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 Paul Ryan's poverty adviser is 77-year old Bob Woodson, a former social worker and civil rights activist who has advised conservatives on poverty policy for decades. He has some some strong opinions on the causes of poverty.

 the suggestion that discipline and personal responsibility alone might not be enough to guarantee success, Woodson reacted viscerally.
"Bullshit," he told HuffPost. "That's just bullshit."
 The modern GOP likes to talk about "modernizing and reforming" the social safety net, but in reality their solutions are nothing new. The exact same ideas were offered in the 1870's.
   The Republican Party proposals of today are simply an unvarnished version of the Scientific Charity Movement.

  Scientific charity built on Americans’ notion of self-reliance, limited government, and economic freedom. Proponents of scientific charity shared the poorhouse advocates’ goals of cutting relief expenses and reducing the number of able-bodied who were receiving assistance, as well as the moral reformers’ goal of uplifting people from poverty through discipline and religious education via private charity. In this model, individuals responded to charity and the government stayed out of the economic sphere.
 It's almost the exact same words that Republicans use today.

    Not surprisingly, Charity Organization Societies were generally opposed to unions.

If this description of Scientific Charity sounds like it fits into the idea of Social Darwinism, it's because it does. All failure is pushed onto the individual. The idea that there might be forces outside of the individual's control is rejected by faith.

   One of the founders of the movement, Josephine Lowell, believed that the poor should be given a "test", such as breaking stones, before receiving charity. She opposed alms giving.

  The other item to note from this description of Scientific Charity is the reliance on religious faith. Thus "Scientific" Charity is as much about science as intelligent design.

"It is not bread the poor need, it is soul; it is not soup, it is spirit."
  - historian Walter I. Trattner, "From Poor Law to Welfare State"

  The goal of Scientific Charity was about getting rid of "outdoor relief".
The way they wanted to address that was to eliminate the "undeserving poor". This concept of "undeserving poor" dates all the way back to 16th Century English Poor Laws.. Henry VIII created them to deal with the impoverished of England after he had seized all the monasteries, which operated the only charity system at the time, in order to sell the lands to wealthy and corrupt friends.
   Under the Poor Laws there were four classifications:

* The impotent poor could not look after themselves or go to work.
* The able-bodied poor normally referred to those who were unable to find work.
* The idle poor were of able body but were unwilling to work.
* Vagrants or beggars, sometimes termed "sturdy rogues", were those who could work but had refused to.

  The last group was normally treated with whippings, brandings, time in jail, and eventually hanging. Only the first group was considered worthy of assistance. Basically being poor was treated as a punishable crime for nearly a century.

   Today's Republican Party doesn't shy away from blaming the poor for their condition. Marvin Olasky, author of "The Tragedy of American Compassion," the book that Newt Gingrich so loved, had this to say: "Does that mean I'm blaming the victim? Yes and no."

  There is one element of actual science behind the Scientific Charity Movement, but it isn't what you might guess.

 But when it came to the defective, dependent, and delinquent classes, which was the label used to describe the insane, feeble-minded, blind, crippled, maimed, deaf and dumb, epileptic, criminal types, prostitutes, drug addicts, and alcoholics, the sincerity of their intentions to purely provide care to these individuals was overshadowed by the underlying goal of Eugenics.
   They didn’t want to see these poor, unfortunate souls suffering in squalor on the streets and in the poor houses but their ultimate objective of eradicating poverty and the financial drain that it caused on society resulted in the building of more asylums for the sole purpose of removing the defective classes from society so that they could not procreate. The Charity Organization Societies wanted to isolate the defective class in asylums in order to stop them from “breeding,”
 The Progressive Movement and muckraking journalism slowly began undermining the Scientific Charity Movement starting in the 1890's until it finally died out in the Great Depression.
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