What Can Liberals Do With The Ryan Plan?

Ramesh argues that liberals can and should play ball with Paul Ryan and embrace some of the ideas in his anti-poverty plan:

For a politician, Ryan has shown a lot of willingness to revise his proposals in light of reasonable criticism. His ideas for reforming Medicare, for example, have been refined over time. In this plan, too, Ryan has addressed some of the strongest objections to previous versions of conservative ideas. When federal payouts to states have been suggested before, critics have noted that they might leave states and poor people in a bind during recessions. So Ryan’s plan includes proposals — such as tying the amount of aid distributed to the unemployment level in a given state — intended to make the grants counter-cyclical. … The bigger question to my mind, though, isn’t what Ryan will do next. It’s whether liberals will give his good ideas a fair hearing.

Ryan and Obama are actually on the same page on several issues, including college expenses. Both men, Libby Nelson observes, want colleges to be held accountable for providing an education that’s worth the money:

Where Ryan and Obama differ is on how specific they’re willing to be about what “skin in the game” might look like or what outcomes they want to measure. Ryan’s higher education plan includes concrete proposals for Pell Grants and for capping loans for parents and graduate students. He also suggests specific ways that the federal government could ensure quality in two-year degrees and online programs. Ryan is much more vague when it comes to bigger philosophical shifts that would affect all of higher education.

That might be because he runs into ideological difficulties. Ryan’s explanations of the problems with higher education draw heavily on research and policy analysis from the New America Foundation. The think tank, which has influenced Obama’s higher education policy as well, proposed solutions in its reports too. But those solutions often call for a more muscular government role.

They also see eye-to-eye on the Earned Income Tax Credit, Dylan Matthews adds, but again, the devil is in the details:

[B]oth parties have accepted a norm in recent years where all budgetary proposals must be at least deficit-neutral, so both Obama and Ryan include measures to pay for the idea.

And neither set of pay-fors is remotely acceptable to the other side. Obama would pay for the expansion by raising taxes on hedge fund managers and rich self-employed people, while Ryan would cut other safety net programs and “corporate welfare,” which is this case means specifically energy subsidies the Obama administration likes. Ryan has explicitly rejected Obama’s funding mechanism, and it’s hard to imagine Obama accepting Ryan’s.

Earlier Dish on Ryan’s plan here. A reader sounds off:

You quoted Callie Gable:

A key element of the contracts would be encouraging work, which, currently, only cash welfare requires. Food stamps, federal housing aid, utilities assistance, and more don’t have work requirements — this would essentially mandate that states opting for the Opportunity Grant implement work requirements.

This gets the food stamp program, now called SNAP, wrong. SNAP requires that able-bodied adults without dependents (“ABAWDs” in federal bureaucratese) work or attend job training. Otherwise, they are cut off from SNAP benefits after three months. SNAP also includes a work incentive in the form of an earned-income deduction: for every dollar a SNAP household earns, its benefits decline by only 30 cents. There is reason to believe that these incentives are effective: according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in more than half of SNAP households containing at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, recipients are employed.

The fundamental reason why more SNAP recipients aren’t employed is that many are not able to work. Almost half of all SNAP beneficiaries are children, and many more are elderly or disabled. Others live in areas where the state government – not individual applicants – have received permission to waive work requirements because unemployment is so high that people can’t get jobs.

Paul Ryan has some ideas that are great, including streamlining services and providing more assistance in the form of cash. Some of his other ideas, including turning programs into block grants, are terrible for reasons that others have explained. But it drives me crazy to see people talking about SNAP as though it doesn’t include work requirements or support people who work.