Obama is right: Paul Ryan’s budget is a ‘stinkburger’

Paul Ryan’s yearly Misanthropic Paroxysm, otherwise known as the Ryan Budget Proposal, would be laughable for its sophistry if it didn’t simply stink of Dickensian mean-spiritedness.

95b6c9d5-28f2-4265-80f9-7dc06e736fa4To back up his budget proposal with scholarly data, Rep. Ryan spearheaded the publication of a companion paper, The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later, to show how truthful his budget proposal is. All it showed was how false and mean-spirited The Path to Prosperity:  A Responsible, Balanced Budget, The House Republican Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Resolution is.

However, as The Fiscal Times points out in their article, Economists Say Paul Ryan Misrepresented Their Research, that Ryan’s paper, The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later, is documented with hundreds of erroneous mentions from academic work on federal anti-poverty programs. The Ryan paper scoured the academic papers for evidence for and against the anti-poverty programs’ effectiveness, however almost every citation is false.

“Today, the poverty rate is stuck at 15 percent—the highest in a generation,” The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later proclaimed, and the paper cited a study published by the Columbia Population Research Center measuring the decline in poverty in the U.S. since 1967.

However, one of the Columbia study’s authors, Professor Jane Waldfogel, complained that Ryan’s paper seemed to arbitrarily drop off two of the most successful years of the war on poverty from 1967 to 1969. Waldfogel and her colleagues examined the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), a measure taking into account many factors including food stamps (SNAP) and the earned-income tax credit, and found the SPM poverty rate fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012. However by citing data only from 1969 onward, Ryan ignored a full 36 percent of the impressive decline.

Another author of the Columbia paper, Chris Wimer, said Ryan’s paper ignores the expansion of the earned-income tax credit in 1993 and the dotcom economy of the mid-to-late 1990s. Wimer said, “While our data can’t disentangle those three things, attributing the decline in poverty after 1993 to the welfare reform of 1996 seems to go beyond what the data show.”

Do you really want Paul Ryan's budget? (Public Domain)
Do you really want Paul Ryan’s budget? (Public Domain)

Ryan’s report misstates the findings of another paper on housing assistance and labor outcomes, saying that “recipients initially experience an average annual decline in earnings of $858 in the initial year of voucher receipt. However, the negative income effect decreased to $277 five years after voucher receipt.”

The author of that paper, Barbara Wolfe a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said, “This is misstated. Our findings are a decrease of $598 NOT his $858 and in five years the decrease we estimate is $47.46 (which is not statistically different from zero).”

The string of misstatements, misinterpretations and outright falsehoods in The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later, designed to prove the veracity of the 2015 Ryan Budget only proves how truly decrepit it is.

Paul ryan and Patty Murray announce budget deal. (CNN Screenshot)
Paul ryan and Patty Murray announce budget deal. (CNN Screenshot)

President Barak Obama labeled Rep. Ryan’s budget a ‘stinkburger.’ “If they tried to sell this sandwich at Zingerman’s (a Delicatessen, Ann Arbor, MI) they’d have to call it the Stinkburger or the Meanwich,” Obama quipped.

Ryan’s budget hacks out  more than $5 trillion from entitlements, SNAP, Medicaid and the social safety net. It converts Medicaid into block grants that are then handed to the states to administer, and unfortunately many states have diverted a majority of federal anti-poverty funds for programs outside of their intended purpose.

Soon after welfare reform was enacted in 1996, about 70 percent of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants went to pay for basic cash assistance for poor families. By 2012, that number had fallen to 29 percent, while states spent only 8 percent on services intended to help people transition from welfare into the workforce. According to Mother Jones, “In 2012, Louisiana spent 7 percent of its $261 million in TANF funds on basic assistance, down from 36 percent in 2001.”

With block grants, poverty struck citizens are denied vital assistance while states can avoid raising taxes through a diversion of funds to other programs.  No wonder Paul Ryan wants to trash LBJ’s War on Poverty! Just declare it a failure and then make it fail by pilfering its funds. It’s terrible. It’s sneaky. It’s mean-spirited, and any politician who supports the Ryan budget proposal deserves to be haunted by the three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.