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Paul Ryan Unveils Anti-Poverty Reforms

1:09 PM, Jul 24, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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In a USA Today op-ed and speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan unveiled his plans to reform anti-poverty programs. 

Paul Ryan

At the center of the reforms is a proposal consolidate federal funding for up to 11 anti-poverty programs and give that money to states that request the opportunity to see if they can do a better job of fighting poverty. Ryan emphasized in his speech at AEI that a "state would get the same amount of money as under current law—not a penny less."

Ryan explained that "in effect, the state would say, 'Give us some space, and we can figure this out.' And the federal government would say, 'Go to it—on four conditions': First, you’ve got to spend that money on people in need—not roads, not bridges, no funny business. Second, every person who can work should work. Third, you’ve got to give people choices. The state welfare agency can’t be the only game in town. People must have at least one other option, whether it’s a non-profit, a for-profit, what have you. And fourth, you’ve got to test the results. The federal government and the state must agree on a neutral third party to keep track of progress. That’s the deal."

Ryan's plan--which you can read in greater detail here--would also double the Earned Income Tax Credit, reduce or streamline regulations, and seek to reform the education and criminal justice systems. Here's how Ryan outlined these various proposals during his speech at AEI this morning (according to a transcript of his prepared remarks):

First, we should make sure that in this country it always pays to work. I’d do that by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers. This is one of the few programs that have shown results. It encourages people to work by increasing the rewards of work. And we all know that the more people we have in the work force, the more opportunity we’ll have in this country.

So I’d roughly double the maximum credit for childless workers to $1,005. And I’d lower the minimum eligibility age from 25 to 21. This is similar to what the President has proposed, but with one big difference: I wouldn’t raise taxes. I’d pay for it by eliminating ineffective programs and corporate welfare, like subsidies to energy companies. My thinking is, stop programs that don’t work and support programs that do.

Second, we need to expand access to education. We need to give students more options—in other words, we need accreditation reform, similar to what my friends Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Ron DeSantis have proposed. Let other schools in on the action. And we need to keep reforming our job-training programs. If employers can design their own curriculum, then workers will know just what skills they need.

Third, we need commonsense criminal-justice reform. We need to give people the opportunity to earn a second chance. Luckily, my colleagues have done a lot of good work on this front. Senator Mike Lee and Congressmen Raul Labrador and Bobby Scott have introduced a bill to reform our sentencing guidelines. It would give judges more discretion with low-risk, non-violent offenders. All we’re saying is, they don’t have to give the maximum sentence every time. There’s no reason to lock someone up any longer than necessary.

We also have to tackle recidivism. About half of ex-cons are re-incarcerated within three years of release. But we know there are programs that work—that get people out of a life of crime. That’s why Congressmen Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Bobby Scott of Virginia have introduced the Public Safety Enhancement Act. We’d let low-risk, non-violent offenders exchange time in prison for time in pre-release custody—as long as they complete a program with a proven track record.

Here’s the point: Non-violent, low-risk offenders—don’t lock them up and throw away the key. Get them in counseling; get them in job training; help them rejoin and contribute to our society.

Finally, we need to cut down on bureaucratic red tape. A lot of families are trying to get ahead, but Washington’s getting in the way. So I’d propose a simple rule for all future regulations. If you’re a federal agency, and you want a regulation that would unduly burden low-income families, you’ve got to go to Congress. If they want it, they should have to fight for it—on the record. It’s your government; you deserve a voice and a vote.

You can watch Ryan's full speech here.

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