House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a 204-page report on Monday analyzing the effectiveness of the nation’s anti-poverty programs 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a national War on Poverty.
The assessment, which is designed to kick off his campaign to revamp federal welfare programs, broadly characterizes federal aid as counterproductive and ineffective. Ryan argues that federal programs have contributed to the nation’s high poverty rate and “created what’s known as the poverty trap.” The report argues, “Federal programs are not only failing to address the problem. They are also in some significant respects making it worse.”
But a closer look at the analysis undermines the old Ronald Reagan adage, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” As Ryan’s own analysis points out, numerous progressive-minded spending programs have helped millions of Americans and significantly reduced the nation’s poverty rate. Below are 16 examples from Ryan’s own report of how the government can help lower-income Americans make ends meet:
Veterans Health Administration is the largest single-payer health care system in the United States. The report finds that the program is “effective in providing access to inexpensive health care for low-income veterans. ”
The Child Tax Credit provides assistance to families with children. “According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the CTC protected about 2.9 million people from falling into poverty, including about 1.5 million children,” the report says.
The Earned Income Tax Credit provides cash assistance to low-income working families. Accord to Ryan, the “consensus among studies on the EITC is that it is an effective tool for encouraging and rewarding work among lower-income individuals, particularly single mothers.”
Rural Housing Assistance Grants fund the repair and improvement of rural housing units. The report finds that the grants “allow very low-income elderly homeowners on a fixed budget to remain at home and independent.”
Title X Family Planning “provides grants to states for family planning and related preventive health services, excluding abortion services.” The report found that the program is “moderately effective.” According to a 2005 OMB assessment, “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 provides funding to states in support of health care costs associated with HIV/AIDS treatments for individuals and families. The initiative “has been shown to fill gaps in Medicaid’s HIV/AIDS services and delivery programs,” the report found.
Housing Opportunities For Persons With AIDS provides housing assistance and supportive services for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. The program was found to be “effective” in “assisting a vulnerable population to achieve beneficial outcome.”
Federal Health Centers provide grants to outpatient primary-care facilities. The report found “fewer racial and ethnic disparities at community health centers” and concluded that they “perform better than private-practice primary case in some cases.” What’s more, medical expenses for health center patients were found to be lower compared to patients who receive care elsewhere.
Homeless Assistance Grants provide rehousing and supportive housing to the homeless. The program has been shown to “decrease homeless and reduce costs related to health care and institutionalization.”
Low income subsidy for Medicare Part D helps low-income seniors access medications they otherwise would not use. “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 report found.
The Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant has helped reduce infant mortality and was rated “effective” by a 2008 OMB report.
Elderly Nutrition Program funds group meals and home-delivered meals for senior citizens. “By and large, studies have found that the program is well targeted towards the low-income elderly and to those with increased risk for nutrition and health problems,” the report says.
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children provides adequate nutrition to pregnant women, infants, and children. “Most of the academic literature supports that the WIC program increases birth weights for low-income women,” the report concludes.
School Breakfast Program increases “both nutrition and academic achievement among low-income children,” the report says, even though “it doesn’t seem to increase the likelihood that a child will eat breakfast.”
Education For Homeless Children and Youth “provides funding for states to create programs to ensure homeless children and youth have access to public education.” The initiative improves “student performance,” studies find.
Child Care and Development Fund helps low-income families afford child care. The report agrees that the subsidies “increase the likelihood of participation in the labor force” and “encourage single mothers to pursue education.”