Rep. Ryan Reimagines U.S. Social Safety Net Via Budget Reform Proposal

BY News Desk  April 5, 2011 at 3:58 PM EDT


As part of an ambitious budget plan he unveiled earlier in the day, Rep. Paul Ryan on Tuesday afternoon called for an overhaul to the American social safety net, including reforms to Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, housing assistance and job training.

Speaking with the NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, the Wisconsin Republican called for Medicaid to grow at a slower rate and for Washington to provide block grants to states to customize Medicaid and other social programs to suit the needs of their populations.

“The problem we have, Judy, is the social safety net is tearing apart by the seams and we need to modernize the safety net for the 21st century, because these programs haven’t really been reformed since the 1960s,” he said.

Here is an excerpt of an interview that will air on Tuesday night’s PBS NewsHour broadcast:

> JUDY WOODRUFF: But is the ultimate goal fewer people on Medicaid?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Well, hopefully, we have more jobs and more prosperity so people aren’t on Medicaid. Of course, we want less people on Medicaid because that means people are making more money and they’re having better lives and they’re having more income. This budget also has been scored by outside economists as increasing disposable income, increasing jobs, lowering unemployment, bringing more prosperity to America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But in the sense that there’s less money going to Medicaid.

REP. PAUL RYAN: So this grows Medicaid -

JUDY WOODRUFF: People – these are the most vulnerable of our population – the poor, the disabled. Where else do they turn?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Right, so the key is to fix our social safety nets. What we’re trying to do here is couple Medicaid reforms with food stamp reforms, housing-assistance reforms, education reforms or job training. We’re trying to couple these things by sending them back to the states in block grants. Those states can combine these dollars to reform the tattered social safety net. The problem we have, Judy, is the social safety net is tearing apart by the seams and we need to modernize the safety net for the 21st century, because these programs haven’t really been reformed since the 1960s.

Ryan also discussed the prospects for averting a government shutdown on Friday and called on Democrats to unveil a budget proposal. Tune in to Tuesday’s NewsHour for the full interview, or check back on the NewsHour’s website later for a transcript, audio and video.