WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today at a Steering & Policy Committee hearing on poverty in America. Whip Hoyer, who launched the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality, and Opportunity in 2013, joined Rep. Barbara Lee, who chairs the Task Force, and Democratic colleagues in hearing testimony from experts and community leaders. Below is a transcript of his opening statement:
“Thank you very much Madam Leader, and thank you Congresswoman [Rosa] DeLauro and Congresswoman [Donna] Edwards, for leading this effort to focus on what ought to be our principal responsibility in making sure that the pursuit of happiness is available to every American.
“In his second inaugural address President Franklin Roosevelt said, ‘The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.’
“Today our nation under this Republican-led Congress frankly is failing that test. The budget that House Republicans have put forward, like the several before it, is based on the same kind of trickle-down economics that we have seen again and again - enrich those with plenty, while making conditions more difficult for those who are struggling just to get by. In a way, Republican trickle-down economics is well-named: at the top, the wealthiest individuals and corporations receive a flood, down the ladder the most vulnerable see only a trickle.
“Speaker Ryan has said he wants to make fighting poverty a focus of his work. If that’s true, we are going to need to see more than the announcement of a Republican Task Force, and we’re certainly going to need to see a budget that does not end the Medicare guarantee, slash funding for critical anti-poverty programs, and disinvest in efforts to create jobs and opportunity.
“Last month Speaker Ryan said, ‘There was a time when I would talk about the difference between makers and takers in our country,' referring to people who have accepted government benefits. And then he goes on to say, ‘But as I spent more time listening and really learning the root causes of poverty, I realized I was wrong.’
“I opened my Bible this morning which I keep in my desk, and I went to James, second chapter, verses fourteen through eighteen. I want to read it. I believe strongly in the separation of church and state, but I do not believe in the separation of the values my faith teaches me and the policies I pursue. James 2:14-18 says, ‘What use is it my brethren if someone says he has faith, but has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them ‘Go in peace, be warm, be filled’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.’
“Rhetoric - saying we will reach out and lift up - is welcome, but if it is without action, it makes no difference. Thank you Madam Chair.”