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Capitol Report – Paul Ryan: The New Compassionate Conservative?

By State Representative, Leon D. Young

Leon D. Young

Leon D. Young

What is Paul Ryan’s ongoing preoccupation with poverty in America?

After all, Mr. Ryan had been taken to the proverbial “political woodshed” earlier this year for some insensitive comments he made on this subject.

More specifically, Ryan had proclaimed that there was a “tailspin of culture,” particularly among inner city men, of “not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

This was a scathing indictment, to put it mildly.

Now, Ryan is back in the national spotlight with his six-pronged anti-poverty plan that includes ways to address incarceration and education and to encourage employment.

Arguably, some might say that Ryan is now singing out of a different prayer book, or is he?

Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman, unveiled several new proposals as part of a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.

The proposals focused on increasing opportunities for low-income households instead of highlighting ways to cut social welfare programs.

However, a centerpiece of Ryan’s new plan calls for an “Opportunity Grant” to begin on a pilot basis.

It would consolidate a range of safety-net programs – from food stamps to housing vouchers — into a single grant offered to states. But, make no mistake: “opportunity” is the new “block.” And, block grants to states don’t have a great track record where poor people are concerned.

More damning, according to a 2012 report by the Center on Budget and policy Priorities, the replacement of the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program “with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant under the 1996 welfare law” provides a “cautionary tale about the dangers of converting basic safety net programs to block grants” because it makes “the cash assistance safety net for the nation’s poorest families with children”grow “weaker, not stronger.”

In truth, Paul Ryan wouldn’t know the real essence of poverty – even, if extended a formal introduction.

Like so many, Ryan probably entertains fantasies of a run for the White House in 2016.

In my view, Paul Ryan’s clumsy attempt to reconstruct his political brand is nothing more than a political ploy; and he remains slightly less clueless than Mitt Romney – the 2012 GOP nominee for president.