July 29, 2014

MEGAN MCARDLE: Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Program Sure Can’t Hurt.

We do, in fact, spend a lot of our entitlement money on the chronically poor — much more than you would think from hearing these statistics. That’s why Ryan is right to make that sort of relatively intractable poverty the focus of his plan. . . .

But my point is also that chronically poor people are more likely to require extra government benefits because they don’t have any of the assets that the temporarily poor bring with them from the middle class: reliable cars, houses, savings accounts, credit cards, friends and family who have spare cash to help out. The chronically poor will need more help, for longer, than folks who are struggling through a temporary job loss or divorce. Which means that, at the very least, they take up a disproportionate share of resources. It seems entirely possible — perhaps even likely — that the chronically poor still account for the majority of spending in many programs.

Frankly, “can’t hurt” would all by itself make it better than most of the anti-poverty programs we’ve seen to date.