Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) accepts the Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Award at the AIDSWatch 2016 Positive Leadership Award Reception at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 29, 2016.
Paul Morigi—Getty Images for The Elizabeth T
June 8, 2016 12:01 PM EDT
Lee is a U.S. Representative for California

On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled his long-promised solution to poverty.

His answer to the epidemic? Recycling the same failed policies that prevent Americans from finding work, earning a decent wage and supporting their families.

Quite simply, Ryan’s plan flies in the face of the evidence. No one honestly believes that the solution to poverty is cutting proven lifelines to struggling families. Yet once again, Congressional Republicans have put forth a plan to cut Head Start for toddlers, end support for college students and gamble with Social Security.

While the Speaker is rebranding these failed ideas as a “better way,” the American people can see that his proposals are clearly the wrong way to address poverty. His plan will just push more families into dire poverty—and force them to choose between their medicine, groceries and homes.

Republican rhetoric on “opportunity” and “rewarding work,” disguises the plain truth: their plan for the nearly 47 million Americans living in poverty is nothing but cuts.

Cruelly, many of the programs Ryan is targeting are designed to help poor kids. These children didn’t choose to be born poor, but that hasn’t stopped Congressional Republicans from slashing funding for school lunches or preschool programs. With one in five American kids facing hunger, how can the Speaker look into their eyes and resolve to make their lives any harder?

Ryan’s proposal also makes it harder for young people and workers to climb out of poverty. While he claims his plan will “expand opportunity,” it attacks the programs that are most-needed, including job training and college assistance. These programs give people the skills they need to find good-paying jobs.

This plan also jeopardizes Social Security for seniors who have earned a secure retirement. Instead of letting Wall Street gamble with the benefits seniors have paid for and earned, Ryan owes our seniors a real plan for ensuring their economic security and dignity.

From pre-school to retirement, House Republicans’ proposal is a recipe for more poverty and less opportunity.

The Democratic counterproposal is simple: let’s invest in what works.

By expanding on our successes, we strengthen our economy and restore the American Dream to all.

According to the Council of Economic Advisors, our proven anti-poverty programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and Head Start, have lifted an average of 27 million people out of poverty every year for the past 45 years ending in 2012.

These programs are not just a short-term fix. By investing in early education, job training and college affordability programs, we’ve helped families build a pathway into the middle class and long-term economic security.

These programs are proven to work. So why are Republicans intent on attacking them year after year?

In America, poverty isn’t a small problem—and it doesn’t just affect rural communities and inner cities. One in three Americans will live in poverty for at least one year of their lives and 70% of Americans will rely on government assistance at some point.

With his new proposal, the Speaker just told these struggling Americans: “you’re on your own.”

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