Paul Ryan, America & the Option for the Poor

Well, kudos to America magazine and to Rep. Paul Ryan for their mutual engagement---with each other and with Pope Francis---on the issue of poverty.

That said, it appears Rep. Ryan's "big idea" for how the federal government can help the poor is by blockgranting federal aid to the poor and letting state governments "try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results—in other words, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability".  Not only is this an old conservative policy idea; it's one that doesn't help the poor.  (It can, on the other hand, be helpful to state governments that want to cut their own spending on the poor.)

There's also no mention in Ryan's America essay of his fervent desire to cut taxes for wealthy Americans.  In an August interview with The Weekly Standard, Ryan stated that cutting the top marginal income tax rate is "even more pressing now" than it was during the Reagan administration.  Tax cuts---especially for the rich---are in Ryan's view "the secret sauce" that yields "faster economic growth, more upward mobility, and faster job creation".

Ryan does engage with the Church's teachings on subsidiarity and solidarity in his America piece.  Opinions will vary as to how successfully; but given that Ryan will take over budget and tax policy for House Republicans in January, it's worth paying attention to what he's thinking and doing.

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Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons. 

Please email comments to letters@commonwealmagazine.org and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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