Rep. Paul Ryan's so-called anti-poverty plan
has been appropriately lambasted for the obvious things it would do, particularly stigmatizing poverty by essentially creating classes of poor—undeserving and deserving. But what the plan would really do is just hurt everyone and set the stage for the inevitable slashing of social insurance programs by combining them into block grants.
Here's the thing about block grants, as the folks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities point out: "history shows that block grants that consolidate a number of programs or may be used for a wide array of purposes typically shrink—often very substantially—over time."
Block grants generally give state and local governments more flexibility in how to use funds, leading to varied approaches for achieving program goals. But this variety makes it hard to see how changes in funding levels affect beneficiaries, or even to be sure how the money is being used. That, in turn, makes it easier for policymakers looking for savings to target block grants rather than other benefit programs for long-term freezes or cuts.
Block-granting a program is the easiest path to eat away at its funding, something Ryan knows very well. That's the key part of his plan.