Jamila Michener, assistant professor of government, specializes in the field of American politics. Michener argues Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal is a classic Republican strategy that hurts the poor.
“Paul Ryan’s recent budget proposal follows a classic Republican strategy: cut taxes for the wealthy, slash programs for the poor. Ryan would finance this plan through massive reductions in federal spending achieved by converting funds for Medicaid and food stamps into block grants distributed to the states to use as they see fit. This is nothing new. Ronald Regan, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush each proposed it in their heyday.
“Ample evidence suggests that block grants enable marked retrenchment in anti-poverty efforts. A disturbing but less acknowledged consequence is that they induce baseless inequities. Even advocates like Newt Gingrich admit that, ‘different states will do different things’ when given more flexibility. In this way, block grants unduly tether a poor person’s receipt of vital goods to their geographic location. Unfortunately for disproportionate numbers of low-income folks, many states have bad track records of caring for the indigent when left to their own devices. In such places, it won’t matter if poor people work hard, live upstanding lives, take good care of their children and do everything else that people like Ryan insist they must. Their ability to have illnesses treated or food to eat will be determined by state residence.
“In a federalist system like the U.S., cross-state disparities are par for the course. However, marginalized populations are currently and perennially at the losing end of this deal: state variation in public assistance, regressive taxation, incarceration, educational opportunities and more, translate into cascading disadvantages that hinge on where the poor live. Block grants must be critiqued in light of this unjust reality.”