Required Reading

Jim Pethokoukis interviewed Oren Cass, the man behind Marco Rubio’s new anti-poverty plan. Here’s a small excerpt:

So the idea of a flex fund is to essentially try to eliminate the alphabet soup of agencies and programs that currently exist at the federal level and replace it with just a single stream of funding that goes back to each state to do with it what it chooses.

One of the statistics that I was most struck by as I started to work on this issue was that if you add up all the support that we provide through anti-poverty programs today, it’s almost $1 trillion, which means it’s almost $20,000 per person below the poverty line.

The question is why isn’t that any more effective? Why haven’t we just solved all our problems? And I think part of the answer is that it doesn’t stay money. It goes from money to agency programs that are overlapping and conflicting and not at all efficient.


Those are good questions Cass is asking, even if rhetorically. I’m less certain about his answers.

Yes, streamlining would be great, but that’s the kind of thing Washington is just no damn good at, and never will be. Let’s say we coronated Rubio God-Emperor of America for a day, and he could put this plan into action without any interference from that pesky Congress. We could even call it the “Obama Crown,” because it’s just too apropos.

All’s well and good. But then some new problem crops up, and rather than get the “solution” tacked onto the existing King Marco Program, a whole new program with a brand new bureaucracy is created. That’s just what Washington does. No politician, and certainly no bureaucrat, feels complete without creating a new agency with a new office with his or her name on it.

Streamlining might work for a few months or even a few years, but pretty soon mission creep and massive egos would have us right back to where we are today.

Instead, let’s ask a more basic question: Why does the money have to pass through Washington first at all? There is no state in this Union so poor that it can’t provide a basic safety net for its worst-off. And state programs are much more likely to be in tune with state needs, and to stay within budgets.


Sending the money to Washington first is a fool’s game, and we need to stop playing it.

But that’s enough out of me — go read the whole thing.


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