�Reform conservatism� is all the rage in the GOP these days. From middle class plans in �Room to Grow� to anti-poverty reform ideas fromMarco Rubio and Paul Ryan, many on the right are rushing to prove they can �govern� (you know, use the levers of big government not actually shrink the government).
Ryan unveiled his plan yesterday in a presentation at AEI. The centerpiece of his idea is �the opportunity grant�.
In participating states, the federal government would consolidate a number of means-tested programs into a new Opportunity Grant (OG) program. The largest contributions would come from SNAP, TANF, child-care, and housing-assistance programs, and the funding would be deficit-neutral relative to current law.First of all, �deficit-neutral� means we�re not cutting any money or programs here, we just spending it differently.
So now that saving money is off the table, what�s so great about how this money will now be spent?
Participating states would have to offer at least one alternative benefit provider other than the state.
In the envisioned scenario providers would work with families to design a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty. When crafting a life plan, they would include, at a minimum:� A contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success
� A timeline for meeting these benchmarks
� Sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract
� Incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract
� Time limits for remaining on cash assistance
The OG program will also be more responsive to different needs. For example, it makes little sense to provide a household with a consistent stream of SNAP benefits when what the household may need most is reliable transportation to and from work. Giving providers this kind of flexibility will allow them to intervene early on with targeted benefits in cases where short-term assistance can prevent someone from falling into deeper poverty
Some of this is silly but all of it is unrelated to government as it actually works in the real world.
Does anyone think an army of federally subsidized state worker or charity based life coaches are going to effectively sit down with millions of people on public assistance to create a personal �roadmap out of poverty� complete with a timeline of milestones to be met? Is the problem of poverty (at least the deep inter-generational kind) that people don�t have a game plan? The real problems of poverty are often poor life choices, terrible luck in being born into some horrific circumstances, finding yourself locked not into an education system but a union pay and pension racket and on and on. No amount of positive affirmations and tricks from the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People are going to undo that.
And why will know this new and exciting approach is working better than the old way? We�ll do studies!