Monday, January 11, 2016

Paul Ryan's Solution To Poverty Is Just More Of The Same Conservative Malarkey

Paul Ryan three years ago pushing his 'Path To Prosperity'

In his co-authored op-ed in the WSJ ('Republican Solutions for Liberal Failures on Poverty', Jan. 8, p. A10), Paul Ryan comes up with nothing new - only the same recycled, pedestrian mix of conservative codswallop he once offered us in his 'Path to Prosperity' back in 2012.  His main themes or "solutions" can be summarized thus:

-Redirect federal funding to parents of low income families so they can use that money to send their kids to private schools or charter schools. (In other words hollow out pubic education even more)

- Impose a greater work requirement in anti-poverty programs (in other words have all those poor people receiving any food stamps or Medicaid to go out and work at cleaning lavatories or picking up dog poop in parks for their daily bread)

- Scale down federal assistance in favor of much more charity (he cites the House of Help City of Hope in D.C. and Catholic Charities in Janesville, WIS).

 Let's take the last first: Ryan here is obviously looking  at the fact there are now 40 million on food stamps,  up 53%  from 2008 and 54 million on Medicaid, up 21% over the same interval. But what escapes him is that the amount of charity that would be needed to leave government out of the picture is actually some twenty five times more than the actual volume of charitable giving!

For example, to make charity ends meet and fill the gap in the absence of government assistance, those rich Catholic and other lobbyists in DC would need to give about 14.9% of their income, not the usually cited 7.7% Similarly, all the other alleged generous conservo states would need to at least double up on their giving. In the end, with a new recession, even that couldn't be sustained, and we saw how food pantries emptied  their stocks in weeks after the 2008 recession and stock market collapse - and were hard pressed to refill them. 

As for using federal funds for charter school education that has never worked in terms of sustaining success for the affected kids, and certainly not for the public schools from whose funds the "vouchers" are usually extracted.  (Every dollar extracted from taxpayers for vouchers means less to fund public schools.) Instead of pouring millions into voucher systems (which tactics I believe violate the separation of Church and state since most recipient schools are religious) that money could be going toward improvements in our public schools - including more pay for better qualified teachers. What a thought! Just think then, how much difference that $14 million could have made to D.C. public schools, had the money not been squandered for "the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program” which provided tuition vouchers of up to $7,500 per kid in 2011.

Ryan's "educational plan for job training" is also pseudo-nifty except there are simply not enough of the high quality, high paying jobs that would warrant the allocation of such federal money for that particular job training and education.

What most families need, such as here in Colo., is affordable housing and quality public education they can access. But since the gentrification of numerous communities, housing is beyond the reach of most working and even lower middle class people. (House prices in Denver are now up 18% over last year's and one needs a salary of at least $95,000/ year to afford a down payment. )

In most cases people are stretched thin paying more than 40 percent of their incomes on rent alone, which is too much. None of these problems are processed by Ryan who believes all the economic issues facing people in poverty are simply matters of not being educated enough or else not being hard working enough to keep noses to the grindstone.  Those misperceptions are what allows him to make such absurd proposals.

As anyone with more than air between the ears can see, on examining state by state budget deficits now exploding, in every case “re-balancing” is being done on the backs of the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the homeless. The results are predictable: loss of health care, loss of jobs and loss of overall security, as well as increase in drug use, violent criminality and prostitution.

His advocacy of work requirements for federal assistance - say in food stamps - is also daft, given most of those on food stamps are children, and the parents have jobs - just not well paying enough to afford rent, plus utilities and food.  In addition, Ryan would implement "consolidated block grants" not only for the SNAP food stamps program, but also housing vouchers (Sec. 8) and childcare vouchers  In other words, providing states a fixed amount to run all their programs. In the words of WaPo columnist Jared Bernstein:

"The main reason this idea is so destructive is that it undermines the essence of the safety net, or its countercyclical function"

The whole basis of his "solution" in fact, is that it is detached from reality, namely that poverty will always be endemic so long as we harbor vast inequality and the economic philosophy (Pareto distribution) that enables it.  Thus, any nation based on this perversion of economics, e.g.

Cannot escape poverty for more than half its people, for as its creator Vilfredo Pareto put it:

"Assume a collectivity made up of a wolf and a sheep. The happiness of the wolf consists in eating the sheep, that of the sheep in not being eaten. How is this collectivity to be made happy?"

So, if the poor are regarded as "sheep" and the Overclass as the wolf, the only objective is to make the wolf happy, by eating the sheep!

Thus, by Pareto's original example (in quotes): Allowing the wolf in the wolf-sheep combo to EAT the sheep expresses less overall "hurt" or pain on it than permitting the sheep to remain unscathed, merrily prancing away eating its grass while the poor wolf starves.

Yet when one digs beneath the academic veneer of Ryan's tracts that is the society he believes in. That is why he could offer (back in 2012) his "Ryan plan" for health care to replace Medicare. Just give the old guy a voucher for a year- maybe worth $10, 000 if he's lucky - and let him get what he needs with that: medications, operations, cancer treatments, regular physician visits etc. Just hope he doesn't need any more.

The same way a poor kid might get a $7,500 voucher for his charter education - at public school expense- but just hope he doesn't need any more!

No wonder Ryan can write with a straight face:

"Democrats want to take care of the poor. Republicans want to empower them".

Uh, no. Republicans want to empower the "wolf" of Vilfredo Pareto so it can more readily eat the poor!

Meanwhile, millions of citizens who can least afford it, are blowing hundreds of bucks trying to win a Powerball lottery in which the odds are about 292 million to one against them. As finance guru Melanie Hobson put it this morning, "they think with each draw they are getting nearer but in fact the odds against them are worse since more people are playing than when the total was smaller."

But in a way you can't blame them, since they see a Powerball win of $1.3 billion (About $520m after taxes and for a cash payout) as the only way for them to escape Pareto's and Ryan's "wolf"!

No comments: