Last week in Cleveland, Ohio, Paul Ryan attempted to make the case to the American people that a Romney-Ryan administration would effectively implement policies to combat the nation’s alarming poverty rates. To his credit, Ryan spoke eloquently about “upward mobility,” and “true compassion” for the poor, and he even mentioned society’s “fundamental obligation to the most vulnerable”—refreshing rhetoric from the Republican Party’s rising star. There’s just one problem. The assertions Ryan made in his speech, especially when examined alongside the budget proposals put forth by both Romney and Ryan, reveal a striking level of insincerity and a complete disconnect from reality on the part of the candidate.
Not only would the budget proposals offered by Romney and Ryan fail to lift millions of Americans out of poverty, the drastic cuts to antipoverty programs would result in devastating consequences for the nation’s most vulnerable. More than 60% of the proposed budget cuts would target programs that help those families most in need of assistance with education, nutrition, healthcare, and other basic necessities. These cuts would pull them farther and farther away from the equality of opportunity that Ryan stressed throughout his speech.
A Romney-Ryan administration would not only fail to create the trend of “upward mobility” that Ryan promises, it would also plunge millions more Americans into poverty. In his remarks, Ryan attacked the anti-poverty programs implemented in the 1960s as a “top-down approach” that has “created a debilitating culture of dependency.” Ryan, perhaps failing to understand the critical nature of these programs and their far reaching successes (and evidently living in a parallel world where welfare reform never occurred), explained that a Romney administration would focus efforts on what private industry and voluntary action, rather than government mandates, can accomplish in a war on poverty. Ryan fails to realize that the social safety net established by those programs has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.
Today there are roughly 46 million Americans living in poverty, a staggering figure to say the least, however, without the social safety net, that figure would be nearly double. Ryan’s belief that generosity on an individual level could be an adequate alternative to the government’s antipoverty programs, is completely misinformed and has been refuted by the very organizations he imagines as the replacements for essential government programs.
In discussing the Republican Party’s plans for assisting communities in need, Ryan conceded that his party has not always been able to articulate a clear vision. However, when comparing the assertions made in Ryan’s speech with his actual budget proposals and the reality of poverty in the United States, its causes and its impact, it becomes clear that the problem is not the party’s failure to articulate a plan, it’s the plan itself.