paul ryan

Our welfare system does not work.  The War on Poverty started more than 50 years ago, yet the poverty rate has remain unchanged. Spending has doubled in the past ten years and is projected to reach $1 trillion in the next ten. Clearly, we are throwing money at a problem with little to show in results.

Things need to change and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Republican conference this week unveiled an innovative platform to reform how we address poverty. The blueprint outlines five principles based around Rewarding work, tailoring benefits to people’s needs, improving skills and schools, planning and saving for the future, and demanding results.

ATR applauds the work of the Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility for its innovative proposal.

Encourage and reward work

The best way to escape poverty is with a good job, yet most welfare programs fail to help people find work, instead encouraging a culture of dependency.  In order to ensure that Americans are on the path to self-sufficiency, this blueprint calls for reforming the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and unemployment insurance to better help put people on the pathway to good jobs.

Currently, 44 percent of households who receive assistance are capable of working, but report no annual income. So, reforms should be put in place that expand work requirements to include housing benefits.

The blueprint also approaches unemployment insurance in a new way by shifting focus onto helping people who are out of work get back to work faster and this can be accomplished by giving states greater flexibility and testing those results. The longer one is unemployed, the harder it is to for one to get a job.

These proposals are broadly supported. A poll conducted by the Heritage Foundation found that 89% of Americans agree that work-capable adults should be required to work in order to receive government benefits.  Helping Americans get back on their feet as soon as possible should be a priority regardless of political ideology.

Adjust benefits to align with people’s needs

As it currently stands, you can be left in a worse financial position by working more hours. People start losing benefits as soon as they start making money, and you can be penalized for getting married, getting a raise, or simply starting work. It’s why people often find themselves stuck in a “poverty trap”. Reforms in this area call for more flexibility with program funding, benefits, and housing assistance so that welfare is not a case of one size fits all.

Currently, the federal government mindlessly matches state and local spending on poverty initiatives. Instead of this approach, programs should receive funding based on results, with those that are failing to work slowly phased out. In addition, benefits should ensure you aren’t penalized for getting married or getting promoted, and housing assistance should be linked to prevalence of jobs, so people can move to areas with more jobs and opportunities rather than being confined to poor communities.

These reforms are crucial to ensuring that people get the most out of benefits and aren’t left in a worse off financial situations.

Actions need to be reflected in results

The government throws taxpayer dollars at programs, many of which are failing. The anti-poverty blueprint calls for reforms to ensure that programs actually produce results, and if they don’t that funds are better spent. The blueprint calls for several reforms, including pay-for-results partnerships, a tier-based funding formula, and stronger accountability measures.

Specifically the task force calls for the government to work with private-sector providers through pay-for-results partnerships, meaning that if the program achieves its stated goals the investment will be repaid by the government. This method of goal setting fosters state competition and filters out programs that are not meeting goals, which ultimately holds companies accountable and ensures taxpayer dollars are well spent.

Strengthen Education and Skills

Children need to be exposed to more opportunity at every development stage to ensure the cycle of poverty can be broken. The blueprint calls for more open access to healthier meals, more targeted job training that coincides with available jobs in a community, and new measures to better inform parents about educational choices for their child. These reforms will improve early childhood development and promote a stronger workforce.

Planning for the future

For many Americans, the tools to save for retirement are out of reach. To fix access, the blueprint calls for reforms that ensure families have access to affordable retirement advice and access to 401(k)s is expanded. These simple, yet important reforms will help low and middle income families who presently cannot afford retirement advice and will encourage all Americans to start saving responsibly.