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Will Paul Ryan’s poverty plan pitch strike out?

"Will Paul Ryan’s poverty plan pitch strike out?" Continued...

Holloway’s group provides what she calls intensive care—teaching life and coping skills to people battling abuse and addiction. She said doctors refer patients to her after the hospitals can no longer get any more federal dollars to pay for that patient’s prescription drugs.

She talked about a Baltimore man, addicted to drugs for 20 years, who smelled so bad that police refused to put him in their patrol cars after arresting him for stealing. The man is now married, with a job, an apartment, and a daughter.

“We looked at how he came in, and we looked at what he could be, and we started speaking that into him,” Holloway said. “So as long as you are talking about the problem and not the solution then the person is only going to see themselves as a problem. They need to know that somebody with a clean motive is invested in helping.”

The final step of the process is allowing patients to give back. People who have been hurting, after they get themselves on the road to recovery, want to be the givers of help too because that is “the place where you are fulfilled,” Holloway said.

What amounted to mini-lectures on poverty to the gathered lawmakers came as the U.S. economy expanded at just 0.1 percent in the months of January, February, and March. That was the slowest growth since rate since 2012. The hearing also came on the day Democrats in the Senate failed to advance a bill that would have increased the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

Republicans argued that the jump in minimum wage would have been too high and too fast, undercutting any help to the poor by leading to job losses. Democrats are trying to make increasing the minimum wage one of their campaign issues for this fall’s key mid-term elections. They again want to paint the GOP as being insensitive to the poor.

Democrats also are trying to go after Ryan as he continues to publicize his version of the war on poverty. Ryan met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Wednesday after its members criticized comments he made during a radio interview last month.

During that interview with Bill Bennett, Ryan said: “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Some congressional Democrats called the remarks racist. While Ryan met with the members of the CBC on Wednesday, he did not directly discuss the radio comments, according to lawmakers who attended the meeting.

“The first step to real reform is a frank conversation,” Ryan said in a statement after the meeting. “We need to figure out what works; we need to learn from people who are fighting poverty on the front lines. And that conversation must go both ways. Simply defending the status quo or demanding more of the same is not an answer.”

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who was also at the private meeting, told reporters that Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, ought to give all sides a voice when it comes to the best ways to fight poverty.

“If you’re really serious about having a discussion on poverty, let’s have it out transparently, let’s have it out in the open,” Clyburn said.

Back at Wednesday’s hearing, Ryan said the question isn’t whether the federal government should help. The question, he argued, is how.

“Washington has a role to play,” Ryan said. “We do need a safety net, but there’s no substitute for economic growth. We need both of them to lift people out of poverty.”

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee is WORLD's Washington Bureau chief. As a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, he was embedded with a National Guard unit in Iraq. He also once worked in the press office of Sen. Lamar Alexander.

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