(CNSNews.com) – Former Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday that over a trillion dollars was spent on welfare programs last year, and for that amount, “you could give every single poor American a check for $20,000.”
“Just last year, total federal and state spending on means-tested programs came to over one trillion dollars. 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,” said Ryan in a speech at the Jack Kemp Award ceremony.
Ryan was the 2011 recipient of the Kemp Leadership Award. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was awarded the 2012 Kemp Leadership Award.
Ryan said despite the more than one trillion dollars spent on welfare last year, poverty is even more pervasive.
“Instead, we just spent all that money trying to fight poverty through government programs, and now what do we have to show for it? Today 46 million people are living in poverty. During the last four years, the number of people on food stamps has gone up by 15 million,” Ryan said.
“Medicaid is reaching a breaking point, and one out of every four students fails to earn a high school diploma. In our major cities across America, half of our kids don’t graduate, half,” he added.
Ryan pointed out that 48 years after President Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty in 1964, “poverty is winning.”
“When Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty in 1964, he predicted it would eliminate poverty in 35 to 50 years. So here we are 48 years later, and poverty is winning,” Ryan said.
“We deserve better than this. We need a vision for bringing opportunity in every life – one that promotes strong families, secure livelihoods, and an equal chance for every American to fulfill their highest aspirations for themselves and for their children,” the congressman said.
“This vision leaves behind the failures of the past. It seeks instead to build upon those reforms that have worked,” he said.
Ryan called for a “stronger safety net” that “protects the most vulnerable and promotes self-reliance” and an end to inequalities in the education system.
“It calls on government to encourage, not displace, the efforts of free people to help one another,” he added.
Ryan also called for promoting economic growth through free enterprise, “because nothing has done more to lift people everywhere out of poverty.”