A pilot program, also called a feasibility study or experimental trial, is a small-scale, short-term experiment that helps an organization learn how a large-scale project might work in practice. Paul Ryan, an Ayn Rand devotee, introduced a pilot program he claims reveals the depth of his newfound compassion for the plight of Americans mired in poverty due to Republicans’ opposition to creating jobs, living-wage or otherwise . However, not only is Ryan’s plan an experiment in privatization, government control of poor Americans’ lives, and a slick way to give Republican states another tool to shift federal funds to religious organizations and corporations, it is as far from compassionate.
First, Ryan’s “Expanding Opportunity” pilot program depends heavily on Republicans’ long sought-after “block grants.” A block grant is a one-time yearly federal payment to the states to use the money as they see fit with no input or regulatory oversight for how states use the money. Republicans love the “block grant” idea because there are no provisions for economic downturns, cost-of-living increases, or requirements to follow federal oversight for how the money is spent. In Ryan’s plan, funding for several programs from food stamps to welfare (11 federal programs in total) are bundled and handed to states to allot the money according to conservative ideology.
Under the Ryan-American Enterprise Institute plan, he envisions local private religious groups like Catholic Charities, religious non-profits, and private organizations “delivering customized services with a private third party evaluating the results;” more federal money for the religious right and private enterprises, but nothing for job creation. After several Republican states rejected free federal money to expand Medicaid, shift federal tax dollars for public schools to private Christian schools, or giving the wealthy tax cuts, handing Republican states federal “block grant” money for the poor is a dangerous idea.
Republicans are wont to decry any government meddling and control over Americans’ lives, unless of course they are women or living in poverty due to no available jobs or only minimum wage employment. In the Ryan’s American Enterprise Institue-envisioned scenario, religious and “specially selected” providers to design and adjudicate contracts with families in poverty with no jobs will design customized “life” plans according to Republican-religious-corporate roadmap out of poverty. Religious and private groups will craft “a life plan” that includes, at a minimum; a contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success,a timeline for meeting the benchmarks, sanctions for violating the terms of the contract, and a time limit for remaining on assistance. There are no provisions for new jobs or living-wage jobs that allow the poor to get out of poverty.
Republicans have worked diligently to ensure Americans who are poor stay in poverty by either killing jobs with drastic cuts to domestic programs, cutting food stamps, rejecting a minimum wage hike, failing to extend unemployment benefits, eliminating overtime pay, or giving tax breaks to corporations that ship American jobs overseas. So Paul Ryan’s newfound compassion for Americans barely making it is phony at best, and at worse a deliberate attempt to send the poor deeper into poverty under the guise of helping them. Helping them by dictating how they will “succeed” according to the American Enterprise Institute and Republicans steeped in job-killing austerity for the masses and rewards for the rich; Ayn Rand would be proud.
Since Paul Ryan’s storied economic “wizardry” consistently fails under scrutiny, instead of an experimental pilot program to get people in poverty to go to work under threat of religious and private enterprise sanctions, the pilot program should target Republicans in Congress; particularly Republicans in the House. It is true House Republicans are not poor by any means, and already have a job, but they still should be forced to work to continue receiving their taxpayer-provided welfare. They should adhere to the conditions of the Ryan-AEI “life plan contract” that will be designed by and adjudicated by the people with severe sanctions for violating the terms of the contract for success.
Conservatives, particularly Republicans and teabaggers, adhere to the belief that any American receiving taxpayer dollars must work for what they get; including children receiving free or reduced-price school lunches. There is absolutely no reason congressional Republicans should not be held to the same standards including Ryan’s plan to force people in poverty to sign a contract. Therefore, every Republican in Congress should be forced to sign a contract similar to Ryan’s and abide strictly by the main points he laid out for the poor. What the contract would entail is “outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success” to fulfill the terms of the contract such as passing a minimum number of bills that help the American people. Tax cuts for the rich and corporations, environmental and workplace safety deregulation, phony investigations, suing President Obama, Draconian domestic cuts, subsidies for the oil industry, or other job-killing legislation does not count as helping the people.
Republicans, especially in the House, will also face a strict timeline for meeting the benchmarks with severe sanctions for violating the terms of the contract that includes a very strict schedule to qualify for their taxpayer-funded bloated salaries and benefits few other Americans receive. The contract will also strictly define what is considered “work” that will includes 52 40-hour work weeks, no paid vacations, no gym memberships, no office allowances, and immediate secession of taxpayer-funded salaries and benefits for violating the terms of the contract for success. It is a pilot program the people would enthusiastically support and at the rate House Republicans refuse to work, withholding their salaries would save the government much-needed funds.
Holding Republicans in Congress to the same standards they want to impose on the poor is more than fair; particularly since Republican legislators refuse to work and still take public assistance without conditions or harsh sanctions for being lazy moochers. Ryan’s plan is another gift to religious organizations, privatization advocates, and Republican-controlled states to direct funds for the poor to their corporate cronies or religious backers. It is also a devious plot to exert control over poor Americans’ lives by demanding they adhere to the conditions of a contract designed and adjudicated by groups like Catholic Charities, other local religious non-profits, and private businesses, all with no provisions for creating jobs that pay a living wage.
The revelation that Ryan’s “Opportunity Grants” was an attack on the poor was the valuable assistance from the American Enterprise Institute, and like the Heritage Foundation’s Path to Prosperity budget, there is nothing whatsoever remotely resembling compassion for America’s most vulnerable citizens. Americans in poverty do not need religious-designed contracts, sanctions, or time limits; they need living-wage jobs. Ryan’s plan is a gift to Republican states to allot “block grant” funding where they see fit, another gift to religious organizations, and privatization of federal domestic programs meant to help Americans living in poverty through no fault of their own.
To be fair to Ryan and determine if his compassionate plan to reduce poverty will work as planned, the pilot program should first be a small-scale, experimental trial involving Republicans in Congress to determine if a larger-scale project might work in practice. Based on the work ethic of Republicans in Congress, they would violate the conditions of Ryan’s contract on the poor immediately and there would be no greater justice than subjecting Republicans to the harshest possible sanctions for violating their contract to serve the people and still earn government welfare for doing absolutely nothing.