News / USA

As Congress Debates US Poverty, Relief Group Provides Services

As Congress Debates US Poverty, Relief Group Provides Servicesi
X
Cindy Saine
May 01, 2014 9:40 PM
Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in the United States, some 46 million Americans - about 15 percent of the population - are living in poverty. On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic lawmakers disagree about the effectiveness of government programs aimed at helping those in need. VOA's Cindy Saine visited a Washington relief organization called Bread for the City to ask staff members and clients what they think.
Cindy Saine
Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in the United States, some 46 million Americans - about 15 percent of the population - are living in poverty.  On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic lawmakers disagree about the effectiveness of government programs aimed at helping those in need.  

In Washington, Bread for the City is providing food, medical aid and legal services under one roof.  George Jones is chief executive officer:

"Probably one in three families in the District lives in poverty.  So, even though this region is one of the wealthiest regions in the country, there are literally 200,000 people in Washington, DC living in poverty, in a city of 600,000 people," said Jones.

Not far away on Capitol Hill, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, the chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, says the government is losing the war on poverty.

“I think we can all agree that Washington isn’t making anybody proud these days. Right now, the federal government spends nearly $800 billion a year on 92 different programs to fight poverty.  Yet the official poverty rate is the highest in a generation," said Ryan.

Some advocates agree with Ryan, saying government programs can actually perpetuate a cycle of poverty, while private industry can change people's lives forever by giving them jobs.  Robert Woodson is the president of the relief group Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.  He says the government has created a whole industry of those who service the nation’s poor.
 
“Seventy percent of all the dollars over the years that we have spent on the poor goes to those who serve poor people," said Woodson.

Most Democrats disagree, and blast House Republicans for passing a budget that would slash spending on domestic programs that benefit the poor, such as Medicaid.  At Bread for the City, client Mark Smith Sims said cuts in Medicaid would be devastating for him and many others.

"It would mean actually having to live in pain, because when you are in a situation where you have no other place to go for medical treatment, pain is a lot worse, and it disrupts every other aspect of your life," said Sims.
 
Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have criticized Congressman Ryan for remarks he made about a culture in inner cities that he says does not value hard work.  Ryan met with the caucus, and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge told reporters it was a start.

“We appreciate Chairman Ryan coming to our meeting. [We] did not get a whole lot accomplished, but we do agree on a number of things.  One is that we are both concerned about the poverty in this country. We just disagree on how we address the problem," said Fudge.

George Jones of Bread for the City says lawmakers may be asking the wrong question:

"The question really is not whether or not these government programs have worked. The question is how bad would things be if we had not enacted these sort of progressive programs," he said.

As the poverty debate continues in Washington, Bread for the City and other food pantries around the country will continue to help one person at a time.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More