President Barack Obama is promoting poverty policies that “trap people in poverty,” Wisconsin congressman (and last year’s Republican vice presidential candidate) Paul Ryan said in a recent interview with NBC.
But Ryan hasn’t developed a counter-plan yet. “We need to do more listening with people who are in the trenches fighting poverty,” he told NBC, and that was the purpose of last Wednesday’s hearing of the House Committee on the Budget, which he chairs. Eloise Anderson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, focused her entire testimony on the breakdown of the family. Welfare targeting widows and single mothers backfired, she said, removing the responsibility of living fathers. She argued the government should “promote … marriage” and “encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.”
Others, like Simone Campbell, executive director of Catholic activist group NETWORK, said American poverty is not as bad as it seems. It’s wrong to measure poverty based on income alone. Government money raises millions of people from poverty, she said, and could be increased. She also claimed raising the minimum wage could lower the number of single-parent families.
On NBC, Ryan spoke of his search for government policies that encourage communities to band together and take charge on the local level: “That’s what civil society is.” The immediate battle is over food stamps, which Ryan said should connect to work requirements: “Our goal with these programs ought to be to give people a temporary hand so that they can get out of poverty.” The long-term plan may include deep reform, Ryan concluded: “This isn’t about cutting spending. This is about improving people’s lives.”
Read and evaluate the witnesses’ testimony for yourself.