Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Guru Still Expects Some Legislation “This Year”

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 3 2014 8:43 AM

Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Guru Still Expects Some Legislation “This Year”

"This year? Really?" Ryan thinks.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In the months leading up to the release of Rep. Paul Ryan's new budget, leaks to friendly sources suggested it would contain something new. "The upcoming House Republican budget will focus on welfare reform and recommend a sweeping overhaul of social programs," reported Robert Costa last month, after Ryan had given some short speeches about poverty and released a study of possible overhauls to programs. "Putting a comprehensive anti-poverty agenda alongside efforts to devise an alternative to the federal health-care law is a GOP priority."

But the budget contains none of this—no new health care reforms, no poverty program reforms. Jonathan Chait saw it coming.

Ryan and his colleagues have devoted a lot of rhetorical attention to the 47 percent, or the "takers," and the corresponding need to stop letting them take stuff. Ryan wants it to be known that he does not personally have anything against the takers. And, who knows — maybe he doesn't. But even if you were to exterminate every wisp of anti-taker hostility within the party, what would remain behind is not love but disinterest. He and his party will always care about low taxes and high defense spending more.

Throughout the whole "quiet pitch" period, Ryan had been talking with and touring cities with community organizer Robert Woodson. I called up Woodson to see whether he was disappointed by the lack of solutions in the Ryan budget.

"Both the budgets of the Republicans and the Democrats are political documents," said Woodson. "They’re intended for the next election. Repeal of Obamacare is not going to pass, and raising the federal minimum wage is not going to pass. We have to wait till the election is over to do something serious."

But as we kept talking, Woodson pushed up the schedule.

"This summer, we’re planning to bring our group together—50 allies from around the country," he said. "I think this is an appropriate year to do it. It has be done this year, because of the anniversary of the War on Poverty. And I do think there will be some specific, concrete anti-poverty proposals put on the table. That’s the reason that I consented to take [Ryan] around. But rather than government policy driving programs to aid the poor, we must look at policies that are working from the bottom up."

Woodson was confident that Ryan would come up with something, eventually, and that the activists he'd been listening to would keep hounding him. "To Paul Ryan’s credit, he has asked us for our help and he has taken the time to meet with us and travel with us," he said. I challenge any other politician to do that. Many people who represent poor communities and poor cities aren't doing that."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.