On Thursday Representative Paul Ryan held his fifth hearing on the War On Poverty, which he long ago declared to be a lost cause, with the biggest innovation being that this time he actually allowed someone who has experienced poverty and knows first hand the importance of our safety net programs to speak.
Tianna Gaines-Turner and her husband are representative of the majority of families receiving assistance through these government programs. Both are employed, and still they struggle to make ends meet and care for their three children, a 10-year-old and 6-year-old twins. Tianna’s husband works in a grocery store for $8.50 an hour while she earns $10.88 an hour six months of the year at her seasonal employment, working with children in an after school program.
Typically, Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN) could not resist the opportunity to humiliate her for the character flaw of being poor, refusing to acknowledge that she and her husband are doing all that they can to support themselves and care for their children, seeing only that she was dependent on the government. He also inquired as to her political persuasions, as if that had some bearing on her poverty.
“If we were to increase by 300, 400, 500 percent,” Rokita said, “all of these programs, and get more money into the pockets of people by definition they would then be out of poverty. And that would be a good thing or a bad thing?”
“It might be a good thing if they were out of poverty,” Gaines-Turner replied, “and they were moved out of poverty in the right way.”
She is referring to what is known as the cliff, where people trying to better themselves begin to earn more money only to see their safety net benefits cut so drastically as to put them in a worse position than they were when they were relying solely on government assistance.
Rokita acknowledged the cliff, but wanted her to respond only to the increase that he had theorized, so he could then pounce as soon as she agreed that yes, it would be a good thing saying: “But the cycle of dependency would certainly still be there, which you also don’t like… The cycle of dependency, you wouldn’t be independent.”
When Gaines-Turner told him that she considered herself to be independent now, Rokita asked “You’re independent on this?”
“Yes, I consider myself to be very independent. I work just as hard as anybody in this room,” Gaines-Turner replied. “I’m very independent.”
Watch the questioning below from C-SPAN.
h/t: Daily Kos