WASHINGTON — Rep. Paul Ryan called for a “new battle plan” in the war on poverty and said that government should not be on the “front lines” of the fight during a speech Wednesday at TedxPennsylvaniaAvenue.
“People ask me is, ‘Why do you care about this? You’re a Republican,'” the Wisconsin congressman joked, drawing laughter and applause.
For much of his talk, Ryan focused on promoting data and outcomes in measuring the success of anti-poverty efforts.
“The problem is our strategy. It’s the way we think about poverty. Most of us think poverty is about deprivation — or not having enough money. We treat empty wallets like potholes. Fill them up and move on,” said Ryan, continuing to say,” When we’re making policy, we focus on inputs, like how many programs we create or how much money we spend. What we need to do is focus on outcomes — like how many people get off welfare and find a job.”
Along with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, Ryan has introduced the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015.
“The commission would figure out how we can use data to evaluate public policy and report back to Congress,” he told the attendees. “The bill is working its way through the legislative process, and all signs look good.”
He also spoke on the efforts of a community leader named Shirley Holloway, who runs the House of Help City of Hope, an organization designed to help those going through drug and alcohol dependency.
This organization is also ran by Robert Woodson, a civil rights activist, who has been called Ryan’s “guru.”
He told the story of how Holloway helped a veteran and recovering drug addict named James Woods. When telling this story Ryan focused on the importance of credibility.
“There’s a reason Shirley Holloway got through to James Woods. She had credibility. He knew he could trust her. And when she gave him advice … and taught him new skills … and held him accountable … he listened. Credibility is the key to unlocking people’s potential. Credibility is what makes the policy effective,” said the congressman.
Ryan continues to say that credibility is the “ultimate weapon in the war on poverty.” The Congressman issued,” a call to action: to rethink the war on poverty. We need a new battle plan,” said the former VP Candidate.
Ryan was vague though on how he’d actually implement “credibility.”
The government should not be on the “front lines” of the fight, he explained.
“The federal government is the rearguard; it should direct the supply lines. But the people in our communities — they’re the vanguard; they should fight poverty on the front lines. This role reversal is the single best change we can make,” said Ryan.
The Republican congressman was introduced as a bipartisan thinker, and in efforts to reassure the crowd he pointed out that his safety net reform last year didn’t cut spending for the poor. “If the American idea is not true for everybody, then it is not true at all.”