America’s poor need bigger checks, not a ‘life plan’

America’s poor need bigger checks, not a ‘life plan’

[Ed. – Bigger checks … written by whom?]

What if the poor need more than disposable income to escape poverty? What if they need a life coach?

That’s the position of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who in his new anti-poverty plan wants poor families to work with government agencies or charitable nonprofits to craft “life plans” as a condition of receiving federal assistance under his proposed “opportunity grants.” “In the envisioned scenario providers would work with families to design a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty,” Ryan writes. At a minimum, these life plans would include “a contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success,” a “timeline” for meeting them, “sanctions” for breaking them, “incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract,” and “time limits”—presumably independent of actual program limits—for “remaining on cash assistance.”

Even for conservatives—who champion welfare drug tests and robust work requirements—this is breathtakingly paternalistic. As Annie Lowrey notes for New York magazine, “[I]t isolates the poor. Middle-class families don’t need to justify and prostrate themselves for tax credits. Businesses aren’t required to submit an ‘action plan’ to let the government know when they’ll stop sucking the oxygen provided by federal grant programs.” What’s more, as she also points out, it treats the poor as if they want to stay that way and all but punishes “the poorest and most unstable families for their poverty and instability.” As with other measures that tie aid to “accountability”—like family caps for welfare—a sanction can spark a downward spiral to deeper poverty.

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