How to boost the poor out of the “poverty trap?” Stop letting the government keep them there, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) says.
In comments today at the Brookings Institution’s Social Mobility Summit, Ryan outlined why the War on Poverty, launched 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson, “missed the mark.”
“Poverty is not just some form of deprivation, it is a form of isolation,” Ryan said. The poor are cut off from education, work and family, a divide he largely attributed to broken government programs created by the War on Poverty.
Because of the lack of adequate coordination among multiple government programs, Ryan said, poor families face marginal tax rates that discourage them from wanting to make more money.
For Ryan, winning the War on Poverty is not about a program’s cost on a spreadsheet, but creating standards that help poor Americans pull their lives together and and begin to meet their full potential.
“We need to change the way we think about work,” Ryan said. “It is not a penalty. It is the shortest route back into society. Federal assistance should not be a weigh station. It ought to be an on-ramp, a quick drive back to the hustle-bustle of life.”
Although Ryan didn’t lay out a specific policy plan, he promised to roll out legislation after first listening to the “real families” he’s trying to help. He also commended Britain’s Universal Credit — a concept that he said is sound because it simplifies the role of government, incentivizes work and gradually tapers people off government assistance.