tv Inside Story Al Jazeera July 25, 2014 5:00pm-5:31pm EDT
better conditions, tony. >> all right. he's going through something. thank you. >> thank you. "inside story" is up next on al jazeera america. . house budget committee chairman paul ryan says there's a better way for governments to help poor people. take the job away from washington and give more of it to the states. would it work? that's the "inside story." hello. i'm ray suarez. for generations the federal
government has amassed huge amounts of money, then used some of it to relieve the worst affects of poverty. some programs are dedicated to make people less likely to be poor. others to making being poor less dangerous and degrading. notably with the new deal and the great society, putting the federal government at the heart of programs to aid the poor set off big philosophical and practical debates. when washington sets the goals and makes the rules and disburses the money, does it deliver help where and when needed. for a long time republicans like representative ryan of wisconsin have answered no. this week the chairman of the house budget committee laid out a plan for a new model today on "inside story" a closer look. >> deep poverty is near record highs. we take a step back and look at all of this, and you have to think, we can do better than
this. >> wisconsin representative paul ryan unveiled a new anti-poverty plan this week. it's called expanding opportunity in america, and it would fundamentally change the federal government's role in combating poverty. >> in my view the federal government is the guard. it protects the supply lines. it's the people on the ground that are the vanguard. they fight poverty on the front lines. >> reporter: the heart of the plan is what ryan calls opportunity grants. the money from 11 federal programs including food stamps, housing assistance, and cash welfare, would be given directly to participating states. before the state got the money, it would have to submit a plan to the federal government for approval. there would also be four caveats to the cash. the people receiving money must work if they're able to. the state welfare agency can't be the only one receiving the money. there must be multiple providers such as local charities, and
there must be a third-party watch dog to monitor the programs. the funds condition be diverted to other state priorities like roads and bridges. >> the idea would be let states try different ways of providing aid and then test the results. in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountabil y accountability. my thinking is get rid of these bureaucratic formulas and put the emphasis on results. >> democratic representatives in the house budget committee immediately criticized the plan fearing its block grant nature would make it too easy to cut in the future. on a press call on thursday, democratic representative chris van holland of maryland said the core idea of the ryan proposal is not a new idea at all. it's nothing more than a block grant gussied up with bells and whistles. if you look at the block grant proposal in the context of the ryan republican budget, it would dramatically slash the resources available to help struggling
families. ryan says he's just trying to start a conversation, and that this is only a discussion draft. >> let's talk solutions, because this really isn't a republican or democratic issue, it's an american issue. >> if you accept that part of the federal government's assi assignment is to help poor people, and not everybody starts there but for the purposes of this debate, it might be a requirement, what's the best way to spend the money and deliver the assistance? as people start to consider the paul ryan proposals, we're taking a closer look this time on the program with bob woodson, founder and president of neighborhood enterprise, and peter adelman, faculty director on the center of equality at georgetown university law center. bob woodson, let me start with you because you're known to have paul ryan's ear and vice versa. what are the main motivating
ideas behind the package, the big thurs? >> the big thrust is unfortunately in the past we have defined help to the poor by how much money we spend on services to the poor. so if you care more, you spend more. if you're harsh and cruel you spend less, and that's a false die ckocot dichotomdichotomy. paul says we must find new and innovative ways to lift people out of poverty and then measure success based upon how many fewer people need assistance versus how many people are requiring it. one other very important distinction, i think we generalize too much about it the poor. not everybody is poor for the same reasons. there are four categories. people are poor because they're just broke. they're out of work. there's been a temporary illness, a breadwinner has died. they suffered a setback.
for them the character is in place, and they use assistance the way it should, as a temporary bridge over troubled times. second category are people whose character is intact and they look at distance centers to be dependent and give up. the third is physically disabled, but the fourth category is the one that concerns us most. people who are poor because of the poor choices that they make. they're drug addicts or engaging in self-destructive behavior. people on the left tend to look at all poor people as if they're category one and people on the right look at them as if they're category four. therefore, it's difficult to get any kind of recent discussion about changing it because we're looking at it through a different prism and trying to argue it like it's one category. >> now by federal standards almost 50 million people in this country are poor.
>> they occupied those categories, okay? the remedy for one group is not necessarily suitable for the other. so what paul is trying to do is say, let's tailor remedies for the problem that is appropriate for the category of poor persons. >> peter adelman, you go some way down the road with bob woodson, wouldn't you? there are different reasons why different people are poor and that in response we should have different policy solutions, no? >> we're okay so far. >> okay. >> the difference is -- there are a number of differences, but just on the categories, the biggest single reason why people are in poverty is economic. it's the fact that we've turned into a nation of low wage jobs. we should be raising the minimum wa wage, and states around the country are doing that.
if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 we would get up to 4 million people out of poverty, raising for 28 million people. that's the heart of it. when you go through bob's categories -- i don't know that i would say it the same way at all, but there certainly is a role for in this complicated thing for people who need help with issues of mental illness, issues of drug and alcohol and so on. it's true we need to find better ways at the local level of delivering those services in a way that relates to the individual person as opposed to fragmented all over the place. the problem here is i don't see congressman ryan saying a thing about the question of lower wage work, when that is the largest problem. >> you would have been sheared if in that document that came out the other day there was a
mention of the fact that a lot of new jobs the economy is creating are low wage jobs? >> absolutely. i do think that when the congressman talks about the income tax credit for people who don't have responsibility, which is so tiny right now, that's a good thing and we should talk about that. where there are things to talk about, when he talks about ex-offenders, but what he has done is to leave out some of the things that are the most important. then when we get to talking about the opportunity grant, i will tell you as congressman van holland said earlier in the program this is not the way to approach this. we certainly want services delivered in a different way, but the proposal here takes food stamps and it turns it into a block grant. that says that a state can define what it is to be hungry. it sets up a fight between the -- because it puts all these things poured into one basket, ray, and it says food stamps, day care, housing, all in the
same basket. by the way, what we need -- >> i'm going to talk about block granting later in the program, but i want bob woodson to respond to that idea, that many millions of poor people work, and they're still poor. what about peter adelman's point? >> first of all, i disagree with him that the problem is just economic. you go to southeast washington and other places where i spent a lot of time. when companies like wellmark and others come in and screen for employees and they screen 500 people and 300 of them can't pass the drug test, others that are hired and don't come to work on time and have irresponsible life skills, or the proliferation of payday loans or the fact that high numbers of poor people use the lottery, buy
lottery tickets. we've got to do more than define the problem than more money to the poor. if you give them more money, this will lift them out of poverty, there is a cultural dimension to it. that's that fourth category. that is you must structure it so that people have to undergo some kind of attitude change, a transformation of their values and of their habits. that has to be part of it. >> there's life skills and work skills that are an important part -- an important dimension of any worker's life and trying to get ahead. peter brought up the people who have already gone beyond that to the next step where they have a job, and the job just doesn't pay. that's millions of people. >> it is. those are not the categories of people that concern -- again, we keep missing each other. >> they qualify for food stamps. >> they do. the point is we need innovation and right now the people
suffering from the problem are not participating in this discussion. i have taken paul ryan around to high crime drug infested neighborhoods where he has seen examples of how through investment, moral mentors and character coaches, people who are drug addicted are able to get free from drugs and only when you began to invest in these community institutions that have the ability to transform the attitudes, values, and therefore the behavior of people. then they will be available to take advantage of opportunities. but to talk about the poor as if the only problem is we don't provide enough money for them is ludicrous. >> i don't think these conversations that you two gentlemen are having are mutually exclusive. when we run we talk about mechanics and character and we'll talk about the responses in the ryan plan to both of those parts of the poverty
overall aid to states who want to try out the new structure as part of a pilot program. now, when, peter, you hear bob woodson talking about xhashth and responsibility, work habits and life habits contributes to family poverty, has he got a point and are there policy responses that can respond to that part of the program? >> when i write about this, we talk about personal responsibility. we have to take personal responsibility for ourselves and children and community. it's obviously true that there's a certain number of people in our society of whatever income, but disproportionately among the poor that have personal issues to deal with. that is a part of the picture. what troubles me about what we're hearing from congressman ryan is that it sounds like -- you can read this in his 72-page
document. everybody is going to get a case manager. if you want cash assistance, if you want food stamps, you go to the case manager. that's baloney. we need to have ways that people who need help -- we need to have people out in the community. one thing that bob and i agree on very strongly is the importance of leadership in the neighborhood. strengthen the community. that's part of the answer here, which that doesn't have anything to do with public policy, although it can be supported. so, yes, but you know, there are 106 million people in in country who have incomes below twice the poverty line. that's low wage work. much, much more than half the people in poverty are people who are working and doing the best they can. the witness who congressman ryan had talked so strongly, and this was something that the democrats insisted on that she should be there to tell the experience of
somebody in trying to find -- earn enough to support the family. so we need all of these things. we're not talking about public education here as part of our conversation. that's a huge part of it. how do we get -- how do we get a healthy community and have a decent safety net. congressman ryan proposed for four years running to cut $5 trillion over ten years from the federal budget and 69% of it would have gone against cutting programs for low income people. so i'd like to know which paul ryan we're actually talking about here today. >> in the plan, bob woodson, is a lot of emphasis on pushing programs down from washington down to neighborhoods in washington where there's high concentrations of poverty. places like the west side of chicago and the south bronx and parts of brooklyn. when you do that, why do you provide better, more efficient, more effective service? >> because the remedies that --
again, i'm talking about category 4. that concerns us most. >> the people who -- >> the people who have made -- there are indigenous neighborhood leaders that have become outstanding character coaches. they have transformed thousands of people and changed their heart and helped them to become redeemed and what we're doing we must associate -- we must support them for so that they can play a greater role. i think there's a myth that somehow it's not possible to invest more wisely in some of these institutions and help more people and less money. i took congressman ryan to running rebels in wisconsin in milwaukee. for the last eight years young men convicted the violent crimes, instead of sent to prison were sent to a local group where they were monitored by men every two hours they had to check in. some were ex-offenders. in the last eight years, these
young men have 80% completed and are now working and some are working in good-paying jobs. it has saved the county $63 million over eight years. we gave them a mock check. so the point is this is a creative response where if you invest in some of these indigenous community-based associations that have been effective in transforming young men and women so the lives are redeemed, it's possible to expand that resource and do so at the cost of lowering of the public. it's possible to help more with less if you invest more wisely. >> are there neighborhood level ennovations that help people in that way? >> absolutely. the promise neighborhoods, the work in harlem. going back to the restoration corporation that i worked with, robert kennedy created it in brooklyn. this is not either/or.
the idea to say particularly in this world of not enough jobs and too many low wage jobs that we're throwing away money when somebody needs cash assistance, that's just baloney. as you said, when somebody goes to walmart or something like that, they actually get in their k kit, employee handbook that they should apply for food stamps and tells them how to do that. that's not right. there's 6 million people in this country whose only income is from food stamps. that's not right. we destroyed the safety net in this country because the politicians, some of them are still talking about that's gone, and half the states in this country functionally do not exist anymore. 3.6 million people, 1% of the american public are receiving welfare now, cash assistance. the only thing, therefore, that can be be gotten is food stamps which pays one-third of the
poverty line. there's something wrong with that. >> peter never talks about avenues out of poverty. you talk about the maintenance of people in poverty, and paul is trying to talk about out. >> until you get out, you do need food, right? >> yes, you do. again, we must provide creative ways of doing it. for instance, we never talk about promoting entrepreneurship among them. i have a man kurt moore in milwaukee who spent 13 years in federal prison. he got out and came to this and started a business washing cars. now he has 15 employees, and there are other people like that. so we should provide incentives for job creation among this as a way of an innovative. the point paul is making is it's just an open gambit, and the beginning of a dialogue. we're going to meet with 50 to
11 hundr1 11 -- 100 of our grassroots leaders throughout the country and look at this proposal. these are the people in the trenches, the poverty warriors. we had need to find out from them and give them a seat at the table and paul ryan has done that. they have never been at the table. there are academics and others that study this issue, but not the people on the ground. >> we're going to take a short break. when we come back, we talk about the other things that are in the ryan plan. it's not just about pushing programs down to the states. there's some other policy proposals in there that maybe escaped juror attention. stay with us. this is "inside story." "inside story." ♪
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along with big areas of concern are policy proposals likely to get less attention like reducing state licensing requirements to hold various jobs. good time is rewarding good behavior behind bars with shortened sentences. still with us is bob woodson, founder and president for the center of neighborhood enterprise, and peter adelman. peter, when you hear about those kinds of things, for instance, making it easier for a beautician in a center city neighborhood, is that novel and welcome part of the conversation about poverty? >> yes. we have to end the mass incarcerations so we don't have to do so much and we do have to do a lot with ex-offenders. we shouldn't be arresting and incarcerating at this level at
all. so that's a start. it's about education and growing up and having the opportunity the first time around for everybody. public schools work for everybo everybody. adding to income, even if you have good day care and help with housing and help with going to post-seconda post-secondary, all of that is about more income. i don't hear enough conversation about all the things that are the basic things of people able to make it in the country, but we also have to have a safety net. we've basically blown a huge hole in the safety net with the cash assistance leading to food stamps. now he wants to cut the safety net guarantee of food stamps.
>> give us a quick look at an urban neighborhood. >> because it makes sense that people are trying to restore their lives and they have to run into and confront the barriers. there's another one it sounds like a high cost of telephoning. there are two telephone companies that make $1 billion off of inmates' families, and inmates pay $1 a minute to make a telephone call to a loved one. >> go to the other side of the planet for $1 a minute. >> exactly. those are the kind of reforms that we need. peter, it's interesting that we are talking about education but a lot liberals have appeared have talked against vouchers and against charter schools and what have you without sending their own children to private schools.
they opposed poor kids having the same choice. for years i confronted that. >> we can't open a debate on school choice, but when peter makes the point that schooling is part of the poverty response, he's right, isn't he? >> he is. why not -- part of that strategy or to give the poor of same advantages that people has in sending his children to private schools or any of the other civil rights leaders in d.c., all of them send their kids to private schools while opposing poor kids have been the same choices that they did. >> school choice, peter adelman, quickly, is that also part of what could be a smorgasbord? >> not by 100%, because there are families in cleveland and milwaukee who benefitted from vouchers. i'm in favor of a public school system. that's part of our common ground as a society. the voucher cuts against that. it's destructive. charters are more complicated. >> we have to end it there,
because we can't begin that conversation at the end of the program. peter adelman and bobwood son, a great pleasure to talk to you both and good to see you. thanks for being with us the program may be over but the conversation continues. we want to hear about the issues raised on this or any day's show. you can log onto our facebook page and send the thoughts on twitter and our handle @ handle @ajinsidestory. see you for the next "inside story" in washington. i'm ray suarez. >> we have to reach the final solution -- [ inaudible ].
>> professor mohammed [ inaudible ] from the middle east. four questions. secretary general of the united nations. when i met the president, he did say, i borrowed your slogan. >> activist and presidential medal of freedom winner coined the phrase, "yes, we can." the mantra became barack intaps's call to vote. she co-founded the united farm worker's union.