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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid