Washington D.C., Oct 25, 2012 / 15:35 pm
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Oct. 24 that he believes reforming poverty aid programs and allowing religious and civil institutions to flourish is the most effective and compassionate way to help the millions of Americans in poverty.
“Americans are a compassionate people, and there’s a consensus in this country about our fundamental obligations to society’s most vulnerable,” he said in a policy address at Cleveland State University on Wednesday.
“Those obligations are not what we are debating in politics,” he explained. “Most times, the real debate is about whether they are best met by private groups or by the government.”
Ryan argued that the poor will receive more relief from “a dynamic, free-enterprise-based economy that fosters economic growth and opportunity and upward mobility” than from expansive federal government programs.
The Wisconsin congressman – who is Catholic – has faced criticism from numerous poverty relief groups over his recent budget proposal, which would cut funding levels of several prominent social aid programs.
Ryan rejected accusations that he believes the poor should be left to “fend for themselves.” Rather, he argued that he believes in “true compassion and upward mobility” based on “real reforms for lifting people out of poverty.”
A country’s compassion is not simply measured by how much the federal government spends, he said, calling for Americans to “take a hard look” at the federal government’s approach to poverty in the last 50 years, which he described as “centralized, bureaucratic, top-down.”
This system has caused problems, he said, leading to dependency and harming families and communities. These problems became so apparent that by the 1990s a major welfare reform law was “passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic president,” he noted.
Ryan argued that the reforms were successful, leading to lower welfare enrollment without increases in hunger or poverty. Millions of Americans achieved greater levels of independence, while employment levels for single mothers rose and child poverty rates fell more than 20 percent in four years.
Due to their success, the congressman asserted, these reforms should be applied to other anti-poverty programs as well.