Paul Ryan on Poverty and Opportunity in 21st Century America

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In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson began the so-called War on Poverty, expanding the federal government’s role in reducing poverty in the United States. At one level, this effort has been an overwhelming success: consumption poverty (the number of people who cannot afford basic goods and services) has fallen from 30 percent to 3 percent. At another level, the War on Poverty has failed, severe poverty continues to persist especially in terms of social dysfunction like unmarried births, educational failure, addiction and incarceration.

The U.S. last reformed its welfare system in 1996, bringing significant new reductions to welfare dependency and child poverty. Some policymakers have begun to suggest that a new round of reform that seeks to shift public benefit programs more toward empowerment rather than maintenance of individuals and families. They hope to create opportunities for Americans by strengthening communities, increasing social capital, and spurring economic growth.

On this episode of “Hardly Working”, I am joined by Paul Ryan, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and founder of the American Idea Foundation. We discuss how Ryan reconciles his commitment to the free market with his Catholic faith, his efforts to advance evidence-based policies to fight poverty, and modern-day populism and the future of conservatism.

Mentioned During the Episode:

Jack Kemp

Chicago School of Economics

Austrian School of Economics

Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith

AEI’s Adam Smith Seminar

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam

Nurse-Family Partnership

Raj Chetty

American Idea Foundation

The Evidence Act

Study on Upward Mobility and Geographic Indicators

Office of Management and Budget

Many Americans Make More on Unemployment

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