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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid