expanding Opportunity in America” proposal, which proposes overhauling many aspects of the existing social safety net and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, among various other measures. The paper provides both a policy and political analysis of the Ryan proposal for House Democratic Leadership, and ultimately advises them to not endorse the plan outright. More advantageous to them would be embracing Ryan’s proposal to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit while rejecting the main crux of his plan, which is the consolidation of various social welfare programs into an “Opportunity Grant” that would be administered at the state level. While Ryan’s work is groundbreaking in many ways, it fails to provide for the necessary safeguards to protect the core of the social welfare system in the U.S. For that reason is too politically dangerous for House Democrats to support.