Pelosi Remarks at House Democrats’ Steering & Policy Committee Hearing: 'The Failure of Trickle Down Economics in the War on Poverty'

Apr 14, 2016
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill/Evangeline George, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at House Democrats’ Steering & Policy Committee hearing entitled 'The Failure of Trickle Down Economics in the War on Poverty'.  Below are the Leader’s opening and closing remarks:

Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks

“Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you all for being here.  It’s my honor to join our very distinguished Whip Mr. Hoyer and Assistant Leader Mr. Clyburn in saluting Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her leadership on the Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity.  And she has been instrumental in insisting on the nature of this hearing to proceed in a manner that spells out the failure of trickle-down economics in the war on poverty.  It is held in the auspices of two great leaders in the Congress, co-Chairs of Steering & Policy Committee, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland. 

“As we all know, we are all pleased to welcome our distinguished panel and look forward to hearing your testimony which will be given so much weight in our reasoning and our decision-making on how we go forward.

“Addressing poverty in America is a searing challenge to the conscience of our country.  How can it be that we, the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth, that in our country 1 in 5 children lives in poverty?  That is my driving force in politics because I was attracted to it because of that challenge to conscience.  How could it be that maybe 1 in 4 children in America goes to sleep hungry at night?  How can it be that in the land of the American Dream, so many of our fellow Americans are stuck – so many are struggling?

“I’m going to submit some of my statement to the record so we can get to all of you but I do want to say how honored we are to hear from a diverse board of witnesses who will shed light on the full impact of poverty and trickle-down policies on the lives of families across our country.  We will shortly be joined by Dr. Matthew Desmond.  We’re delighted to be here with Dr. Kathryn Edin, Dr. Olanrewaju Falusi,  Violet Henderson and I am especially happy that we are joined by all of you but also Maverick Bishop, a constituent of mine from San Francisco. 

“Congress needs to come together on policies that lift struggling families out of poverty – not punish them.  If Republicans want to join Democrats in a meaningful bipartisan conversation on poverty, we welcome them.  We need a new approach to how we deal with poverty, not a war on the poor.

“And so, later we will have the honor to introduce Maverick to all of you, but first I want to yield to our distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer.  Mr. Hoyer, if I may just say that we’ve also been joined by Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Xavier Becerra so we have a full complement of leadership people here.  And also [we are joined by] a champion on poverty in America and throughout the world and feeding the hungry, [Congressman] Jim McGovern – Chair of the Human Rights Caucus.  And Lloyd Doggett is with us as well.  Lloyd Doggett has been a champion on these issues as well.  Welcome, Lloyd.  We will be joined by other Members as we proceed.  And now I’m pleased to yield to Mr. Hoyer.”

Leader Pelosi’s Closing Remarks

“I want to join our co-Chairs and Congresswoman Lee in thanking you also for being here.  And I want to thank them for their leadership on this issue.  I am very proud of the fact, as Congresswoman Edwards said, that 23 of our Members were here.  I just want to name some who were not acknowledged because they had to go to the floor: [Congressman] Mark DeSaulnier of California, [Congressman] Gene Greene of Texas, [Congressman] Chris Van Hollen of Maryland – our Ranking Member on the Budget Committee – [Congresswoman] Susan Davis of California.  They were called away but nonetheless, they made this a priority to be here and as the Congresswoman said, so many of them Ranking Members.  Important [to note] that, still here with us is the Ranking Member on Ways and Means, Mr. Levin. 

“I have a couple of things.  Let me just say, at the end, I’m going to yield to you to each say one minute and then we have to give up the room at 3:00pm because we have votes; we have to be on the floor is really more the case.  You wouldn’t want us to miss the votes – we can’t.

“Here’s the thing and when Dr. Edin talked about her study in Baltimore, she referenced that some of the projects she was in were near where I grew up and then they were trying to get those people upgraded to a better neighborhood.  So, when I was a child – from the first grade to when I would go to college, my father was the Mayor of Baltimore.  My mother’s project – well, we always lived there – but my mother’s special project as the First Lady was always affordable housing.  And Dr. Desmond, she would say, and it was in her obituary and I was so proud so many years later, ‘How can you teach children love and respect and that you care about them if you cannot give them a decent place to live?’  So, we knew – although they told us we lived in the slums, we didn’t realize it, actually.  But it’s interesting to see that, in this day and age, you’re upgrading people from my old neighborhood.

“It is so fundamental and under Rosa’s leadership a while back, we had a children’s summit.  And what was interesting to us – because we were thinking of food and education and health care and this and that – was what my mother taught me as a child, a psychologist foretelling us the psychological impact on children of homelessness or not even having a decent place to live is so central to their success.  From all of this, we have our When Women Succeed, America Succeeds agenda that Rosa also sponsored – a godmother of that – and I’ll just tell you these two stories from that. 

“One was in New Haven, a bus driver, a woman who was supposed to tell her story of success.  She said, ‘I’m not telling my story.  I’m telling the story that I see.’  She was a woman who had worked her way through struggles, and now she is a school bus driver.  She said: ‘I’m going to tell you what I see every day.  Every day, my bus pulls up to the curb, and I know sooner or later I’m going to see a mom with tears in her eyes putting a child on the bus, and the child is sick.  That has to happen because the mom can’t afford to take a day off from work.  She’s just making the minimum wage.  And if she takes too many days off, she can’t afford it – but even if she did take a couple days off, she would soon not have a job.  She has no possibility of affordable, quality child care, couldn’t possibly even reach for it and doesn’t have one day of paid sick leave.’  How could it be – in this, the greatest country that ever existed, as I said in my remarks earlier?  Now taking this liberty because I cut my remarks short in the beginning so we could hear from all of you.  How could it be that this mom has to put a sick child on the bus?  Not good for the child, not good for the kids on the bus, not good for the kids in the classroom – just bad all around.  We have to make the changes that are necessary. 

“And then in New York, when we had one of Rosa’s sessions at a college, a young woman was going to tell her story of how she worked herself out of a single mom situation – English second language.  She told us that she was confident now that she had a job, and she was happy about that.  She has five children.  She said, ‘But I was scared.  I was not confident about speaking in front of this audience of women’ – similar to this audience here.  People really know what’s going on.  She said, ‘So I asked my kids: could I practice my speech in front of them the night before?’  She said she practiced the speech and she said to them, ‘Do you have any questions?  Any comments?’  And her four year old – and it was about Head Start, she was a manager at Head Start and this or that.  The little girl was in Head Start – four years old.  ‘Any questions?’  And the four year old’s hand shoots up and says, ‘I just have one question, mom.  Who gave you permission to use my name in your speech?’


“Think of the confidence, the self-esteem, the respect that this child was getting from Head Start and now they want to cut Head Start and block grants and even in some extremes of their party, eliminate.  So, we have real challenges on all of that. 

“But, in any a case, it’s about the children.  As I started to say in the beginning, the one in five that lives in poverty – sometimes, one in four go to sleep hungry at night.  It’s just – I can’t bear it.  But, the intellectual resources that you are professionally, the intellectual resources that you are from your personal experiences have been invaluable to us.  We’re very blessed by your testimonies.  You have reformed our judgment, and I salute your courage, I salute your contributions and yield to you for each one of you to have a one minute closing.”

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