Spotlight Exclusives

Congressman Ryan۪s Insider View۝ on the Budget

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As loyal OOTS readers know, Spotlight takes a “big tent” approach, providing a platform for diverse ideas and political perspectives on creating opportunity and reducing poverty.   Most recently, this led us to host two national audio conferences with congressional leaders to learn their “inside views” about the federal budget: The first featured Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) (click here to listen to audio conferenceand today we heard from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).  (click here to listen to audio conference.)

Ryan went out of his way to honor his commitment to be on the call. Despite an unexpected scheduling squeeze, he took extra steps to speak with the Spotlight audience directly from the House floor.  In opening remarks he set out the rationale for his budget plan.  Ryan noted his belief that the federal government has a responsibility to provide an effective “safety net” which “takes care of people when they need help” but that the government should avoid creating a “welfare state” in which individuals face a “life of dependency.”  

In terms of dollar targets for cuts, Ryan explained that he is interested in reaching a number “north” of $2.4 billion for 2012.  When moderator Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution pointed out that this would represent a lot of pain, Ryan stressed his view that the real pain is what happens to our future if we do not now make cuts of the magnitude he urges.  He suggested the U.S. would face the kinds of austerity measure currently taking place in Greece.

Ryan staked his position and took up questions around Head Start, job training, whether or not to provide a circle of protection around the hungry and poor, among other issues.  His view is that many federal programs are currently too generous and need to be more targeted and that others can be cut through consolidation. OOTS readers can click here to listen to the audio call (a transcript will be posted soon).  

While diversity of opinion was anticipated, many listeners may have also heard a divergence over facts.  For example, Ryan asserted that the nation۪s food program, SNAP, is rife with fraud a theme that appeared in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece.   In fact, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities had already posted facts and graphs refuting the assertions made in the WSJ, making  it possible to direct Ryan to these facts during the call.  In brief, there is no rampant abuse. The facts show, for example, that overpayments are down to an historic low of 3 percent.  Of course, any single instance of abuse should be tackled head on but the full picture is one of steady success towards fewer and fewer instances.

OOTS wants to foster civil dialogue.  Reasonable people may disagree about the causes of poverty and the solutionsand we hope these disagreements will always be respectful.  A special challenge is when people disagree about the facts.   We can۪t graph the answer to this challenge but we hope there is a way to tackle it.

Posted by Jodie



Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact


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