Professor Tim Smeeding of UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs spoke about U.S. Sen. Paul Ryan’s proposal to consolidate federal anti-poverty programs during American Public Media’s Marketplace Morning Report on Friday, January 6, 2016.
House Speaker Ryan of Wisconsin proposed a new way for how the federal government combats poverty two years ago, when he was chair of the House Budget Committee. With presidential primary elections nearing, Ryan’s proposal, which would consolidate several existing aid programs into one funding stream to states, has gained increasing attention.
In his interview with NPR, Smeeding mentioned that block grants to states did not work very well at eliminating poverty based on welfare reform and on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Smeeding noted that block grants to states were fixed amounts that did not account for changing economic conditions or changing needs. As one-time items on the federal budget, block grants fund some creative programs but they abandon the idea of counter cyclical income stabilizers such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), which grew during the Great Recession due to layoffs and lack of jobs.
“Just telling the states, ‘here, do what you want. Take this bundle of programs,’ and they’re off the federal budget then we don’t have to worry about it. Some states will use it creatively and positively and others won’t,” said Smeeding, professor of public affairs and economics.