Republicans have tried to claim that their tax plan will lead to immediate benefits for all Americans, not just the wealthiest, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the initiative should be tied to cuts on programs tailored for the poor.
Touting progress made on tax reform, Ryan claimed on Tuesday that laziness was partially to blame for sluggish economic growth, despite low unemployment rates in recent years. He then called for Congress to tighten the strings on already-meager welfare programs.
“Look behind that statistic,” the Speaker said. “What those unemployment rates are not taking into account—the fact that there are tens of million of able-bodied adults in America who are not looking for work, who are not at work, who are not in school to get a skill to go to work.”
Ryan added that Republicans would “focus next year on people–getting people from welfare to work and making sure people get the skills they need to get the jobs they want.”
Congressional Republicans and President Trump have been calling for legislation that would add work requirements to food stamps and housing benefits, as The Washington Post noted two weeks ago.
While statistics do show that the labor force participation rate has declined since last decade’s Wall Street meltdown and the Great Recession that followed, this isn’t explained by welfare state generosity.
An analysis put out in January by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis concluded that demographic factors best explain the phenomenon, noting an older “working-age population is the clearest trend.”
Statistics similarly show that the rate of unemployed workers who receive jobless benefits, in recent years, has been at its lowest point in over three decades, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federally-administered cash welfare program, is one of the most stringent of its kind in the industrialized world.
In 2015, for example, a single parent of two children under TANF would receive $418 per month, according to the BBC–half as much as a single parent of one in France or Canada. Benefits dispensed through TANF are capped at five years, and most recipients face work requirements.
Though Republicans boast that their tax plan reduces burdens on all workers, those benefits increase exponentially with income—and dramatically so, according to the Tax Policy Center. Cuts to the obligations of middle and lower-income earners are also set to expire in seven years under the legislation, while corporate tax breaks would be permanent.
And while Ryan is attempting to paint his agenda as a salve for laziness infecting the masses, the idle rich are already frantically cashing in on Republicans tax reforms. There have been $70 billion in 29 stock buy-back deals announced since the Senate passed its version of the tax bill in early December, according to The Intercept.
As the Associated Press noted last week, companies that benefit from the Republican tax plan “seem likely to direct their money mainly to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks, just as large US corporations have already been doing with the ample cash they have in hand.”