The American Enterprise Institute held an event Thursday commemorating the 50th anniversary of the start of the War on Poverty. The event, “Expanding Opportunity in America,” featured House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as well as a panel of experts. At the event, Chairman Ryan unveiled his plan of policy reforms to “reduce poverty and increase upward mobility throughout America." Importantly, he estimates that the plan is budget-neutral and says that no federal funding to states would be reduced from current levels. The full video of the event can be viewed here. In addition to Ryan, the panel included:
- Stuart Butler, Heritage Foundation
- Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution
- Bob Woodson, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise
- Moderator: Robert Doar, AEI
Ryan said that his main goal in developing the plan was to “give hardworking taxpayers a break” by providing them with a strong and effective safety net to fall back on. A main facet of this safety net is the idea of “Opportunity Grants,” which would be block grants to states to replace 11 current anti-poverty programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps). Unlike other block grant proposals, his plan offers the same amount of funding to states as they currently receive - making it deficit-neutral - but “gives them more flexibility in exchange for more accountability.” States would have the flexibility to use funds in different ways, but they would be required to submit a plan for their programs that demonstrated how they had moved people out of poverty, included work requirements for able-bodied adults, and utilized some non-governmental service providers. Ryan aims to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of antipoverty efforts by consolidating program offices and individualizing aid plans.