Speaking Tuesday at an annual dinner honoring the late Jack Kemp, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said the federal government could have taken the trillion dollars it spent last year on welfare programs and instead given a check for $20,000 to every American living in poverty.
“Just last year, total federal and state spending on means-tested programs came to over one trillion dollars,” Ryan said at the dinner honoring his mentor. “What does that mean in practical terms? For that amount of money, you could give every single poor American a check for $20,000 – every man, woman and child.”
Ryan said the government wasted all that money “trying to fight poverty through government programs,” but the result has been 46 million people living in poverty; during the last four years, the number of people on food stamps has increased by 15 million.
Using Ronald Reagan’s famous remark, Ryan said Lyndon Johnson launched the “War on Poverty” in 1964 and “poverty is winning.”
Ryan also emphasized the benefits of free enterprise, noting that “nothing has done more to lift people everywhere out of poverty.”
The annual dinner, which also honored Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), is held by the Jack Kemp Foundation to honor Kemp, an advocate for bringing more economic opportunity to the disadvantaged to help lift them out of poverty permanently.