Wisconsin Public Radio

Ryan’s New Foundation Will Fight Poverty

Janesville-based American Idea Foundation will promote free market, kick-started with $7 million in campaign funds.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Oct 29th, 2019 11:04 am
Paul Ryan. Photo from the Office of the Speaker of the House.

Paul Ryan. Photo from the Office of the Speaker of the House.

Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has launched a new anti-poverty foundation in his hometown of Janesville.

Ryan, who spent two decades in Congress, made poverty a focus of his political career. He kick-started the American Idea Foundation earlier this year with $7 million from his congressional account, according to the Associated Press.

In a video featuring panoramic shots of the Statue of Liberty and footage of former President Ronald Reagan, Ryan outlined the goals of the organization.

“The American Idea Foundation will focus its efforts on promoting free-market principles that advance economic growth, that expand upward mobility, that reduce poverty, so we can make a lasting difference,” he said in the video.

In the House of Representatives, Ryan proposed work requirements for people who receive government benefits. He also called for letting states scrap benefit programs and fund anti-poverty organizations instead. The underlying idea was that the federal government spends trillions of dollars on failed programs that don’t to lift people out of poverty, but that conclusion has been called into question.

This year’s Wisconsin Poverty Report found that government benefits reduced poverty in the state.

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and report author Tim Smeeding said he likes parts of Ryan’s philosophy, but the government needs to play a role in helping low-income people.

“Work alone is not the solution to poverty. It is the best solution, if we can get more people to work,” he said. “But people have childc are issues, they have income support issues, they have housing cost issues, they have food issues.”

Smeeding, who said he met with Ryan and discussed the new initiative, called Ryan’s approach to poverty fighting “compassionate conservative.”

In fact, Ryan’s focus on poverty makes him a rare breed among Republicans, said Matt Weidinger, a self-described Ryan fan and poverty researcher at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.

“If he were a Democrat and had devoted as much of his career and intellectual energy to thinking about anti-poverty policy, he would be a pretty noteworthy Democrat,” he said.

Weidinger, who worked with Ryan for years on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Ryan’s lasting legacy on welfare policy is his push for “evidence-based policy.”

Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, wrote the Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, a law that requires agencies to collect data about the effectiveness of their programs and present them to the government budget office.

Ryan will continue to promote evidence-based policymaking with the American Idea Foundation, spokesperson Kevin Seifert wrote in an email.

“The Foundation’s focus is to identify policy solutions that are working in communities across the country, strengthen their credibility by developing quantifiable metrics and evidence, and then educate lawmakers in the hopes of expanding these proven solutions to more areas of the country,” he wrote.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Paul Ryan Launches Foundation In Janesville To Fight Poverty was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

One thought on “Ryan’s New Foundation Will Fight Poverty”

  1. Thomas Martinsen says:

    If Ryan cared at all about people who live in poverty, he would not have promoted Trump’s “Tax Reform” (sic) “gift to the richest of the rich” bill that richly rewarded those who prosper on inherited wealth and investment income at the expense of those who work for a living. Ryan fights poverty in the spirit of Spiro Agnew or Donald Trump fighting corruption.

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