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Paul Ryan proposes sweeping reforms of federal anti-poverty programs

Paul Ryan with Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign
Paul Ryan with Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a former vice presidential candidate, released a sweeping proposal to reform federal poverty programs on Thursday entitled “Expanding Opportunity in America.” The plan would consolidate 11 federal poverty programs, including Food stamps, housing assistance, child-care aid and cash welfare, and block grant the money, $100 billion a year, to the states to administer. He also proposes greater accountability and work requirements.

The plan would also expand the earned income tax credit for childless workers, streamline federal grant, loan, and work study programs designed for job training, and revise mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders. The proposal would be the biggest reform of social programs since the Clinton-era welfare reform law. It is designed to make the myriad of federal poverty programs more efficient and more effective.

The Wall Street Journal notes that Democrats are thus far cool to Ryan’s ideas. They have opposed giving states more authority to run anti-poverty programs, noting the reluctance of many states to expand Medicaid and set up state exchanges under Obamacare. They particularly oppose any measure that would reduce spending on anti-poverty programs, regardless of their success or failure. Thus Ryan’s proposals are not likely to go anywhere so long as the Democrats control the Senate and the White House.

In any case, Ryan’s reform proposals have to be seen in the context of the 2016 campaign for president. Republicans are keen to make positive proposals to reform government programs to run on, the theory being that campaigning against the eight years of the Obama administration would not suffice. Ryan has been mentioned often as a possible GOP candidate for president. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who has also been mentioned as a possible next president, has already made a series of proposals to reform anti-poverty programs similar to Ryan’s.