News / USA

US Lawmakers Disagree on How to Reduce Poverty

FILE- Congressman Paul Ryan holds a copy of the 2014 Budget Resolution, March 2013.
FILE- Congressman Paul Ryan holds a copy of the 2014 Budget Resolution, March 2013.
Cindy Saine
Fifty years after U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty, about 46 million Americans are living in poverty. Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan says government social welfare programs are not working, and it is time to listen to those fighting poverty on the front lines for different approaches. Democrats say things would be much worse, however, without government services for the poor.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers faced off Wednesday at a hearing on the role of the government in helping to lift people out of poverty. Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said the government has failed.

“I think we can all agree that Washington isn’t making anybody proud these days," said Ryan. "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. And over the past three years, deep poverty has been the highest on record. Clearly, we can do better.”

Related video report by Cindy Saine:
As Congress Debates US Poverty, Relief Group Provides Servicesi
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.
Most Democratic lawmakers strongly disagree, and oppose Ryan’s budget that would raise defense spending but sharply cut spending on domestic programs for the poor. It passed the House but not the Senate.

The president of the non-profit group, the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, Robert Woodson, said the focus on government programs 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.

Woodson argued the focus should be on private enterprise giving people jobs. Ryan has come under criticism for remarks suggesting that some poor people in inner cities lack a culture of hard work. Democratic Representative Chris van Hollen accused Republicans of misunderstanding the roots of poverty.

“But it adds insult to injury to claim, as Republicans do, that shredding the social safety net actually helps those who are struggling every day to make ends meet," said van Hollen. "This claim is based on a false and pernicious stereotype that many of these struggling individuals prefer to rely on these safety nets - sometimes mockingly referred to as hammocks - rather than get a job. This mindset is a fantasy world approach - that by dismantling anti-poverty programs, we will reduce poverty.”

Ryan met Wednesday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss ways to reduce poverty. After the meeting, Democratic Congressional Black Caucus chair Marcia Fudge spoke to reporters.

“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,” she said.

Fudge said Ryan agreed to invite members of the Congressional Black Caucus to present their views at a future hearing on alleviating poverty.

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Comment Sorting
by: Not Again from: Canada
May 01, 2014 11:10 PM
The issue of poverty is a global problem, not just unique to the US. All Western nations, and all other nations, have large numbers of poor people; they are in reality economically disadvantaged. In many countries we see people, that have been part of the middle class for decades, and now they are poor, marginalized, and survive on state help, and private donation handouts; they are not part of the positive side of the economic system, they can't participate.
It is interesting to see the two US Parties argue about mytical and fictional causes to poverty. The chronically poor people, in many cases are not just economically disadvantaged, but in fact have serious health issues relating directly to a disability which is an impediment to work.
Work/employment is a key patway to reducing, if not eliminating, poverty. Unfortunately, employment is a two part system, like a key and a lock. You can have lots of keys, but it does not mean they will unlock the lock. Or you could have lots of locks, but no key to open them. The key needs to fit and open the lock, for people to open the gate to their own prosperity.
Almost a trillion was spent propping up large institutions, if half as much is spent on retraining people, the sit/outcome maybe far better for all.
Currently, in most countries, there are lots of people that do not have the required skills to gain employment; essentially they can't unlock the gate to their prosperity.
The problem is in not providing/updating skills, to enable the person to be gainfully employed, it is one root cause to poverty. The other aspect, is to ensure that unrestricted trade deficits are not allowed to exist. The current model of globalization, is one significant factor causing un/under-employment=poverty.
Neither socialists nor capitalists can resolve the issue of poverty, until such time that they address root causes. It is delusional to think that fictional and mythological narratives, will resolve the ever growing problem of poverty.
No question that all able people should work, and not live from handouts, it must be the end objective; unfortunately to many working people are also very poor; the system is broken by the greed of the few! Handouts, also will not reduce poverty.
Who has the leadership attributes = to put the people's interests ahead of greed; to implement the required skill upgrades and require people to accept work and not handouts; and lastly to step in and fix the problem unrestricted trade deficits wrt the globalization problem? Unfortunately no one! They rather engage in fiction and mythology, because neither can be resolved.

by: Issa Barry from: conakry, Guinea
May 01, 2014 10:47 AM
I believe that the congressional black caucus is in a better positkon to identify the most efficient approach in fighting poverty since they are from the communities that have the largest number (black & hispanic).Mr Ryan's initiative to give that group an opportunity to come up with a proposal with regard to solving that problem is a wise idea.

by: Marcuscassius from: Arkansas
April 30, 2014 8:42 PM
No! republicans refuse to do their part to get rid of poverty. They think that the rich should have it all, by some divine right. That the rich should have every break, immunity to law, rights of inheritance to protect their wealth. They think they should
be what we fought to be free of 200 years ago. They want to be royalty over everyone.

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