In its reporting on House Speaker Paul Ryan’s departure, Mic.com left out some important facts and history around American social policy.
In her piece, “A brief look back at Paul Ryan’s crusade to cut benefits to the poor,” Mic.com reporter Emily C. Singer framed Ryan’s career as one that ruthlessly sought to harm poor families through cuts to social safety net programs.
But she neglected to add context detailing the benefits accruing to poor families in the wake of bipartisan welfare reforms enacted in 1994 by the Clinton administration and a Republican Congress.
Over time, these reforms eroded, and Ryan made renewing these reforms a signature issue. I discussed the positive effects of these reforms with Ryan at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Mic.com didn’t report on what happened after the 1994 welfare reform, which required greater personal responsibility and workforce participation before receiving public assistance. Ron Haskins, the co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution think tank, reported on Census Bureau data showing that after the 1994 reforms, “the total income of these low-income families increased by more than 25 percent over the period (in constant dollars).
Not surprisingly, between 1994 and 2000, child poverty fell every year and reached levels not seen since 1978. In addition, by 2000, the poverty rate of black children was the lowest it had ever been.”
“Democrats, who campaigned against Ryan’s proposed social safety net cuts in the 2012 election, are cheering Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress. ‘Here’s what you need to know about Paul Ryan,’ Dan Pfeiffer, a former aide to former President Barack Obama, tweeted. ‘His main regret as he leaves Congress is that he failed to take health care away from more people,’” the story said.
Yet Mic.com didn’t present an alternative to Pfeiffer’s claim; indeed, Ryan’s call for Medicaid block grants would preserve the program for the needy while helping reduce healthcare inflation.
And analysis from the Congressional Budget Office showed that under the GOP proposal to repeal the Obamacare health insurance purchasing mandate, millions of Americans would voluntarily opt out of purchasing healthcare — e.g. the opposite of forcibly taking health care from someone.