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War on antipoverty

Ryan's report on war on poverty lacks legitimacy, not ideology


On Tuesday, Representative and House Budget Committee member Paul Ryan released a report attempting to discredit U.S. antipoverty programs. What he accomplished, however, was further solidifying himself as anti-poor.

It has been 50 years since the implementation of president Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty initiative. Ryan took it upon himself to honor the anniversary with a report on the progress of this nation's antipoverty programs, masquerading as factual and objective.

The former vice presidential candidate's opinions on poverty programs (he doesn't like them) are his own business to be interrogated by voters.

Ryan has been cited in the past as claiming the war on poverty has "failed" and proposing that, instead of federally guaranteed programs, we "get our communities engaged" and address "family breakdown." His solutions to poverty have typically been voucher programs and "encouraging" civil community to do more. Essentially, he thinks the government should turn a blind eye to poverty and let the people around it deal with it.

Ryan's logic on poverty is broken, to be sure, and for an up-and-coming Republican darling, that likely won't change. But this report is more dangerous than just opinions.

The report cites several studies on the efficacy of 92 U.S. antipoverty programs totaling just under $800 billion of federal spending in the 2012 fiscal year. The majority of the report speaks about antipoverty program failures, such as nutritional assistance programs and even Medicaid, attempting to legitimize these claims by citing other studies.

The report has already been denounced for its overtly selective presentation of the data, including leaving out the two most successful years of the War on Poverty (1967-69). Jane Waldfogel, an author of one of the studies cited, said of the report that "it's unfortunate because it really understates the progress we've made in reducing poverty."

Other cited researchers have come out against the report as well, claiming misrepresentation or misstating.

The legitimacy, or illegitimacy, of the report is central - it's the lynchpin to painting Ryan and his cronies' views as backed by something objective and factual.

This report is not meant to critically assess progress and make practical recommendations; the 204 pages offer little by way of substantive suggestions. This report is meant to give an air of factuality to Ryan's otherwise unfounded, baseless vitriol against antipoverty programs.

This report ignores facts in favor of tired objections to the government spending money on lessening the plight of the poor.

This is not to say every federal program enacted because of or in the spirit of the war on poverty has been a great success. Abuses of the system exist and should be corrected. Money is, at times, misallocated and bureaucratic labyrinths can be overly complex.

There are problems that need to be addressed, to be certain. But reviling against programs because of presuppositions and bolstering existing views is not addressing those problems.

This report, with its obvious ideological bend and blatant distortions, has only one central finding: Paul Ryan does not like the war on poverty and doesn't want voters to, either.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com



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