Welfare hardly exists anymore in the United States. Yet in his ever-persistent war on the poor, Paul Ryan is pushing a proposal that “could include work requirements for welfare beneficiaries,” as Politico reports. And to do so, Ryan and other Republicans are trying out a shiny new rebrand.
According to Politico, at a GOP retreat, “Ryan urged congressional Republicans to tackle ‘workforce development.’ He messaged the somewhat amorphous phrase as a matter of ‘helping people[.]’” House Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker followed a similar tack, saying, “If you really want someone to get out there and find fulfillment… even though you’ve got to get the framing or the phrasing right, wouldn’t you want to see that person excel?” and that “When we talk about ‘Medicaid reform,’ that’s not a great buzz phrase.”
The exact details of Ryan’s plans are not clear (after all, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the current version of welfare, already imposes strict work requirements), but he has consistently advocated for cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps. And Donald Trump has already opened the door on tampering with Medicaid, allowing states to impose work requirements for the first time in the program’s 50-year history.
By rebranding these efforts as “workforce development,” and avoiding language like “Medicaid reform,” Ryan and the GOP are purposely trying to obfuscate the issue. Which is why we should be as clear as possible: their intent is to cut back anti-poverty programs and the only result will be more suffering.