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Paul Ryan: Baltimore is stuck in ‘poverty trap’ because welfare benefits are too lucrative

Paul Ryan speaks to CBS News (screen grab)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) asserted over the weekend that poor communities — like in Baltimore — were stuck in a “poverty trap” because lucrative welfare benefits did not encourage people to find jobs.

“After a 50 year war on poverty and trillions of dollars spent, we still have the same poverty rates,” Ryan told CBS host Bob Schieffer on Sunday. “This isn’t a Republican-Democrat thing. We as a country need to say, that’s not good enough. We’re not getting the results we need.”

According to Ryan, the federal government was making a mistake by displacing “local problem solving with top-down, one-size-fits-all” solutions.

“Does it also mean the federal government needs to make more money available?” Schieffer wondered.

“It’s really not a more money thing,” Ryan insisted. “Spend the money we have more effectively. I think we need to do another round of welfare reform — not to save money, but to save lives. And so it’s not a function of pumping more money into the same failed system because we’ll just get the same failed result. It’s rethinking how we actually attack the root causes of poverty. All we do these days effectively is treat the symptoms of poverty.”

When he was asked for an example of what he would do to attack the root cause of poverty, Ryan pointed to the welfare system.

“I would consolidate many of our federal poverty programs into flexible programs that go to our states to customize a welfare benefit for person’s particular need,” he explained.

“Because what you do when you stack up all these poverty programs on top of each other, we have this thing called the poverty trap, where we’re actually disincentivizing a person from getting on with their life and going to work,” the Wisconsin Republican opined. “It pays not to take a risk to take a job to go out an prove your life because of the benefits your lose.”

“The American idea is that the condition of your birth doesn’t determine the outcome of your life. Anybody in this country can overcome their current circumstances and make a better life for themselves and their kids. We were taught believing that, [Republicans] believe that. There are a lot of people who don’t believe that.”

Watch the video below from CBS News, broadcast May 3, 2015.

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