Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Gary MacDougal, author of Make a Difference: A Spectacular Breakthrough in the Fight against Poverty, debunks the myth that the GOP is uncaring about poverty–again.

Democratic strategists, MacDougal notes, have been so successful in popularizing the idea of the uncaring Republican that it is “dangerously close to becoming the conventional wisdom.” This applies especially to minorities and suburban women.

But it is Republicans who have promoted charter schools, which provide educations to the disadvantaged (as proposed to sinecures for union-affiliated education professionals) that help them climb out of poverty. It was also Republicans who fought for welfare reform in the 1990s that led to poverty reduction and record high employment.

Now the much-maligned GOP is undertaking another initiative that would help the disadvantaged:

Now Republicans in Congress are coming together on important ideas to reform the Rube Goldberg patchwork of 126 federal safety-net human-services programs focused largely on the 46 million Americans now in poverty. Including state-level programs, annual government spending on these programs is almost $1 trillion. Dividing $1 trillion by 46 million shows an average of $21,700 for each American in poverty, or nearly $87,000 for a family of four. That's almost four times the $23,850 a year federal poverty line for that family. While not practical, a cash payment of that amount would lift everyone in poverty well into the middle class. Clearly we are not getting the results we should from this enormous level of spending.

The late conservative activist Paul Weyrich once called poverty the "Achilles' heel of capitalism." After extensive nationwide visits to disadvantaged neighborhoods and to anti-poverty programs, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has outlined new ideas for "opportunity grants" that integrate programs and encourage work, give states more say over how money is spent, and make sure that results are rigorously measured. In a recent speech, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio outlined similar thoughts on helping the poor, with new ideas for reforming the system.

MacDougal says rightly that the underlying principles of the Republican reform should be self-evident, but many aren’t.  For example, helping people move from dependency to self- sufficiency should be the goal of the safety net (Patrice Lee writes about this in IWF’s new book, Lean Together).

I urge you to read MacDougal’s piece. The last principle of GOP reform he cites should be the basis for all programs designed to help the disadvantaged:

Finally, outcomes must be measured wherever possible, with the gold-standard question being: "Did this effort change lives for the better and lead to self-sufficiency?" At present many programs are poorly measured or not measured at all.