Chairman Ryan and the Real World

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We’re proud to collaborate with The Nation in sharing insightful journalism related to income inequality in America. The following post appeared first in Nation contributor Greg Kaufmann’s “This Week in Poverty” blog.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, holds a copy of President Barack Obama's fiscal 2014 budget proposal book as he questions Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 12, 2013, as Sebelius testified before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the HHS fiscal 2014 budget request. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, holds a copy of President Barack Obama's fiscal 2014 budget proposal book as he questions Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 12, 2013, as Sebelius testified before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the HHS fiscal 2014 budget request. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Wednesday, at a House Budget Committee hearing entitled “War on Poverty: A Progress Report,” Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee used her allotted time to try to discredit the sole Democratic witness, Sister Simone Campbell. Sr. Simone is the executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, but she is more widely known as the leader of the Nuns on the Bus.

“You said you come to this hearing today as a Catholic sister living under Christian tradition,” said Rep. Blackburn. “Would it be fair for this Committee to question the validity of your testimony knowing that the Vatican has reprimanded the Leadership Conference on the Women Religious and singled out your organization for only promoting issues of social justice, and being silent on the right to life from conception to natural death?”

Sr. Simone replied that the exchange with the Vatican was about “theological struggles, not about our engagement in political activity, and our organization works on economic issues.”

Republican Chairman Paul Ryan seemingly admonished Rep. Blackburn, albeit indirectly, telling Sr. Simone: “Speaking as a Catholic who usually disagrees with you on some of these issues, I think you are very well within Catholic social teachings to give the testimony that you gave here today.”

It was one of many bizarre moments during a hearing that Washington Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott described perfectly to his Republican colleagues when he said: “This hearing is surreal… You are not living in the real world.”

Indeed, one of the three Republican witnesses — University of Maryland professor Doug Besharov, director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Social and Individual Responsibility Project — was there to discuss incentives to help people get out of poverty. So it was surprising that he was unsure what the current federal minimum wage pays.

“The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, correct?” said New York Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, trying to pivot to a discussion about good jobs as the best anti-poverty program.

“Uh, it could be,” said Besharov. “I—I don’t know the exact number. It’s around there.”

Texas Republican Congressman Roger Williams described himself as “a job creator” who has owned and operated his family car business for forty-two years.

Sister Simone Campbell waves as she steps off the bus in Ames, Iowa, Monday, June 18, 2012 (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“Don’t you think a lot of this debate is the fact we’ve lost our family values?  We’ve got single parents and so forth and we need to get back to that?”  Williams asked Sr. Simone.

“I practiced family law for 18 years in Oakland, California. I found with low-income families that the biggest cause of family break up was economic stressors,” said Sr. Simone. “So I think the most important piece we could do to support families would be to raise the minimum wage.”

“Or you could do away with the minimum wage,” said Williams.

Wisconsin Republican Congressman Reid Ribble described his “own religious upbringing”—his father was a minister; three of his brothers and one son are all pastors.

“Whoa,” said Sr. Simone, impressed.

“Christianity is all about serving the poor,” Rep. Ribble told her. “What is the Church doing wrong that it had to come to the government to get so much funding?”

Sr. Simone said the need for government assistance is more about the “dimension of the issue.”  She noted a Bread for the World study that calculated the funds religious institutions would have had to raise if the food stamp cuts proposed in last year’s House Republican budget had been implemented.  She said “every church, synagogue, mosque, and house of worship in the United States” would have needed to raise $50,000 in additional monies — every year, for ten years.

“We have a limitation in our capacity to do that,” said Sr. Simone.

“Your capacity is the same as our capacity,” Rep. Ribble argued.

These head-scratching moments aside, I found the entire frame of the hearing as laid out by Chairman Ryan to be seriously flawed. Ostensibly, it was to examine the most effective ways to fight poverty as we approach the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty next year.

“Government focuses too much on inputs,” said Chairman Ryan. “We focus on how much money we spend. Instead, we should focus on results.”

It’s a claim he has made consistently since last year. But it’s Rep. Ryan and his conservative colleagues who are constantly bemoaning the amount of money spent on anti-poverty programs — money we “confiscate” from taxpayers, said Indiana Republican Congressman Todd Rokita — while dismissing the data that show how effective these programs can be.

Indeed there are many poverty scholars who have found positive outcomes in both the short- and long-term for children and adults who participate in anti-poverty programs. Research from Arloc Sherman (hereherehere and here), Hilary Hoynes and Diane Whitmore SchanzenbachGreg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson, and organizations like Children’s HealthWatch — to name just a few — reveal that these programs contribute to improved health, higher achievement, and greater financial security, for example.

But if Chairman Ryan wanted to hear more about results, Sr. Simone certainly obliged.

“In 2011, government benefits lifted a total of 40 million people out of poverty,” she testified. “While Social Security has the largest impact of any single program, means-tested programs such as SNAP, SSI and the EITC lifted almost 20 million Americans, including 8 ½ million children, out of poverty.”

She also noted that “poor babies in the 1960s and 1970s who were fortunate enough to live in counties served by the Food Stamp Program… were healthier as adults and were more likely to finish high school” than poor babies who lived in counties that didn’t yet have the program. (They also scored higher on a “self-sufficiency” index that included adult outcomes like earnings, income and decreases in welfare participation.)

Watch her full testimony, here:

And yet the House Republican proposal to cut $20.5 billion from SNAP (food stamps) over ten years would lead to approximately 5 million people being eliminated from the program, and would increase federal and state health care costs by $15 billion for diabetes alone over ten years.  Further, Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen of Maryland noted that the Republican House budget would cut “$810 billion from base Medicaid funding” and that “Medicaid [would] be cut by one-third in 2023.”

“It simply adds insult to injury — and tortures the English language — to pretend that deep cuts to food and medical assistance programs will somehow ‘strengthen’ that safety net and help people in poverty,” said Rep. Van Hollen.

The star witness for the Republicans was Eloise Anderson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. Anderson’s main message was that she saw time limits and the work requirement as the keys to the “success” of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program created by welfare reform in 1996. She touted her own data from Wisconsin — that “90 percent of the people left the program — and have continued to stay off.”  She urged Congress to implement work requirements and time limits in all anti-poverty programs.

But the twists in the hearing just kept coming. Wisconsin Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore revealed that she was on welfare in 1985 and worked for the Department of Employment Relations where she was trained by Secretary Anderson.

“She was brilliant, and of course, that was contagious, I’m brilliant now,” said Rep. Moore.

But Rep. Moore took issue with Secretary Anderson’s data and her description of TANF as a success in Wisconsin.

“Yes, the rolls did fall by 93 percent, because they just threw people off,” said Moore. “Many of the [people who left] did not find jobs. I tried to require that they do data and statistics — which they didn’t want to do — because they didn’t want to confirm that.”

Moore also noted that because the creation of TANF in 1996 made cash assistance much harder to obtain, the number of people living on $2 a day or less — the definition of poverty in developing nations, according to the World Bank — has doubled in the U.S.

As the hearing came to a close, Chairman Ryan said, “I think you can tell that the rhetoric is still mired in the status quo… Hopefully we can get past the status quo, past the rhetoric, and collectively focus on evidence-based solutions.”

But the fact is that there was plenty of evidence offered during the hearing about what works. The Chairman just chooses to ignore it.

As Sr. Simone testified, “We won’t address [poverty] by ignoring the successes of today’s safety net, but neither is today’s safety net adequate — we need a new commitment to reduce poverty and promote opportunity.”

Greg Kaufmann is a freelance writer and Nation contributor covering poverty in America, primarily through his blog, This Week in Poverty. His work has also been featured on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show,,,, Common Dreams and Alternet. He serves as an adviser for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
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  • Anonymous

    The GOP has gone from the Party of God to the Party of DeSade.

  • Giemma Raindance

    Its time to cut off payroll for politicians and have them work on minimum wage without their golden parachute. Then we will see results.

  • pattyp

    I’d still be a catholic if the church was run by people like Sr. Simone.

  • Salt River Garlic

    If we are a Christian nation based on Christian values, then government has a moral imperative to help the poor–and Ayn Rand be damned.

  • Rev. C-B

    As Sr. Simone testified, “We won’t address [poverty] by ignoring the successes of today’s safety net, but neither is today’s safety net adequate — we need a new commitment to reduce poverty and promote opportunity.”
    AMEN! And we most certainly will NOT get there by doing away with a minimum wage and making people work for even less than poverty wages. That idea is either insane or evil — it definitely only benefits business owners’ and CEO’s compensation.

  • Ric Mauré

    If these programs are cut, what would Walmart do? They rely on the safety net to increase their profits. They’re a major creator of the working poor.

  • TheTruth

    50 years!
    And poverty has not been reduced AT ALL.

    Do ya think maybe this isn’t working?

  • Mark Battey

    This is a general attempt to frame the issue of poverty as one that should be addressed by religious organizations. It’s the older Bush’s thousand points of light. These people are using religion to say it is not the government’s job to feed the poor, it’s the job of these religious organizations.

  • Eric Futterman

    Did you read the statistics? It’s helped IMMENSELY. How could you read that article and not see the results? 34% of all seniors were living in poverty before Medicaid and Medicare was passed in the War on Poverty. Now that’s down to 11%. It’s a gigantic improvement.

  • Eric Futterman

    Paul Ryan had his college paid for by Social Security. He is a liar and a hypocrite.

  • Anonymous

    But we are NOT a christian nation based on christian values. We are a secular nation with a christian majority, but that is a very different thing. On the other hand, as a humanist I believe that we all have an obligation to help the poor and that the government is in the best position to do so in an equitable way. Republicans prefer to rely on charity through religious organizations, which is a regressive way to raise those funds and is uneven and imperfect at best.

  • Anonymous

    You are correct, but unfortunately religious organizations can’t possibly deal with the size of the problem, nor should they. Food pantries used to be a food source of last resort for a small number of people. Republican cuts to social programs have made them a regular part of many people’s food regimen. They can’t possibly keep up with the need. The government is the only entity that has the size ans scope to have a significant impact on the problem.

  • Jaxon

    I’ve always seen welfare, food stamps, income assistance programs, etc., not so much as government benevolence or values of a “christian” nation but rather, social insurrection insurance. Bottom line kind of social contract – we won’t let you starve because the system ain’t perfect, if you won’t revolt against the status quo…

    If people don’t have jobs, cannot buy food, place to live, they will figure out one way or another to eat & sleep and it won’t necessarily be by asking politely… Seems most civilized government’s of merit know this. That is why I cannot understand what in the hail the GOP is doing – do they think that militarizing our police is the way to hold down the fort in the event? It is just beyond me, as a human being, an American and as a social scientist, to see a concerted effort by a well monied faction, advocating for increasing the hardship on fellow citizens for no apparent reason – it’s not like the well monied are not… well, monied up enough!

    Are they the product of an upper class upbringing where struggle was minimal and light effort was met with instant rewards because of family connections? Or are these people simply devoid of any insight whatsoever…?

    Class warfare in the form of social narcissism.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking as someone whose church (St. Mark’s Episcopal, Augusta, Maine) does all it can to help the needy–we have an Essentials Pantry, Clothing Bank, a monthly free public supper, an annual schools supplies drive and house the local food bank to which many area churches contribute–you are absolutely right that churches can’t possibly do it all. The need had grown significantly over the past decade, and our funds are very limited; like many churches in our area, we have serious financial problems and an aging membership. We do what we can, but it’s a supplement to what government has to do.

  • Anonymous

    How do you come to this conclusion? You couldn’t be more incorrect. Go back and do your homework, TheTruth

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    And their government subsidized health care.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it’s possible to be an adult and not understand that a certain percentage of the beneficiaries of these anti-poverty programs become “captives” or abusers of the program and that workfare and other up-and-out incentives have their place. I do not think that the percentage of these people constitute even a a significant minority. Most want to leave the program for something better. What we need is well-administered, adequately funded programs, that checks against fraud. To the extent that religious and charitable institutions can lighten the load or achieve efficiencies with or without Federal support, so much the better — but we cannot delegate to them permanently. Bread for the masses is in the interest of the society as a whole. It always has been, or there will be blood on the street and the jails will be filled. They jails are filling.

  • Anonymous

    “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society” — Oliver Wendell Holmes, as inscribed in stone above the front doors of the Internal Revenue Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. Republicans like Ryan tend not to look up.

  • Marvin Bohn

    It’s not about the truth it’s about making people believe the lie is true. Certain people are very good at promoting those falsehoods. Don’t believe the statistics just make up your own.

  • reno leone

    Isn’t it strange what happens when a politician drinks the ‘I’m running for president’ koolaid. Image is everything, and that’s all this hearing was about.

  • TRB

    TAX THE CHURCHES!!!!!!!!!!

  • medcannabis1

    Sister Simone is a true hero of the people and a women of faith and integrity . The tone of the GOP legislators is disturbing. How have they lost the concept of compassion for the sick and suffering? Paul Ryan is a sad example of a person raised in a faith tradition who completely ignores the teachings of his faith..compassion and care for the sick and suffering..forgiveness and understanding of suffering.. and selflessness in their public life…None of those teachings are reflected in the conduct of a vast majority of “Christian GOP” house and senate members… May they be shamed from their Christian Church and let the people of their districts come out to publicly shame them at any event they go to… No rest for the wicked!!!!!

  • former VISTA

    Once upon a time, as a VISTA, I was tasked with trying to engage the faith based community in the work of the basic needs non-profit where I was serving. I attended a United Methodist meeting of pastors and church administrators for our area. One woman confided that, yes, her church had a pantry, but only for the people in her church.

    “Because we don’t want…” her voice trailed off.

    Yes ma’am. I know.

  • 63RIguy

    Jason, I am in agreement with you. Many scholars believe that Rooselvelt’s New Deal, had more to do with preventing future mass uprisings, and attempt to squash communist/socialist from gaining a meaningful foothold in America.

  • Cat Sullivan

    It cannot be said enough to these people that poverty is an institution it is *not* a “personal choice”.

    institution: [in-sti-too-shuhn, -tyoo-]
    a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of
    relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of a culture, as
    marriage: the institution of the family.

    any established law, custom, etc.”

    Institutions remain in place because they benefit somebody in spite of the terrible damage they do, usually these benefits are for the upper classes. The Poverty Institution is kept in place because it is based on illegal discriminations racism, sexism (including LGBTQ), ageism, and people with disabilities. See, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against anyone who is poor and expect approving applause, whether hiring for a job, for housing or for access to government resources. Anyone can express disgust and openly discriminate against the poor for being poor, while secretly also hating the ethnic group, the gender, the age and/or the disabled without saying a word about those things.

    At one time there was a slavery “institution” that took centuries to destroy because the buying and selling of human beings into free forced labor was so depended upon by the upper classes. It is little different now because the Institution of Poverty is depended upon for many things such as: low cost labor which is both paid and unpaid, the huge burden of taxes and fees the poor pays that the upper classes don’t, the use of mega-non-profits, even the use of the poor to blame for all the woes of society in order to deflect their own class’s contributions and responsibility for these woes. And by “hatred” here, this is not often something that is all about people wearing sheets. It is benign and submerged in ways that may even seem
    “charitable” but is in reality is a way of keeping power over others and
    keeping them “in their place”.

    Whites from the falling middle class who have experienced poverty are now just grouped in with all those “isms” and are shocked at the treatment they receive. They have a hard time understanding why this happens to them. For instance, more whites are on welfare than any other race. Yet whenever you see any depictions of anyone on welfare, you will see a black face, you seldom see any white ones. In this way it will subtly impose on the white person that they are now “one of those” by grouping them into the people who the upper classes are pretending about that poverty is a “choice” instead of the embedded institution it is, This way this person can be deemed as “choosing” to be poor, and grouped in with those of color, any gender, any person who is disabled, any person who has had the nerve to become elderly.

    I could go on all day about how poverty is institutionalized in this country. But I will try to break it down to saying that the upper classes depend on the poor in many ways. the poor are *not* the “burden” they are portrayed to be, they are the very basis of our society. the upper income depend on the poor for cheap (and sometimes even unpaid slave) labor. They use the poor for their mega-nonprofits who give the rich $millions in “tax breaks” for their “charitable giving”, which in reality is not “charitable” at all because they do not give up a thing when they get it back in tax breaks. It is no small thing that when there is discussion about taxing the upper class that “charitable giving” is usually 2nd on the list for the reason not to impose higher taxes. But instead of getting those generous tax breaks, the poor pay the highest rate of taxes than any other class in every single state. Check out your state here:

    It is interesting to me to note that the poorest state in the Union, MS, gives a higher proportion of their meager incomes in donations most likely never used in tax breaks, than the highest income states such as New Hampshire and Rhode Island does not give.

    It would take a book to really go into the Institution of Poverty that these legislators depend upon themselves. They have no problem with imposing “personal responsibility” on the poor while they do not expect the same “personal responsibility” of their rich corporations and friends who take 100 X more of these tax dollars than it would cost to support struggling families and individuals. Because they want to pretend they get no “quid pro quo” for this defense of the “poor wittle wich guy” they prefer to overlook their own huge part that they play in keeping the Institution of Poverty firmly ensconced in order.

    Hate to say it but Hilary Clinton and Joe Lieberman went around the country on the 10th anniversary of Welfare Reform crowing about how “successful” it was while *only* using the falling welfare rolls as a reason for this “success”. this bill was ironically called “the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act”, written by Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation.

    Want to know why Robert Rector became compelled to write this bill? He had encountered some fiery low income women who were in college and getting their degrees. He was furious because he felt they were “using the system” to better themselves by living on welfare and using it as a way to go to college.The nerve! Rector had *no* problem with his rich white friends sitting around their pools while collecting their tax free dividends, but hey some uppity black woman coming from places like rural Virginia to go to college well that was “wasting” our tax dollars, dammit! The fact that, if these women stayed where they had come where racism and sexism was rampant and that their biggest “success” would be to work as a maid or nanny in his friends’ ” Big House” did not enter his pretty little head. These women had the nerve to tell him they had rights too, they were bettering themselves and that they would never have to go on welfare again after they earned their degrees and went on to professional fields. Oh my God, pant,pant,pant! So he ran home after one of these meetings and wrote The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Act. The public wildly applauded because they hated the poor as much as he did and had no idea why this sorry little man wanted to get his revenge at being outdone by those “wrongly entitled” women.

    Many of we activists tried to ask these senators if they knew where these people went or what was happening to them, and we were shut down as “asking inappropriate” questions. NOBODY was doing any research about where these people went.

    So now the only thing showing how “successful” Welfare Reform is supposedly, is the rising poverty rate. In my state one way to force this “success” is in our RCW that awards their contracted “:Work Source” personnel $500 per client who becomes employed. There is no consideration about whether or not that job will support that family of if it will fit that family’s needs such as how to also care for a disabled child, *only* that it is a job, any job. They also force these (mostly) women into unpaid slave labor jobs using terms like “volunteer” work in both mega-non-profits AND privately for-profit corporations. These “employers” enjoy free labor and also get grants for “being so nice” for accepting this free labor. Many of these “volunteers” work alongside paid workers and are expected to do the same work but their “employers” do not have to observe silly things like the labor laws requiring 10 minute breaks, or fair treatment.

    I have spoken to these clueless legislators and policy makers about poverty for years. Most of them have never been poor, most of the “experts” have never been poor, most of the policy wonks have never been poor. But they know all about how to “fix” people who are poor and they know all about how to make the poor become “personally responsible” about their being caught in the giant sticky web of the Poverty Institution that they themselves impose on the poor. However, none of them want to hear from people who have actually been poor themselves expect to use them for photo opportunities and glad hand about how they are”fixing” poverty.

    Many of we activist know that after the sympathetic smiles,and the eager nodding while some women is pouring out her heart about her situation, and after the cameras go dark, they will go into some back room and make commitments to create laws and policy that is the exact opposite as to what really would address the Institution of Poverty. After all, by refusing to look at this Institution, this is “for the better good”: Because it WILL keep nice employment for all those “experts”, policy makers, research institutions who are researching everything BUT what needs to be researched. By pretending it is a “choice” that poor people are poor will keep those contracted corporations raking in the grant money for profit off the backs of slave labor (after all why hire someone for pay when you can get that for free)? Ignoring this Institution will continue the government funding and giving tax breaks to rich contributers for mega-nonprofits who get on the average between $57,000-$64,000 per client while using only about $2000 in direct services to that client. And of course most importantly “for the better good” will keep themselves up there using the poor to stay right where they are…

    My two (frustrated) cents

    Cat in Seattle

  • Ignatz

    ““What is the Church doing wrong that it had to come to the government to get so much funding?”

    What is your CONGRESS doing wrong that there are no jobs and so many hungry people?

  • Ignatz

    I’ve never known a church whose soup kitchen wasn’t open to everybody.

  • Linda Sarangoulis

    better yet- make corporations pay their fair share

  • Brian

    To Conservatives, Facts = Rhetoric. They will never change so real Americans have no choice but to stop trying to convince them to take on human qualities and just roll over their sociopathy and do what’s right for people and this nation.

  • Ignatz

    Yes, that way the hungry and poor will REALLY have no place to go.

    And tax what? There are no profits. And they get pretty much the same exemption as every other non-profit.

  • takethisjobandshoveit

    What we need is a decent minimum wage. It is a crime to pay such low wages to people who work hard all day. I would like to see these congressmen try to get by on the pitiful wages most people have to live on. Most of the additional people on food stamps etc are workers who can no longer afford the necessities of life so they can work. Child care, Gas for their car, repairs, insurance, rent, heat, electricity, Food, Everything is more expensive but the minimum wage is frozen. That is why there are so many people who are desperate and want government to bail them out. But it should be the “job creators” who are paying the same wages they paid 40 years ago that should be coughing up the money. They should also be paying taxes on the high salaries they earn so the safety net can stay strong and health care would be safe. The people who earn more need to pay more!!! The CEO’s that think they should put their money in the Cayman Islands are the crooks. Why do they get away with it???

  • Jen Johnson

    Salt River Garlic is pointing out the hypocrisy of the Republican Party, who (mostly) claim the U.S. is a Christian nation, yet focus on assisting their corporate donors instead of following the very tenets of the faith they want to force on the rest of us.

  • takethisjobandshoveit

    No, they just never changed the standards for poverty, that’s why. Most seniors are food insecure because they have to pay so much for everything else including healthcare. Most people who work full time can’t qualify for food stamps so the Govt says they have been lifted from poverty. No, they just have to do without and hope they won’t loose their car insurance this week or the car won’t be reposessed this time. People use credit cards and are in feirce debt so they can keep the wolf from the door. Most people who are single parents feel like loosers because they can’t pay their bills and need fuel assistance. This situation is crazy. We need the Labor Laws and Unions to raise the wages and benefits so that people can live again.

  • takethisjobandshoveit

    It won’t increase the amount we spend at Walmart if the minimum wage stays the same and everything else goes up. Walmart will have to play the stock market to stay afloat like all the Banksters and Insurance Companies do. The economy will not improve until wages increase and consumers can pay their debts. and buy things they need. That’s how capitalism works.

  • John p

    The men running the country are either evil or ignorant, but either way we’re doomed

  • Anonymous

    But I don’t think it’s possible to be an adult and not understand ALSO that 1) able-bodied people with educations and work histories are finding it difficult to get work in the current environment, so why do we pretend that people thrown off of assistance will suddenly be able to get it? and 2) there will always be a percentage of people who are not functional and will need assistance their whole lives, and pretending that just taking the assistance away will make them functional isn’t truthful or realistic. I always want to ask the Paul Ryans of the world what they really think will happen if we were to follow through with the most draconian recommendations: folks without work or education or prospects will gain initiative and start creative businesses, or get guns and matches and burn down everything?

  • takethisjobandshoveit

    They will get paid huge sums by CEO’s and big Companies for speaking at their meetings about how they reformed welfare and crushed the unions. They can’t be hurt by their piddling salaries being cut. They are insulated by their benefactors.

  • Anonymous

    Which is really just a way of wiping one’s hands and walking away. The folks making that claim either don’t support a religious institution themselves (and thus expect someone else to do it all) or their support of religious institutions guarantees that their ‘help’ only goes to the kinds of people they think are worthy. What they’re really saying is they don’t think any help should go to ‘those people.’

  • Tarra

    I think Chairman Ryan’s closing statement about rhetoric and the status quo was a line he wrote on his arm before the hearing even started.

  • Anonymous

    Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): “Would it be fair for this Committee to question the validity of your testimony knowing that the Vatican has reprimanded the Leadership Conference on the Women Religious and singled out your organization for only promoting issues of social justice, and being silent on the right to life from conception to natural death?”

    WTF does that have to do with a hearing on poverty?! Stupid hillbillies!

  • SayNo2pHARMa

    One thing to remember, as our good-for-me-but-not-for-thee Congressional reps like “SS-paid-my-way-through-college” Ryan continue their efforts to force us all to kneel at the feet of their corporate overlords, is that our federal government provides funding to many, many faith-based organizations. Ask yourself, why is my “church” a 501(c)3 organization? It’s not to avoid paying “income taxes,” as most churches don’t have taxable “profits.” Having a 501(c)3 designation from the IRS is the primary eligibility requirement to apply for social service-oriented grants from the federal (and often state) government and to receive “pass-through” grants from large private philanthropic organizations which also line up at the federal trough. Ask yourself, how much money did we raise to support our food pantry and soup kitchen last year? Chances are the answer is not nearly enough to carry out its work. The money came from the government…aka all of us. And, let me state, I have no problem with that. I think we should eliminate all corporate subsidies and use that money to fund anti-poverty efforts at levels necessary to create change. The issue here is that we expect people to live on starvation-level wages. We all spend money at the dry cleaners, fast food place, nail salon, $1 store…with not one thought about how the clerk, stock person, janitor, etc. will pay rent, utilities, buy food, clothing, etc.Then we elect self-important prigs to look down our collective noses at those who provide us with our “Christian” middle class comforts.

  • nnyl

    Many conservatives believe that people who are poor are lazy or sinners who are being punished by God. Most of the poor I know actually work pretty hard, sometimes at multiple jobs. I have one friend who had a great job running the office for small business. But that industry collapsed with the economy in 2008 and she has only been able to find minimum wage work since.

  • Gretchen Rph

    Conservatives think you can shred the social safety net, moving the bits that are profitable to a corporation for money harvesting, and the slack will be taken up by what…the millions of people who lose their jobs and homes, churches are just going to set up more soup kitchens?

    Conservatives think the issues of income inequality, lack of medical coverage and the like are solved with…soup? Chicken soup for the poor?

    Imbeciles. It’s a goal of government to ensure that those least well off do not unduly suffer.

  • Jerkxes

    “Your capacity is the same as our capacity,” Rep. Ribble argued.

    Just listen to these morons. A country that spends half a trillion dollars a year for “defense” can certainly spend $40b or more on food stamps. How could anyone with a shred of decency or intelligence ever vote for a Republican?

  • fundamental mystic

    they can’t…so that means they have no shred of decency

  • Steve

    TheTruth, actually, a great deal has been done to lessen poverty in the US. The economic system in the US, however, encourages poverty on a large scale by the very inequality of wealth distribution that seems to be the linchpin that holds our congress in bondage to income redistribution to the top 10% in the country. When the minimum wage is created to protect the wealthy rather than make sure a person can live off of their wages you will see the problem of poverty in the US continue to grow. Right now, we are trying to put our finger in the dike — that is not a real solution.

  • Amoreena France

    These Republicans are nothing but feudalists. Their ideal world is one where every One-percenter has his own little gated community “kingdom” where they are safe from the masses of undeserving serfs. It’s not totally surprising, since “monarchy” is the standard big-business model: CEO (king) at the top, with his inner circle, and all the hardest-working laborers scramble for crumbs from his table. They were born at the finish line, and think they ran the toughest race.

  • Al Scotch

    Because their “southern state voters” are ignorant of what goes on in Congress and simply vote on religion, abortion, immigration, gay marriage, and guns. And the Democrats are not making this information available to those voters TODAY in their local media. But wait till just before elections where their 30 second ADs get rebutted by Republican’s.

  • Anonymous

    Fascism, where corporations may receive full rights and assistance that the general populace may not enjoy. Those that own corporations are considered special and are to be treated as such. Those that work are part of the corporation, like a printer or a wrench. Tools to be discarded at the end of service. “You don’t give a pension to a wrench” Mussolini. Unions and minorities are minimized and stripped of power in any way possible. Women are secondary citizens. Mysogany is normal. Voting is fixed and immutable. Areas that are Fascist, stay Fascist. This IS your Republican Party today. They take all pains to keep that name away from them, but they are, by their own actions over the last 30 years fascist.

  • 1mrt1


  • Anonymous

    That’s the real answer. Start with state statutes that ban corporate election campaign contributions. Then when they can no longer pick our representatives, and guys like Ryan are looking for a job, bump the taxes back to what they were 54%. back then the middle class payed 14.3%. Now you pay 39% and corporations pay almost nothing.

  • Anonymous

    This is not for “No reason”. No one put millions of dollars to buy politicians and make laws destroying families and degrading good jobs to nothing for “no reason”. That’s what scares me. Someone or group of someones is doing this on purpose. They have a desired outcome. they bought the entire Republican party to carry this out. They are powerful enough that a lot of men sold out to them knowing they would never have to answer to anyone. Corporations that sit on billions of dollars rather than invest, are owned by a small group of capital investors. There are around 20,000 families in America that own 87% of almost all corporations. These are white christian men and women. They do have an agenda.

  • Anonymous

    I have no problem with any of your comment, as long as we recognize these are temporary measures (for most) and we work with the times. As you probably recognize, the societal costs of throwing people who are incapable of caring for themselves to the wolves is high (e.g. Reagan’s release of mental institutions), but poorly administered Government can be as bad or worse (e.g., Willowbrook).

  • Anonymous

    We are a seculer nation but if you read the Preamble to the Constitution you will find ample language regarding the role of government in “…Promoting the common welfare ….. Secure the blessing of liberty ..”.

    How can a working poor person, disabled person, poor elderly person who has lost their wheels on meals support – achieve a basic level of civilized life and feel blessed with chronic, untreated illness, hunger & isolation

    How can any person with the largess that Ryan has & continues to receive as a government employee (decent wages, health insurance, pension, savings plan, etc) possibly understand working poor as it is today. He can’t nor does he care – best thing to throw him out of office.

  • Anonymous

    Lamentably the tea party-libertarian jerks have taken control. Best & only answer is replace them. I donate to those running for election or re-election that meet my idea of worthy. Not all but I believe the Democrats implementation of crowd funding is sound.

    So, whether it is your elected official where you have a vote or your contribution to a campaign elsewhere time to get to work and just do it!!.

  • John Bailo

    It is not inconceivable that the minimum wage of $7.50 or even $2.50 could be livable.

    But maybe they aren’t focusing enough on the “outputs”. If you artificially inflate real estate the way the Federal Reserve did over the last three decades, then even a middle class wage becomes barely usable.

    If you inflate food, health care and other necessities through Government subsidies and barriers to competition, then you also make a low wage inadequate.

    So, Mr. Ryan, and others need to see both sides of the Free Market equation. Supply and Demand.

    And lastly you cannot ignore the words of Genesis, which says that Man shall have Dominion over the earth, meaning, Man is to manage life, not let anarchy rule. So, we must manage our population and it’s impact on the world.

    Genesis says to fill the Earth, not stuff it with so many mouths to feed that the whole place turns into a tenement, yet sadly because many have ignored these words, that is what we have done..

  • WhirledPeas

    How many billions in subsidies does Congress provide to corporate agri-business each year while denying American children access to food?

  • Rev Phil Manke

    The “war on poverty” actually is understood as “The War On People Living Below Poverty Level” to the republicans. Think about it!


    our country will be the next poorest third world country, if congress, and repubs whom are rich, and get entitlements for doing nothing on their jobs but sit for a two year period plus, but get paid, and retirement benefits. In real world you get fired, unlivable unemployment benefits in tx, and minimum wage jobs are all Texas has now thanks to King Perry, and his former best buddy..ruined our STATE, and went on to RUIN OUR COUNTRY TOO!!! WRONG WRONG WRONG.

  • Mike

    While some may be surprised by this
    their agenda seems obvious to me. They are holding hearings not
    because they want to understand the problems so that they can devise
    a way to combat or effect it but so that they can grandstand with the
    public and pretend to be concerned with the issue. So much so that
    they held hearings on the issues, did their best to understand the
    problems and, now armed with their well researched wisdom, are in an
    enlightened position to inform us of their findings. Granted, it is
    all for show in an attempt to forward a completely separate agenda
    but how far would they get if they couldn’t even pretend to be
    concerned and knowledgeable? What I would hope is that, even though
    they present themselves as incapable of understanding the issue, in
    the process of pretending some enlightenment will present itself and
    have a real effect. Who knows, we might find some in this group to be
    future champions of real work on the war on poverty.

    Also, the cynical view that the real
    purpose of the public is to hold down the discontent of those in need
    rather than a real act of charitable social conscious is a misguided
    attempt to focus on the effect instead of the intent.

  • Anonymous

    Just like their supposed ‘pro-life’ stance is more like ‘pro-birth’ or even ‘pro-forced birth’. Orwellian spin all the way.

  • Anonymous

    When Reagan decided to court the fundamentalists (which in those days were called ‘holy rollers’ and considered nuts by the mainstream) and make their ideology the GOP’s guiding light, it could only go downhill after that….

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, and since when do churches have the power to tax? So it’s not the same capacity at all.

  • Anonymous

    I have read about third world countries in which the wealthy use hunger as a weapon to control the poor. This is exactly what the GOP are aiming for.

  • Anonymous

    And the premise that churches are our social safety net is completely flawed and unrealistic. It’s the government’s responsibility, which is why other wealthy countries have national health care, better public schools, less crime etc. — they are spending their money on their people, as they should, instead of making up nonsense wars in Iraq to fill Halliburton’s pockets.

  • Anonymous

    Especially since they have violated the terms of their nonprofit status by trying to influence government, such as their tantrums over having to abide by Obamacare over birth control. (And notice how none of those “small government” so-called family-values types were complaining when Viagra was covered by Medicare?)

  • murphy

    Yes, it is my understanding that that is one reason why Mr. Romney was so mystified as to why there was need in the USA since in his little Mormon world the church sets up huge food banks and other kinds of “banks” with all kinds of merchandise, etc., and if a church member in good standing runs into trouble they can draw from those and do not need “public” assistance from the government. BUT these perks are only for those not only IN the Mormon church but also IN GOOD STANDING according to the leaders of that person’s church. So why on earth can’t all the churches operate like that? That was Romney’s thinking. But even if all churches operated like that, what about the poor and hungry and homeless who do not belong to an established church or, if they do, may not be considered in good enough standing to get goodies?

  • Jo Bitsui

    So, what kind of evidence based info does Ryan want? Was he asleep when sr. Simone was providing the data?

  • Anonymous

    Why are Congresscritters so terribly rude to witnesses. Surely the purpose of these hearing cannot be to find solutions to problems. Otherwise, why would these people be so downright mean to the witnesses. Obviously they want to take these sound bites back to their home district to show how tough they are without explaining the setting for those comments. This disgusting behavior cannot be described as Christian, only heathen.

  • Anonymous

    Representative Blackburn herself benefits from this largesse from the Ag. budget.

  • Bitchyfrontdeskclerk

    god forbid we try to help people.. we just want to push the blame or responsibility onto someone else.. not my problem, let them starve and die in the streets.. their just poor, they don’t really count do they..?? shameful that we actually have hungry people in the US..

  • John Carollo


  • Anonymous

    Move to Utah.

  • John Carollo

    And how many of these farmers are deceased, but still receive these benefits?

  • John Carollo

    Doesn’t Repuke Bachmann benefit as well?

  • Nick

    Even though the purpose of a government job should be to do what’s best for people they instead do what they convince their supporters to believe is best. Believe it or not a lot of people buy into the “people are only poor cuz they don’t put in effort” philosophy and when a politician says “we’re going to cut taxes and no longer fund food stamps” some people stop listening after the tax cut part. And yeah they don’t want solutions if the solution costs money. the point of the meeting was to pretend they care and to get more of the mindless support they already have. They didn’t come off as caring at all and if their supporters actually looked into the topic they would hate them as much as their enemies. We drastically lower the number of impoverish in America if people were paid more it then within a year this joke they pretend to put effort into called “the war on poverty” would be practically over. Seems people like Paul and other congressmen/corporate businessmen don’t understand paying people enough to live comfortable and hiring more people would actually be beneficial to everyone including themselves because people with money spend it and when everyone has more money they’re more likely to spend it at your business. Most politicians pretend to adhere to a religious faith but most of them just pretend. Don’t be too mad at Paul for pretending he’s just doing what all his friends do.

  • Patrick King

    I must protest at the reference to Rep. Ryan and his colleagues as “conservatives.” They are NOT conservatives. They believe in things they have no evidence for much less proof of. They offer no workable solutions that have been successfully implemented anywhere to the problems they are charged by the people with resolving. I don’t know what they really are but they are not conservatives by any historic definition of that word. Perhaps they are mystics but conservatives, no. The idea that Ryan identifies himself as a “Catholic” is also amazing. By what definition can his principles possibly be deemed “Roman Catholic”? You mean he goes to church? That’s like saying someone who goes to the movies is a movie star.

  • Anonymous

    You need to look at a lot more churches. A lot of them don’t have soup kitchens or other help (if it’s not the “but we don’t want…” thing that FormerVISTA mentioned, they’ll go as far as “but our church isn’t called to help the poor”). Many of those that do have any sort of program only help their own or have so many requirements for the help that it’s next to impossible to get (even when you are a member) and it comes with a heaping helping of condemnation and judgment – and may not even be the help you need. For example, you might need food or diapers, but they’ll look at your situation and budget (I’ve known groups to request to see your bank statements, not just to verify funds but also to see how you spend them) and decide that the “real help” you need is a patronizing lecture on “proper spending” and a book about budgeting from whoever is the current “Christian budgeting guru” while totally ignoring that you’re living in or near poverty and without food or diapers (whichever you so desperately needed that you bothered to beg at a church). I guess that those diapers or the bag of groceries will magically resolve on their own with enough time should you be “faithful”, that must be their plan…it’s the only thing I can figure. I’ve seen this repeatedly both when asking and from the inside when working as part of church staff. I saw it often enough that I won’t go to religious organizations for help without solid recommendations from others or it being my only choice – and I won’t recommend such an organization to others unless I’ve checked them out first myself. Are all churches or Christians like this? No. But plenty of them are.

  • Emelye Waldherr

    “Since you
    ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make
    merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people
    merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they
    cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

    “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

    “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had
    better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

    A desperately poor, starving majority is what the plutocracy wants and they have tasked their Republican employees to make it happen. The ill and young die off, reducing the cost of caring for them. The able bodied are so desperate they’ll work for a pittance – especially if they succeed in eliminating the minimum wage, again, benefiting the elite 1%.

    This won’t change until the American people rise up and demand an end to private funding of elections. Only when that happens can things even begin to get better.

  • Katie

    I would suggest the republicans should take a look at themselves before they squawk about people needing help financially and food stamps. They are collecting their wages and all their perks working less than 3 days a week….isn’t that welfare?? Maybe we should stop paying them so we can give a minimum wage raise to WORKING PEOPLE!

  • Anonymous

    “Just pretend” is correct. When Paul Ryan released his budget he claimed it was based on his Catholic upbringing only to have the Bishops release a letter saying his budget fails the moral test established in Catholic doctrine. Obviously, that changed nothing.

  • Tired

    Instead of throwing money at this issue, let’s think of a way to stop
    throwing away 263 million pounds of food a day. This statistic
    is taken from end

  • Esther Klein Buddenhagen

    What a weird country

  • Norman Prather

    It has been said England and America are two nations separated by a common language.
    I am starting to suspect that Republicans and Democrats are two groups
    of Americans separated by a common language. They use the same words but
    different dictionaries.

  • Anonymous

    You fail to understand the difference between giving agribusinesses welfare and giving moochers welfare. If these children were working in the fields of these mega agri corporations, then those of the Republican character would demonstrate less disdain for these children. Don’t mistake this for the will to do anything about it because it goes against every principal, both economic and religious, that they stand for… the most people of this character will ever offer is lip service, like “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.”

  • Thomfoolery

    This. Yes.

  • Rita M Nicholson

    I can honestly say, “I hate republicans.”

  • Anonymous

    That’s the whole point, forcing those who don’t belong to a church to tow the line and fake it, if necessary, to receive any help. It’s a tactic of organized religion that’s probably as old as organized
    religion. You want to eat? Get with our religious program!

  • Whuteva

    The simple fact is that the GOP has no interest in solving these problems. THEY DON’T CARE.

  • roberto

    Hey there genius republicans, the more impoverished voters you create the harder it will be for you to get *honestly* elected down the road.

  • JM

    Do not call them heathens. The original meaning of that word is “people of the heath” and described those who earned their living from the land. They did not let their fellow heathens starve but lived worked together to create food for all. Ryan and his cohorts are not Catholic or Christian in the true sense of the word. They have no realization that we are all related. Very sad.

  • Jo

    that’s good.
    I wished they walked 6 months in the shoes of the lives they are voting on. What about all the monies spent on securing past leaders and things like that, is that not a form of welfare.The tax dollars are taking care of a lot of people living very well.

  • Jo

    And get out and vote!

  • kkscatko

    It seems these are the same politicians who approve and insist that America provide taxpayer’s money to third world nations for housing, food and medical care. These are the same politicians who approve giving rights to illegal immigrants for housing, food and medical care, even funding to start businesses. Citizens of the USA don’t get these advantages. Our children are forced to live with us in the streets, our babies and elders die from starvations, the country is in a serious state of malnutrition, Citizen’s families are living 3-4 families per home and these politicians tell the country that taxpayers – working people, don’t matter. Unless you make $250K a year, you are not considered human or worth the government’s efforts. They’d rather give my tax dollars to some child in Iraq than to my starving grandchildren. If I immigrate, will the new country provide for me as well as America provides for immigrants, legal or illegal? I doubt it.

  • Josh Funt

    How about calling them hypochristians?

  • Sandy

    I could not have said it better than you did. I agree with everything you said. We know several families who are living together for the same reasons and others who have no health insurance. When will people wake up & think of others rather than just themselves?

  • Anonymous

    Agreed! 3 days a week is part-time. Congress should lose all benefits and have to work at minimum wage, like all the rest of America’s part-time work force… let them see how easy it is.

  • Anonymous

    The point of Congressional hearings is not to gain insights toward better legislation. It’s to allow grandstanding politicians to offer up sound bites and talking points for their media talking-head cronies. And they don’t listen for anything but an opportunity to push their own agendas. (I like to think I wasn’t always this cynical, but I loathe our current crop of representatives.)

  • Thomas

    Sadly, this is exactly what has pushed my thoughts of immigrating to another country from a history of rhetoric to a more immediate reality.

  • Anonymous

    An Alternative to Capitalism (Let’s do away with poverty!)

    Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: “There is no alternative”. She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

    I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider.
    Please click on the following link. It will take you to my essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

    John Steinsvold

    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
    ~ Albert Einstein

  • NotARedneck

    On NPR I pegged it (although it may not be posted) We’re dealing here with “criminal RepubliCON scum.

  • NotARedneck

    They never were the “party of god”. More like the party of Hitler’s American religious belief’s. The criminal racists criminals of the deep south have created a “religion” to further their political agenda.

  • NotARedneck

    scholars believe that Roosevelt’s New Deal, had more to do with
    preventing future mass uprisings, and attempt to squash
    communist/socialist from gaining a meaningful foothold in America.”

    So true and still the right wing criminal scum have worked tirelessly to bring back the criminal speculation of the 20’s and the Gilded age. I hope that they face a guillotine.

  • NotARedneck

    It is the complete lack of REAL investment in the US and the complete takeover by the 1% of the political process that allows them to speculate at will that has created this problem.

  • NotARedneck

    I’m sad that people blame “conservatives”. The RepubliCONs are right wing criminal trash, closely aligned with fascist beliefs that have brought us to this point. They do this with clever use of advertising and the ability to motivate their core – racists, bigots, fundamentalist imbeciles, rural welfare queens, gun nuts with the money of tax evaders. Goebbels would be impressed!

  • NotARedneck

    Most of the wealthy are lazy drug users. They inherited their wealth, 95% of the time, after all!

    When they screw up, (often) the rest of us lose!

  • NotARedneck

    Southern white racists are such complete imbeciles. It is amusing sparing with these scum on these sites.

    It is unfortunate that after the Civil War, they weren’t driven out to the western desert like they did to so many Indians. One of the MOST unfortunate situations of injustice in humanity’s history. They were criminal scum that deserved a severe fate.

  • NotARedneck

    Churches have the “power” to give charitable receipts for donations. SELDOM do most of them use this money to help the poor, but there are some exceptions.

    Usually, the money goes to help the “true believers” and game the political process. They are no different from most corporations in this respect.

  • NotARedneck

    They used to have castles.

  • NotARedneck

    “it could only go downhill after that….” and it certainly has!

  • Mike Sharon

    Once Ryan saw that Sr. Simone wasn’t packing a ruler he drifted off.

  • NotARedneck

    In Asia, they call them “rice bowl christians”. American right wing evangelists were particularly effective at creating such “believers”.

  • NotARedneck

    Among right wing fundamentalists and other similar denominations, they firmly believe that “charity begins at home”. Getting a deduction on one’s taxes while the church spends your donations on you is just a way of stretching one’s budget dollar.

    Other people spend their after tax dollars on such things. Of course, they are also willing to attend with (horrors) “non believers”.

  • DidiSayThatOutloud!

    Don’t think that the Democrats are doing U.S. citizens any favors either. Both parties are crooks!!

  • Anonymous

    Too bad they won’t follow the beliefs of this early American theologian…

    “Enforced uniformity confounds civil and religious liberty and denies the principles of Christianity and civility. No man shall be required to worship or maintain a worship against his will.” ~~~Roger Williams

  • Craig Bakalian

    This is the separation of community and farms. Our communities are being insulated, by business entities who have a economic interest in cuting off large swaths of people, primarily the poor from food. The more middle men, the less available food. And, our government currently supports this paradigm.

  • Plainme

    The above House discussion is a peek into the next election cycle. The attempt at discrediting Sr. Simone is truly outrageous. The Republicans really do have to twist reality to provide credibility for their policies. Fact-checked evidence based on honest analysis should be the basis for fundamental arguments. Also, the willingness to look at both sides, as in departing from strict ideology, and at the same time finding the nuance in realism (sorry but that’s the only way I can explain it) is important for finding solutions.

  • Roaming Hampster

    The Republican party has always tried raising the bar for government assistance. You have to make an impossibly low amount of wages to get any help now so many in the middle are stuck in a nasty situation where they make too much to qualify for assistance, but not enough to keep up or get ahead. As a consequence many people slide slowly and painfully backwards into poverty where they are then forced to stay.

  • Russell Scott Day

    John Edwards was one for a study of why people are poor. Remember that? I heard the University of NC had to work hard get 300 thousand dollars back from him.
    Corruption and War, Keep People Poor!

  • Wally

    There are no profits??? Wow!

  • Ignatz

    No, there aren’t. A non-profit corporation has expenses that equal its income. And that’s certified by an accountant and subject to review by the IRS. Just like secular non-profit corporations.