Paul Ryan: War on poverty 'not getting the results we need'

Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Nancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? MORE (R-Wis.) said Sunday that the decades-old war on poverty has failed low-income communities and called for Washington to play a lesser role in dictating proposed solutions.


"After a 50-year war on poverty and trillions of dollars spent, we still have the same poverty rates – 45 million people in poverty," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "What we as a country – this isn't a Republican-Democrat thing – it's we as a country need to say, "That's not good enough. … We're not getting the results we need."

Ryan, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and former vice presidential candidate, said federal programs aimed at alleviating poverty should be scaled back to allow states a great role in the effort.

"What the federal government's good at doing is providing resources. What the federal government is bad at doing is dictating solutions," he said. "What I think the federal government has done is displaced local problem solving with top-down, one-size-fits-all, and it's not working."

The debate over poverty has raged in recent weeks as the congressional debate over budgets and government spending has overlapped with the violence in Baltimore that followed the death of a young black man in the custody of city police.

The Republicans' 2016 budget plan, which passed the House last Thursday with no Democratic support, is designed to balance the federal books over a decade, largely with cuts to domestic programs aimed at reducing unemployment, particularly in low-income communities.

Ryan defended that approach Sunday, saying that spending levels are not as important as spending effectively.

"It's not a function of pumping more money into the same failed system because we'll just get the same failed result," he said. "It's rethinking how we actually attack the root causes of poverty. All we do these days effectively is treat the symptoms of poverty."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), senior Democrat on the Budget Committee, rejected that approach Sunday, arguing that poverty would be much worse without the government programs the Republicans are attacking.

"Absolutely we need to do a lot more, but it has not been a failure," Van Hollen said on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "If you did not have the Great Society war on poverty, 40 million more Americans would be in poverty."

Ryan, the former Budget Committee chairman, said the top-down approach has backfired by creating a dependency on government that discourages work. He's calling for a new round of welfare reform that grants more power to the states.

"I would consolidate many of our federal poverty programs into flexible programs to go to our states," he said. "We're actually dis-incentivizing a person from getting on with their life and going to work. It-it pays not to take that risk to take a job to go help improve your life because of the benefits you lose."