An unidentified man, left, watches Allen Duncan, homeless and unemployed, sleep on a sidewalk, August 8, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Congressman Paul Ryan recently said that Republicans “don’t have a full-fledged” plan to fight poverty “because we need to do more listening to people who are in the trenches fighting poverty.”
He had the perfect opportunity to do just that at a recent House Budget Committee hearing, “War on Poverty: A Progress Report,” which he chaired. California Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee requested that Chairman Ryan allow Tianna Gaines-Turner—a mother and anti-poverty activist who has struggled with poverty and homelessness—to testify.
But Chairman Ryan balked.
“Ranking Member Van Hollen previously selected a witness to testify, and I won’t be able to make further additions to the witness list,” he wrote in a letter to Congresswoman Lee.
But the chairman could have made additions to the witness list had he truly wanted to—he simply chose not to. He did, however, permit Gaines-Turner to submit written testimony.
The only problem with that is that written testimony normally sees about as much light of day as that old T-shirt with all of the holes that you keep in the back of your bottom drawer—the one you might take out again some day to workout in provided that no one you know is within ten miles of you.
Had the chairman included Gaines-Turner at the hearing, this is what the American people would have learned:
Gaines-Turner and her husband both work and have three children—a 9-year-old son on the honor roll in fourth grade, and 5-year-old twins who are entering kindergarten. All three of her children suffer from epilepsy and moderate to severe asthma.
She earns $10 an hour working part-time for a childcare provider, and her husband earns $8 an hour working the deli counter at a grocery store. They aren’t offered health insurance through work, and earn too much to qualify for medical assistance. She, too, suffers from asthma and writes that she “currently can’t afford to get an inhaler.”
Their children are covered through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and “take life-saving medication every day.”
I worry about a day that might come where my children won’t be able to see a specialist because I can’t afford the co-pay.… Just like you want the best for your children I want the best for my children.
She describes a time when their oldest son was hospitalized with seizures. She took off work to be with him while her husband took off to care for the twins: