Rhetoric Versus Real Impact of Proposals to Reduce Poverty


June 9, 2016

Editor’s note: This piece was originally published on RESULTS’ blog on Tuesday, June 7. RESULTS is a co-sponsor of an event CHN is hosting on Thursday, June 16 at 1:00pm ET entitled, “What Works – and What Doesn’t – to Reduce Poverty and Expand Opportunity.” The event will be an evidence-based discussion of effective and ineffective anti-poverty programs and how the Ryan poverty plan measures up. It will be live-streamed and viewers as well as attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions. All registrants will receive links to related reports and analyses. To register, click here.


Too often the rhetoric about poverty in America focuses on the “failure” of anti-poverty programs, despite evidence that anti-poverty programs reduce poverty by about half. Just last week, RESULTS Experts on Poverty powerfully shared how programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp program), impact their lives. Of course, there is more to be done – we must push for ending poverty to be a top political priority, with specific proposals to strengthen anti-poverty programs.

Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Task Force on Poverty released its recommendations. At first analysis, the proposals from House Speaker Ryan would by and large leave millions of Americans worse off. The recommendations focus on:

    • requiring safety net program participants to work,
    • giving states flexibility and streamlining anti-poverty programs,
    • changing policies that “trap” people into poverty while “getting the incentives right” to move people away from participating in safety net programs, and
    • measuring results.

While there were not a tremendous amount of detail in the Task Force proposals, as we detail in our U.S. Poverty Campaigns Background Packet and May Action Sheet, proposals that shift oversight of SNAP and other key programs to the states in the name of “flexibility” and “streamlining” are just a veiled way to say “block granting” (lump sum payments to states). As we have discussed previously, this could be devastating for millions of struggling Americans who need SNAP to put food on the table. The focus on work requirements, especially with limited support for education and job training, is also extremely dangerous. In addition, many anti-poverty advocates have pointed out the stark contrast between House Republican leaders rhetoric versus their “budget priorities, however, are unmistakable – they would cut programs for low- and modest-income people dramatically.”

At a simultaneous event as the release of the Ryan Poverty Task Force, RESULTS 2016 International Conference Speaker Senator Sherrod Brown made a powerful case for building on the success of efforts to save key tax provisions last year to expand the EITC for workers without children. Watch his remarks, along with speeches by Representatives Hoyer, DeLauro, and Moore (a 2015 RESULTS conference speaker) here. In the months and years ahead, we will push policymakers to make ending poverty a top priority with policies that will make a real difference.

Budget and Appropriations
child poverty
Earned Income Tax Credit
Poverty and Income
Ryan poverty plan
tax policy