Paul Ryan Tries To Talk Financial Sense On Welfare But No One Is Listening. Is He Going Far Enough?

One of the things I really miss in conservatism are books like those I read as a teen, such as Walter Williams’ The State Against Blacks, and Charles Murray’s Losing Ground. Murray’s book was especially good in showing how welfare had increased the problems it was aimed at solving.

Lately, with the media and the Democrats executing a leftward surge, I find it disheartening that Republicans don’t seem to say much about the problems with welfare—especially for the people they are supposed to help.

So I was glad to see this headline at The Hill: “Ryan: Welfare programs making poverty worse.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Monday issued a 204-page critique of federal anti-poverty programs that concludes many of them are redundant, counterproductive and in need of reform.

“Federal programs are not only failing to address the problem. They are also in some significant respects making it worse,” the report states.

The report finds the federal poverty rate is at 15 percent, a drop of only 2.5 percentage points since President Lyndon Johnson launched a war on poverty 50 years ago. The poverty rate has remained high despite the government spending $799 billion on 92 programs to combat poverty in fiscal 2012, including $200 billion in cash aid and $300 billion on healthcare.

I haven’t had time to read the critique yet, but I do wonder if it is quite as good as conservative scholarship in the past. I, for one, would prefer we talk about “abolition,” rather than the “reform” of welfare programs.

On food stamps, the report says the $78 billion per year program “reduces poverty — but not by much.” It argues that food stamps discourage work and only lowered poverty from 17.6 percent to 16.1 percent in fiscal 2012.

“Clearly, we can do better,” Ryan said. “We can rework these federal programs and help families in need lead lives of dignity.”

How do food stamps reduce poverty at all? I’m not clear what Ryan means. If he means that, with food stamps calculated as income, then your income might come out above the official poverty level, I think that is trivial. If you are dependent on government to give you stuff then you are still poor.

And I’m not happy selling a message that we are more competent than Democrats in running a welfare state. I would submit that the welfare state cannot be run efficiently. We would all be better off scrapping it.

Still, I have downloaded the report and will read it in the hope that it might be helpful.