Nel's New Day

March 4, 2014

Republicans, from Stability to Ryan

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:39 PM
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Twenty-seven years ago, a U.S. House member died trying to help the homeless, a growing problem after Reagan cut low-income housing and deinstitutionalized psychiatric hospitals. In 1987 when almost no federal money addressed the growing problem of homeless people, activists succeeded in passing the only new social program enacted during the Reagan administration. Rep. Stewart McKinney from Connecticut was an instrumental part of passing the landmark legislation.

The first Republican to publicly declare the need for a federal initiative to help the homeless, McKinney and other representatives introduced the Urgent Relief for the Homeless Act, later renamed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Joined by such celebrities as Martin Sheen and Dennis Quaid, he and a dozen other members of Congress held the Great American Sleep-Out with homeless people who slept outside every night on March 3, 1987.

McKinney had suffered from AIDS for the eight years. Although doctors and colleagues urged him to not sleep outside in below-freezing temperatures, McKinney was willing to risk his life for this important issue. Two months later, he died from AIDS-related pneumonia. During that time, both Congressional chambers passed the bill with sufficient majority that Reagan couldn’t veto it.

The law has saved countless other lives and helped thousands more to regain stability. It created over a dozen programs that provide homeless services and allotted $1 billion in funding for emergency shelters, job training, housing vouchers, etc.  In addition, the law supports the rights of the homeless, including that of children to receive an education.

That was 27 years ago. Now Paul Ryan (R-WI) represent GOP members in Congress. As chair of the House Budget Committee, he just released a 204-page report called “The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later.”

In his self-identified goal to “help” low-income families, he is using his report to show the failure of federal efforts to reduce poverty on his road to further shred the safety net for those low-income families. Ryan continues to argue that poverty in the United States comes from “the poverty trap” of federal programs. His own report, however, shows success in federal programs (material in quotes from Ryan’s report):

 

  • Veterans Health Administration: “effective in providing access to inexpensive health care for low-income veterans.”
  • Child Tax Credit (assistance to families with children): “protected about 2.9 million people from falling into poverty, including about 1.5 million children.”
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (cash assistance to low-income working families): “an effective tool for encouraging and rewarding work among lower-income individuals, particularly single mothers.”
  • Rural Housing Assistance Grants: “allow very low-income elderly homeowners on a fixed budget to remain at home and independent.”
  • Title X Family Planning: “women who utilize Title X (Family Planning program) services as their primary source of health care have significantly greater odds of receiving contraceptive services and/or care for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than women who utilize private physicians or HMOs.”
  • Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program: “has been shown to fill gaps in Medicaid’s HIV/AIDS services and delivery programs.”
  • Housing Opportunities For Persons With AIDS: “effective” in “assisting a vulnerable population to achieve beneficial outcome.”
  • Federal Health Centers (grants to outpatient primary-care facilities): “fewer racial and ethnic disparities at community health centers” and “perform better than private-practice primary case in some cases.” The report also reveals medical expenses for health center patients were found to be lower compared to patients who receive care elsewhere.
  • Homeless Assistance Grants: shown to “decrease homeless and reduce costs related to health care and institutionalization.”
  • Low income subsidy for Medicare Part D (medications for low-income seniors): “A 2012 study compared two groups of seniors with similar commodities and found that seniors taking advantage of the LIS subsidy were significantly more likely to take medically necessary medications than the group not enrolled in the LIS program.”
  • The Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant (to reduce infant mortality): rated “effective.”.
  • Elderly Nutrition Program (group meals and home-delivered meals for senior citizens): “well targeted towards the low-income elderly and to those with increased risk for nutrition and health problems.”
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children: “increases birth weights for low-income women.”
  • School Breakfast Program: increases “both nutrition and academic achievement among low-income children.”
  • Education For Homeless Children and Youth: “provides funding for states to create programs to ensure homeless children and youth have access to public education” and improves “student performance.”
  • Child Care and Development Fund: subsidies “increase the likelihood of participation in the labor force” and “encourage single mothers to pursue education.”

 

The editorial board of the New York Times described Ryan’s complaints as “small and tired”:

“It’s easy to find flaws or waste in any government program, but the proper response is to fix those flaws, not throw entire programs away as Mr. Ryan and his party have repeatedly proposed. It might be possible, for example, to consolidate some of the 20 different low-income housing programs identified in the report, but Congressional Democrats have no reason to negotiate with a party that fundamentally doesn’t believe government should play a significant role in reducing poverty. (Similarly, Republicans complain endlessly about flaws in health care reform, but their sole solution is to repeal the entire program, not improve it.)

“The report notes that some programs, including the earned-income tax credit, have been effective, but it fails to draw the proper lessons from those examples. The most successful programs, including the tax credit, Medicaid and food stamps, have been those that are carefully designed, properly managed and well-financed. For all their glossy reports, Republicans have shown no interest in making these or any other social programs work better.”

Further analysis of the report shows that Ryan’s report misrepresented its data. The Fiscal Times’ Rob Garver interviewed economists used to prove Ryan’s points. Their responses:

Jane Waldfogel: Ryan omitted two of the most successful years of the war on poverty on a December study from the Columbia Research Center measuring the decline in poverty after the start of the “war on poverty.” The study found that the poverty rate fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012, but Ryan’s data starts in 1969 and ignores 36 percent of the decline. Waldfogel said, “It’s technically correct, but it’s an odd way to cite the research. In my experience, usually you use all of the available data. There’s no justification given. It’s unfortunate because it really understates the progress we’ve made in reducing poverty.”

 

  • Columbia researcher Chris Wimer: Ryan’s manipulated his work in discussing the 1996 welfare-reform law.
  • University of Wisconsin at Madison professor Barbara Wolfe: Ryan’s report “misstated” her findings on housing assistance and mischaracterized her research on Medicaid.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Jeffrey Brown: Ryan’s report ignored relevant caveats when he highlighted Brown’s scholarship on Medicaid.

 

Almost 60 years ago, a Republican president initiated the 46,000-mile interstate highway system. Dwight D. Eisenhower supported the implementation of school de-segregation in Little Rock (AK), helped the low-income people through farm subsidies (when most farmers really were poor), expanded Social Security, and added funding to the Federal Housing Administration so that people could buy their own homes. He left taxes higher for the wealthy, and times were prosperous. When Eisenhower left the presidency, he warned people about the “military–industrial complex,” causing today’s debt crisis.

Over 40 years ago, Richard Nixon developed diplomatic relationships with China and the Soviet Union, halting the Cold War, and created the EPA to address rampant pollution. During his time in the office, man walked on the moon, and Congress passed Title IX to fight inequality for girls in education. Endorsing the ERA, Nixon was also the first president to explicitly advance women’s rights in his administration.

During Gerald Ford’s brief administration, the GOP began its downward  spiral into a cold, calculating party,  ignorant about successful economic principles. When Christian fundamentalists put Reagan into office four years later, he started to wipe out unions and shred the people’s safety net. At the same time Reagan drastically built up the military and slashed the top income taxes by more than 60 percent. His tax-cut policies forced him to borrow heavily, driving the national debt from $700 billion to $3 trillion.

In less than a half century, the GOP has gone from a party that supports the poor, unions, women’s and civil rights, equitable taxes, education, lack of military intervention, and, indeed all the people in the United States to Ryan’s “war on the 99 percent.”

January 8, 2014

GOP Celebrates War on Poverty by Increasing Number of Poor

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty in America” in his first State of the Union speech. As Johnson said, “The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it…. One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime.”

At that time, the poverty rate was 19 percent. Now it’s 15 percent. And that’s at the same time that the country is getting stingier, mostly with women and children. Not only did the GOP throw people off food stamps and other help through the sequester, but it also increased the inequity between wealthy and poor. Critics claim that the country has made no progress in Johnson’s “war.” Yet within six years, the rate dropped to 12.6 percent—until the government no longer considered it a priority.

Without the government programs such as food stamps, subsidized school lunches, and Medicaid, Columbia University experts figure that the rate would be 31 percent, almost one-third of the entire population.  Even with government assistant for the poor, the top one percent of people in the U.S. more than doubled their share of the national income in that 50 years, creating an inequality not seen since 1928 when the top one percent got 23.9 percent of all pre-tax income and the bottom 90 percent shared 50.7 percent.

In this election year—and the precursor to the 2016 presidential campaign—GOP potential candidates are most likely going to use the subject of poverty on the podium. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is also working to solve the problem through God—nothing more specific at this time. His idea of a war on poverty so far relies heavily on promoting volunteerism and encouraging work through existing federal programs. “Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s ideas revert back a couple of centuries to the “turkey basket” approach toward helping people when the poor had to count on charitable gestures, usually from a church. He mixes that philosophy with Adam Smith’s position that capitalism will bring a “universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is trying to show that he is the first in the pack to address poverty, a much safer approach than the promotion of immigration reform that ended up dragging him down in the GOP. As usual, he attacked the issue by whining about the failures of the past. “After 50 years, isn’t it time to declare big government’s war on poverty a failure?” Rubio asked. He skipped over the facts that Republican presidents ruled the country during 60 percent of that time and that the reign of George W. Bush created a huge disaster with war expenses and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Thus far, Rubio, like Ryan, has no concrete ideas, but his agenda “would create an economy with more good-paying middle-class jobs and a government with less debt” as well as “repeal ObamaCare and … replace it with more affordable healthcare options.” He added, “[The agenda] would save and strengthen our retirement programs for future generations.” The GOP has been promising—and failing to provide—“good-paying middle-class jobs” since the 2010 election, and the party’s idea of strengthening retirement programs is to make seniors pay more for living and health care. Repealing health care is always the answer for GOP conservatives to make their mark.

Rubio is off to a bad start: yesterday he voted against moving the extension of unemployment benefits forward to a vote. His state of Florida also cuts off these benefits at an earlier stage, paying for only 16 weeks. Benefits are also lower than other states, and unemployed workers are out of work in Rubio’s state for the longest period in the nation. He is not alone in being a senator of a state in desperate need and still voting no: many GOP senators who also voted no, represent states with the highest unemployment rates in the United States.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is pitching a plan in Detroit to revitalize urban centers through “economic freedom zones” which would slash taxes for corporations. His austerity plan was rolled out in a new African-American voter outreach center office where the audience was largely white.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) answer to eliminating poverty is to provide use federal funding for school choice. Incensed because New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested that he would charge rents in the for-profit charter schools, Cantor has threatened to hold hearings about these rents. Cantor’s goal is to destroy public education by giving the government funding to private schools.

These GOP members of Congress agree, however, on eliminating extended unemployment benefits and shredding the safety net, including the huge reduction of food stamps. Their desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act includes their wish to wipe out Medicaid expansion for people at and below the poverty line. In addition, they oppose raising the minimum wage, a solution that would raise almost six million people out of poverty. As typical of conservatives, they promote a mix of tax breaks and privatization approaches in an attempt to repackage their old failed positions.

This morning, Arthur Laffer, economist adviser to President Reagan, argued on the Fox network that the minimum wage is actually the “black teenage unemployment act” because it keeps teens out of the labor force. Laffer is not alone; many conservatives see low-income workers as black and young. They’re wrong: 84 percent are over 20, and 57 percent are white. Almost half work full time.

Raising the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would fulfill the GOP wish that people work for what they get. At this time, the minimum doesn’t keep a parent above the poverty line or make market rent in any state. In the 1960s, minimum wage, equivalent to $10.65 today, was enough to keep a family of three out of poverty. Worker productivity has increased so radically, that the minimum should be $18.30 to keep up with the 1960s. A $10.10 minimum would increase the GDP by $22.1 billion and support at least 85,000 new jobs.

Eighty percent of people in the country support this minimum, including two-thirds of GOP members. Two-thirds of the people support an increase to $10.25 per hour. Yet many members of the GOP want to lower, not increase, the minimum wage.

A history of the safety net during the 20th century shows that the objections to helping the poor come from the expansion of aid to minorities 50 years ago. The objections kept climbing to Mitt Romney’s complaint—in private—that 47 percent of people in the United States are “dependent upon government.” After his loss, Romney echoed the complaints of the 1960s when he accused Barack Obama of being re-elected because he “focused on giving targeted groups a big gift—so he made a big effort on small things. Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”

Romney lost, but his running mate, Paul Ryan, will probably run again. His budget decimates Johnson’s War on Poverty, harshly impacting women and people of color. It repeals the Affordable Care Act, takes food stamps from over 12 million people, and causes steep reductions in child care, Head Start, job training, Pell Grants, housing, energy assistance, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare.

These are the programs used during the War on Poverty to bring some people out of poverty. These are the programs that GOP presidential wannabes want to erradicate. 

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