Robert Reich Slams Paul Ryan’s House Budget Committee Report

Analysis

Professor Robert Reich slammed Repl Paul Ryan’s House Budget Committee just-released report on poverty. Reich made the comments on his Facebook page:

Rep. Paul Ryan’s House Budget Committee just released a report entitled "The War On Poverty: 50 Years Later" that notes the scandalous reality of American poverty today (22 percent of our nation’s children are in poverty, and "deep poverty" has reached its highest level on record), but blames it on the same tired old boogeymen the right has trotted out for a half century — the "failure" of federal poverty programs, including the "poverty trap" of dependence on federal programs. This is absurd on its face. Most of those federal programs are now mere shadows of their former selves. Welfare is gone. Unemployment insurance is available to fewer than 60 percent of the unemployed. Food stamps are being cut. Ryan and his colleagues have even succeeded is slashing programs for women, infants, and children.

Here’s the truly extraordinary thing: Ryan’s report never once mentions America’s savage increase in inequality over the last half century. But poverty is precisely and directly connected to widening inequality because

  1. when most income goes to the top, the vast middle doesn’t have the purchasing power needed to get the economy out of first gear, which causes high unemployment — especially for those with the least skills and education;
  2. when income and wealth are concentrated at the top the rich have enough political power to reduce their tax rates, and as real median household incomes drop the middle class doesn’t have the will or ability to pay more in taxes — with the result that tax revenues can’t pay for adequate education, social services, jobs programs, and job training needed by the poor; and
  3. when the income ladder elongates, upward mobility is far harder because movement up the ladder results in less gain.

That Ryan and company don’t mention any of this shows how utterly ignorant he and his colleagues are about what’s really happening to America.

Robert Bernard Reich is an American politician, academic, writer, and political commentator. He served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, from 1993 to 1997, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the ten most successful cabinet secretaries of the last century. In 2008 he served on President-elect Barack Obama’s econ Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.