In his first policy speech since becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan said he and Mitt Romney will restore upward mobility and fight poverty in part by limiting the federal government's commitment to safety net programs.
"Upward mobility is the central promise of life in America," Ryan said. "But right now, America’s engines of upward mobility aren't working the way they should. 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."
Ryan noted that Americans born into poor families are more likely to stay poor as adults than Americans born into wealthy families.
A Romney administration, Ryan said, would help restore mobility by turning the open-ended commitments of federal anti-poverty programs into "block grants" -- fixed chunks of money the federal government sends to states each year regardless of the amount of need. States, in turn, get more leeway to design their own programs.
"The federal government would continue to provide the resources, but we would remove the endless federal mandates and restrictions that hamper state efforts to make these programs more effective," Ryan said. "If the question is what's best for low-income Ohioans, shouldn’t we let Ohioans make that call?"
That's how a Republican Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton reformed welfare in 1996, resulting, Ryan said, in reduced child poverty and increased employment among single mothers. (The success of the reform, however, is debatable; the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, for instance, has found that caseloads have declined as the number of families with children in poverty has increased.)
As a congressman, Ryan has authored several proposals to slash spending on programs for poor people by turning them into block grants. According to an analysis by the centrist Urban Institute, Ryan's proposal to repeal health care reform and block grant Medicaid, which provides health insurance to people below near-poverty income levels, would reduce federal spending by $1.7 trillion and Medicaid enrollment by 50 percent, resulting in a loss of insurance for 35.7 million Americans.
Ryan also proposed dramatic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps, in place of looming cuts to defense spending. (During the third presidential debate on Monday, Romney said he did not support cutting food stamps.)
Part of the problem with programs that haven't received the block grant treatment, Ryan said, is that they perpetuate "government dependency." But he also said government spending itself is a threat to people who rely on safety net programs for food and health care.
"When government’s own finances collapse, society's most vulnerable are the first victims, as we are seeing right now in the troubled welfare states of Europe," he said. "Many there feel that they have nowhere to turn for help, and we must never let that happen in America."
Ryan also said government spending discourages people from giving to charity. "Debt on this scale is destructive in so many ways, and one of them is that it crowds out civil society by drawing resources away from private giving."
Economists at the St. Louis Federal Reserve found in 2009 that increased government spending can have a limited negative effect on charitable donations, but also that growth in charitable giving had paralleled growth in government spending over the past 40 years (PDF).
A Romney administration, Ryan said, would seek balance between "allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do."
To Americans who feel left out of America's promise, Ryan said, "I ask you to support our campaign, because our cause is yours, and yours is ours, and together we can achieve great things."
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Wealthy Benefit Most From Tax Cuts
Paul Ryan's most recent budget proposal would save those making between $20,000 and $30,000 just $246 in taxes, compared to savings of $265,011 for those who make over $1 million, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.
Health Care Cuts
The "Path to Prosperity" would cut $2.4 trillion from Medicaid and other health care programs for people with low or moderate incomes, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.
Fewer People Covered By Medicaid
Under Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" as many as 44 million fewer people would be covered under Medicaid, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7417870n" target="_hplink">according to CBS News</a>.
Reduced Health Care For Retirees
Ryan would raise the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67. If the Affordable Care Act was repealed, something Romney has pledged, that means many 65- and 66-year-olds would be left uninsured, the <a href="http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/08/11/seven-things-the-media-needs-to-know-about-paul/189277" target="_hplink">CBPP reports</a>.
Seniors Would Pay More For Health Coverage
Under Ryan's "Path to Prosperity," senior citizens would have to pay as much as 68 percent of their health care coverage, up from 25 percent today, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7417870n" target="_hplink">CBS News reports.</a>
Cuts To Food Stamp Programs
Ryan's proposed "Path to Prosperity" includes $134 billion in cuts to SNAP, according to analysis from the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2012/04/02/gIQAjn0grS_graphic.html" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.
Lower Tax Credit For Single Moms
A single mother of two working full time at the minimum wage would have her Child Tax Credit cut by more than $1,500, assuming she made $14,500 a year, according to the <a href="http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/08/11/seven-things-the-media-needs-to-know-about-paul/189277" target="_hplink">Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</a>.
Less Money For Education
Compared to the most recent White House budget proposal, Ryan's budget spends 33 percent less on education, training, employment and social services, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/12/what-paul-ryans-budget-actually-cuts-and-by-how-much/" target="_hplink">the <em>Washington Post</em> reports</a>.
Poor Weather Forecasts
Ryan's proposed cuts to environment and natural resource programs could result in weather forecasts being only half as accurate, according to Third Way's budget expert, David Kendall. "For many people planning a weekend outdoors, they may have to wait until Thursday for a forecast as accurate as one they now get on Monday," <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/12/what-paul-ryans-budget-actually-cuts-and-by-how-much/" target="_hplink">he's quoted as saying in the <em>Washington Post</em></a>.
No Raises For Government Workers
The current government worker pay freeze would be extended under the "Path to Prosperity," meaning public-sector employees wouldn't get a raise until at least 2015, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/post/paul-ryans-budget-plan-hits-federal-workers/2012/08/11/8953b832-e3a3-11e1-98e7-89d659f9c106_blog.html" target="_hplink">the <em>Washington Post</em> reports</a>.