Hearing: The Social Safety Net: Impact of the Recession and of the Recovery Act

Ranking Member Ryan Opening Statement

Thank you Chairman Spratt.

I too would like to welcome all of our witnesses…

In particular, Pat Delessio from Wisconsin, who has seen the impact of thisrecession up close, and brings valuable insight on the effectiveness of the various government safety net programs.

I would also like to welcome back to this Committee Ron Haskins — who, as the former staff director for the Ways and Means’ subcommittee on Human Resources, helped craft one of the most successful entitlement reforms in the Federal Government’s history — the 1996 Welfare Reform law.

As is painfully obvious to all, American families have been struggling – and continue to struggle – in this weakened economy. Since the official start of this recession, back in December of 2007, roughly 7.2 million jobs have been lost.

Regrettably, the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ added dramatically to the nation’s debt, but did little to improve the nation’s dire economic situation: unemployment hovers at about 10%, and economists forecast a sluggish and mostly jobless recovery in the year to come.

So at this point, even many formerly-middle class families have found themselves relying on some degree of public assistance for the first time in their lives.

Clearly, it is critical that we here in Congress ensure these safety nets remain available – and strong – for those who truly need and depend on them.

But in responding to today’s recession, we had better remain mindful of the even greater economic crisis we will face if we don’t get a handle on Washington’s ongoing explosion of spending and debt. We must also reform our largest – and least sustainable entitlement programs – which are today on path to grow themselves right into extinction.

These immense fiscal problems threaten to overwhelm the budget, and smother any real hope for a strong economy in the future. Incredibly, the only plans likely to go anywhere here in Washington are those that will make these problems dramatically worse.

I will again remind my colleagues that — should we fail to get Washington’s fiscal house in order — the biggest losers will be our nation’s most vulnerable: those who depend on the continuation of the very federal safety net programs that are today going broke.

We can – and we must — reform these programs to preserve the safety net; and the sooner we get to work on these critical reforms, the better.

Again, thank you Chairman Spratt, and I thank our witnesses for their testimony today.