Oversight hearing examines emotional welfare reform issue

Jordan called the hearing in response to a March Government Accountability Office report that found duplication and lack of coordination of 18 food programs, 47 training programs and 20 homelessness programs.

“The GAO found that only 7 of the 18 federal food assistance programs have been associated with positive health and nutrition outcomes,” he said.

Kucinich at the hearing said he could not believe anyone would be talking about restricting access to food during a time of economic hardship.

Kucinich said that the GAO report should not be seen as supporting cutting benefits.

“GAO did not find waste, fraud and abuse in the delivery of these programs,” Kucinch said. “It does recommend delivering fewer benefits to those in need.”

A large part of the hearing focused on arguments by Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation who said assistance programs encourage single parenthood and joblessness and need to have their incentives changed.

Rector said that benefits could be reduced for single parents to encourage marriage.

Rector’s comments were rebuffed by Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, who argued food stamps recipients are not gaming the system and are in greater need of help due to a proliferation of lower-paying jobs.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he was shocked by Rector’s comments.

“I have never seen so many people waiting in line for food,” Kucinich said of a recent visit to Ohio. “We have to be very careful about engaging in sophistry. Some of this testimony is tough to take.”

Jordan asked Kucinich if he agreed the government should at least be able to know how much it is spending on assistance and whether it is working. Kucinch replied that those issues can be examined as long as people are still being fed.

House Republicans are eager to extend the welfare reforms of the 1990s and such reforms are called for the House 2012 budget resolution.

So far welfare reform has not been pushed for in connection with the debt ceiling debate.

One conservative activist said that no one is talking about linking it for now.