Poverty in America

Today Congressman Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, released “A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America” with the additional caption “Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility.” We are glad to see Speaker Ryan call attention to poverty problems, as Missouri’s poverty and hunger issues are severe, but we challenge the assumption behind many of his proposals and his proposed solutions. We believe some policies he has endorsed, such as block granting child nutrition programs, are dangerous to Missouri’s most vulnerable children.

Safety net programs have reduced the rate of poverty among children and other vulnerable neighbors and offered assistance in times of unemployment, illness, disaster, and other societal challenges. Public benefits programs should be strengthened and simplified instead of creating new layers of red tape and reducing food quality as is done in House Resolution (H.R.) 5003, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act legislation voted out of the House Education and the Workforce Committee on May 18th. We have joined nearly 1,000 other organizations that have thus far signed a statement in opposition to this proposal.

Creating family-supporting wage jobs and removing barriers to employment (like lack of transportation or access to affordable child care) is crucial to expanding opportunities that families in poverty need. To blame people living in poverty for their lack of employment in an economy not producing enough employment for all who need it is heartless and cruel. Let us focus on solving these issues together instead of pointing fingers at persons struggling to survive. If we walked a mile in their shoes, we would surely be more compassionate.

For deeper analysis of the issues in Speaker Ryan’s proposal, see:



This statement is attributable to Jeanette Mott Oxford as Empower Missouri’s Executive Director.

Posted in Economic Justice.