by Congresswoman Maxine Waters
Washington, D.C. – Following an announcement made Feb. 11 by Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling that the committee will embark upon “an extensive review and thorough examination of the successes and failures” of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ranking Member Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., issued this statement:
I’m so pleased that Mr. Hensarling and his fellow Republicans suddenly seem to want to focus on the needs of Americans in poverty. Last year, Democrats requested hearings on this very issue, which the majority refused to grant.* In fact, last Congress, Committee Republicans held only one hearing on public and assisted housing – and that hearing was about deregulation.
I am very dubious of attempts to “review and examine” HUD programs. Usually such reviews are merely a smokescreen to allow Republicans to cut or freeze spending that invests in our vulnerable citizens and turn programs into block grants so that states can engage in a “race to the bottom.”
I sincerely hope that the intent of this review is not to merely repeat the failed policies of the 1996 “welfare to work” reform law but rather to find ways for our federal affordable housing programs to better meet the growing housing needs of our country.
History clearly demonstrates that when Congress embarks upon such reforms, federal funding typically declines over time, often dramatically. This has occurred in most broad-based block grants of recent decades, and the failed welfare reform law was no exception.
Now, we have enough evidence to know welfare reform was a failure – especially during times of recession. In fact, since its enactment, assistance to needy families has fallen by 28 percent, in inflation adjusted dollars, which had devastating impacts on so many families during the Great Recession.
Republicans are happy to provide big business with taxpayer-funded subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare. The only difference is that when they’re handing out gifts to Wall Street, they abstain from using patronizing rhetoric about ending “government dependency” and promoting “the dignity of work and self-sufficiency.”
Throughout my career, I’ve taken the time to meet with the people Republicans have portrayed as the “47 percent.” As someone who has been on the ground in New Orleans after Katrina and in Cleveland after the housing bubble burst and who routinely visits the public housing developments in my district, I can tell you unequivocally that I have never met a person, in any of these places, who did not want to succeed.
No one has ever told me that they need a handout. What they need are investments in their communities, in their children, and in their future. What they don’t need are budget cuts masquerading as “tough love.”
*In January of 2014, the 27 Democratic members of the Financial Services Committee called on Chairman Hensarling to hold a series of hearings on strategies to reduce and eliminate poverty for children and families living in the United States. No action was taken by the majority.
On issues regarding the Committee on Financial Services, Ranking Member Congresswoman Maxine Waters can be reached through Communications Director Christopher Spina, at firstname.lastname@example.org, @chrismspina or http://democrats.financialservices.house.gov/.