Paul Ryan: Anti-Poverty Programs Worsen Poverty

March 4, 2014 11:04 a.m.

House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) says federal anti-poverty programs are creating a disincentive to work and ultimately exacerbating poverty.

“We spent about $800 billion on nearly 100 programs for the poor, on welfare programs, and it’s getting worse. More people in poverty,” he said Monday on conservative radio host Michael Medved’s show. “The poverty rate is at a generation-high. And with these new programs that the president has put in place, like Obamacare, what we’re learning is that more people will stay in the poverty trap.”

Ryan released a 205-page report on Monday, conducted by Budget Committee Republicans, examining federal spending on anti-poverty programs like cash and food aid, education, housing, health care and social services. The report casts doubt on the efficacy of such programs, although it stops short of calling for their elimination or proposing specific changes.

Ryan said the existing system “sets up a perverse incentive that we call the poverty trap, where people get on these programs, and if they try to leave these programs to go work at a job, they’re worse off. And so it sort of traps them where they are and freezes them in place. And that’s why we have economic immobility.”

Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former economist for Vice President Joe Biden, wrote a blog post seeking to counter Ryan’s claims and accused him of waging an “aggressive pursuit of YOYO (you’re-on-your-own) economics.”

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