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Hunger and the Ryan Budget

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. WOOLSEY. I thank the Congresswoman from Connecticut for this Special Order and for those kind words. Thank you very much.

So let me see, do I have this right? Am I getting it? My colleagues on the other side of the aisle think it's just fine for the wealthiest Americans to avoid their fair share of the tax burden, that it's fine for a millionaire to pay a lower Federal tax rate than his secretary. So, tell me who they believe should make do with less in order to close the budget deficit. Just who do they want to sacrifice? Oh, of course, those Americans who are barely getting by, who can't afford life's basic necessities without support from the Federal Government.

Mr. Speaker, to convert SNAP into a block grant program and cut nutrition assistance would cut a giant hole in the social safety net. Actually, the SNAP program is a smart investment in Americans who need help the most. It stimulates the economy, it increases worker productivity, it's good for our children's development and academic performance. At this very moment, when a harsh economy is threatening the security of so many families, we should be increasing these investments. We shouldn't be standing here talking about scaling them back.

You know, Mr. Speaker--you probably don't know--I know what it's like to be working and still not earn enough to put food on the table. I was a single mother, it was 45 years ago. I had three small children, they were 1, 3, and 5 years old. Their dad was ill, he abandoned us. I went back to work to support my family. In fact, I had to lie about my marital status and about my childcare arrangements just to get a job--remember, that was 40 years ago. My salary was not enough to provide for the four of us, so to help my paycheck cover the basic needs of my family I went on public assistance--kept on working--and that was how I could make ends meet. But without food stamps, we never could have made ends meet. As I said, my children were 1, 3, and 5 years old. They had needs.

Eventually, we got through the rough patch and my children grew up to be healthy, successful adults--they're amazing, by the way--but I don't know what we would have done or how we would have survived without that help. In fact, isn't that what America is about? When our fellow citizens fall on hard times, don't we pitch in to help them? Well, that's not what the Republican philosophy is. It's quite different than that. I believe that they believe every man and woman is on their own and should be fending for themselves.

Millionaires and billionaires deserve the special breaks that they don't need. And more hardship for Americans who are suffering enough already is just what they have to do when they happen not to be very wealthy, or in need. It's appalling, and it's shameful.

Mr. Speaker, you don't need to have my personal experience; nobody needs to. I didn't have to do the food stamp test for 5 days--I know what it's like to live on food stamps. But we, as Americans, as Members of Congress, have to fight with everything that we have to protect the nutrition programs that we have in this country because families in America depend on it.


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