| WASHINGTON, July 23
WASHINGTON, July 23 Republican Representative
Paul Ryan will probably spark a new round of arguments over how
to fight poverty in America on Thursday as he introduces a
sweeping plan to replace long-standing social safety net
programs with new block grants for states and communities.
Ryan, his party's vice presidential candidate in 2012, is
best known for his budget blueprints marked by deep domestic
spending cuts. This time, the chairman of the House Budget
Committee will unveil his plan to keep social safety net funding
at the same levels but change the way it is used in a speech on
Thursday to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative
think tank in Washington.
Instead of distributing money to the poor via food stamps,
welfare checks and housing subsidies, Ryan would leave it up to
states and local groups to apply for block grants aimed at
encouraging people to take entry-level jobs instead of staying
home and receiving welfare benefits.
Bob Woodson, who helped develop the plan as founder of the
Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, said Ryan's grant program
would be more flexible and better tailored to poor communities'
needs. Community and faith-based organizations would apply for
funds and have to demonstrate they can produce positive results,
"Everything is intended to reward work," said Woodson, whose
tax-exempt nonprofit group supports organizations in troubled
neighborhoods. "It has as its goal to produce greater
independence and self-sufficiency and not just to continue to
tangle people in a safety net web."
Ryan is seen as a possible Republican presidential contender
for 2016. Should he seek that nomination, many of the ideas he
will present in a speech on Thursday to the American Enterprise
Institute are likely to find their way into his campaign
The Republican congressman from Wisconsin said in a report
in March that existing federal safety net programs were
haphazard and had largely failed to reduce poverty over the past
50 years, despite a cost of $799 billion in fiscal 2012.
Some groups who advocate for the poor are already
criticizing Ryan's approach and assumptions. The Center for
Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank in
Washington, argued that Columbia University research shows that
food stamps and the earned income tax credit have reduced
poverty rates significantly since 1967.
Ryan "is entitled to propose whatever he wants," said Robert
Greenstein, CBPP's president. "He is not, however, entitled to
distort the nation's poverty record to sell his plan - and
hopefully he will not do so."
One area of rare agreement between Ryan and Democratic
President Barack Obama is the proposed expansion of the earned
income tax credit to include single earners. The credit provides
a refund check to the working poor to boost income and encourage
Ryan's plan will also seek to increase choice in public
education and ease regulations associated with licensing for
jobs such as taxi drivers, which in some states prohibit those
with criminal records, said Stuart Butler of the conservative
Heritage Foundation, who has reviewed the plan.
Democrats planned to use Ryan's speech to promote their
alternatives, such as Obama's proposal to raise the federal
minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25.
"We will oppose any plan that uses the sunny language of
'reform' as a guise to cut vital safety-net programs," U.S.
Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat from California, and U.S.
Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland, wrote
in an opinion piece published online on Wednesday by The
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jan