Usual Suspects Miss Point

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Ninety Georgetown faculty members and administrators have gone public with a letter attacking Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget proposal but the bill of particulars in the missive does not match up to the content of his plan. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., chairs the U. S. House Budget Committee.

“Cuts to anti-hunger programs have devastating consequences,” they wrote.  “Last year, one in six Americans lived below the official poverty level and over 46 million Americans – almost half of them children – used food stamps for basic nutrition. We also know how cuts in Pell Grants will make it difficult for low-income students to pursue their educations at colleges across the nation, including Georgetown. At a time when charities are strained to the breaking point and local governments have a hard time paying for essential services, the federal government must not walk away from the most vulnerable.”

Here’s what the Ryan budget states on federal aid to higher education: “The government’s well-intentioned approach to higher education and job training in America has failed those who most need these forms of assistance. Federal tuition subsidies are often captured by (and to a certain extent drive) rapidly rising tuition costs for those higher-education programs that should be the first rung on the ladder of opportunity. Meanwhile, dozens of job-training programs suffer from overlapping  responsibilities and too often lack accountability. This budget begins to address the problem of tuition inflation and consolidates a complex maze of dozens of job‐training programs into more accessible, accountable career scholarships aimed at empowering American workers with the resources they need to pursue their dreams.

Here’s the Ryan budget on food stamps: “The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) serves an important role in the safety net by providing food aid to low‐income Americans. But this program cannot continue to grow at its current rates. “

“State governments receive federal dollars in proportion to how many people they enroll in the program, which gives them an incentive to add more individuals to the rolls,” the Ryan budget proposal notes. “State governments have little incentive to make sure that able‐bodied adults on SNAP are working, looking for work, or enrolled in job training programs. This leads to a program rife with waste, fraud and abuse.”  In other words, the committee’s budget would ask that in return for food stamps, the recipients at least apply for jobs.

“By providing states with incentives to reduce fraud and abuse, the federal government can ensure its SNAP dollars address hunger and malnutrition in the United States without lining the pockets of criminals.”

As it happens, the Ryan plan bears more than a passing resemblance to the historic welfare reform that Democratic President Bill Clinton signed into law. As Clinton’s U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) described it: “Under the new law, recipients must work after two years on assistance, with few exceptions. Twenty-five percent of all families in each state must be engaged in work activities or have left the rolls in fiscal year (FY) 1997, rising to 50 percent in FY 2002. Single parents must participate for at least 20 hours per week the first year, increasing to at least 30 hours per week by FY 2000. Two-parent families must work 35 hours per week by July 1, 1997.”

By the way, here’s what the Ryan budget actually says about “privatizing” Medicare:

“When younger workers become eligible for Medicare a decade or more from today, they will be able to choose  from a list of guaranteed coverage options, including a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan. This flexibility will allow seniors to enjoy the same kind of choices in their plans that members of Congress  enjoy. Medicare will provide a payment  to subsidize the cost of the plan, and forcing plans to compete against each other to serve the patient will help ensure guaranteed affordability. In addition, Medicare will provide increased assistance for lower-income beneficiaries and those with greater health risks. Reform that empowers individuals —with a strengthened safety net for the poor and the sick —will guarantee that Medicare can fulfill the promise of health security for America’s seniors.”

Thus, the dreaded privatization of Medicare that Ryan’s detractors assail him for is optional, not compulsory, and with the costs still borne by taxpayer-provided federal  funds.

Finally, on Obamacare, the Ryan budget notes that: “Though the right to freedom of conscience has not been respected in the waiver process, the administration has for other reasons granted over 1,400 businesses and organizations temporary waivers from the law’s requirements.”

Now why don’t the Georgetown faculty write a letter about that, after reading both Obamacare, the waiver guidelines and the Ryan budget, of course. That would entail research based on primary sources, a skill colleges are supposed to pass on, especially when  those resources are available online.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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