A War of Poverty

I can’t find prepared remarks or a transcript just yet for Paul Ryan’s big “poverty” speech in Ohio today, but an account from The Hill probably tells you pretty much everything you need to know:

[Ryan] said a Romney administration would apply the pattern set by the welfare reform to preserving and strengthening other “safety net” programs, specifically by handing more power back to the states to tailor them to the needs of their residents.

“We will not defer to the Washington-knows-best crowd,” he promised. He described the work of several businessmen and private charities, saying he and Romney would defer to their example as they shaped public policy.

In other words, Medicaid and food stamps will be block-granted, which in the former case will (along with the repeal of ObamaCare) eliminate health insurance for 31 to 37 million poor people, and in the latter eliminate food assistance for a mere 10 million. And since Medicaid, food stamps and the earned-income-tax-credit (extremely unlikely to survive a Romney administration attack on “tax loopholes”) were key working-poor supports underlying welfare reform, it’s unlikely welfare reform will exactly thrive, either.

And so, the entire Romney/Ryan “poverty” strategy is basically to consign poor people to the bracing independence of relying on an unimaginable boom in jobs that will supposedly be produced by tax and spending cuts.

I’m kind of reminded of that scene from the Borat movie where our hero tells a rodeo crowd somewhere in the U.S. that the people of Kazakhstan “support your war of terror.”

I suspect Paul Ryan wants to wage a “war of poverty.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.