Danny Vinik in The New Republic on why Paul Ryan really wants to help the poor but doesn't know how. Paul Ryan gave a speech outlining his economic plan on Tuesday, which included praise for the social safety net all the while proposing slashing programs that help the poorest Americans most. "But this presents an incomplete picture of the safety net. Social Security and Medicare have been two of the most successful programs in American history at reducing poverty, but those benefits accrue primarily to the elderly. It’s great that America offers most seniors a secure retirement, but that’s only half the purpose of the safety net. The other half helps low-income Americans through programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and housing assistance. I’m sure Ryan would include these programs as part of the safety net if he was asked to provide an all-inclusive list. But his focus on Social Security and Medicare reveals his true belief that the safety net should provide a secure retirement for everyone, not lift up the poorest Americans." Vinik pushes back against Ryan, making the point that empowering lower class Americans to climb the ladder isn't about cutting government programs but giving them more leverage against employers and the system. "Government interference, under this view, is a major impediment to earned success. That may be true for the marginal worker, but for the vast majority of them, it’s false. The lack of wage growth for the bottom quintile of Americans is largely not a result of poorly aligned incentives. It’s the result of loose labor markets that prevent workers from having any leverage over their employers to demand better compensation or working conditions."
Esther Cepeda in The Chicago Tribune on why Chicago's humanitarian crisis deserves as much attention as the one at the border. Chicago continues to experience record rates of violence, lack of quality education, and poverty, so why isn't the federal government intervening? "Bloodshed, gang intimidation, drug wars, robbery, rape, murder of children in the streets and widespread dropping out of school because of belief in certain death at a young age are the circumstances the children running to the U.S.-Mexico border are fleeing — and are the same ones children and families on Chicago's South Side face daily." Cepeda makes the case that federal money and attention are as necessary and pressing in Chicago as they are on the border. "Putting aside the question of whether we should or shouldn't take in needy children at the border, we might ask ourselves: If President Obama manages to get almost $4 billion to give Central America's kids succor, might he endeavor to come up with roughly the same amount to help the Hispanic and black children in crisis in his own backyard?"