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Paul Ryan washes dishes at a Youngstown, Ohio soup kitchen. According to news reports, the dishes were already clean.
Rep. Paul Ryan's commitment to ending poverty goes as deep as a photo op washing clean dishes at a soup kitchen.
Rep. Paul Ryan's attempts to rebrand himself as an anti-poverty crusader—and the Washington Post's pre-Thanksgiving puff piece helping him make that case—have taken a lot of hits, from Alec MacGillis, Jared Bernstein, and others. But aside from the fact that Ryan's record shows him to be more against poor people than against poverty, Jonathan Chait zeroed in on something, said by the head of an anti-poverty program Ryan supports, that seemed worth a little more attention as a general point:
“Paul wants people to dream again,” Holloway said of Ryan. “You don’t dream when you’ve got food stamps.”
In fact, lots of people who survived on food stamps — like J.K. Rowling — went on to achieve great things.
J.K. Rowling starting a hugely beloved modern classic of fantasy certainly goes to show it's possible to dream when you've got food stamps. Then there's President Barack Obama, who implicitly linked food stamps and the struggle to achieve dreams in his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention:
In the face of that young student, who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree, who once turned to food stamps, but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.
What about other people whose ability to dream and struggle and strive and succeed was apparently not hurt by food stamps? Let's check it out below the fold.
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  • Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter: "When my father left our family, I was 13 years old. My mother went on food stamps for a year, until she found work as a bookkeeper. Those food stamps were a lifeline for us. I do now know what we would have done otherwise."
  • Sen. Patty Murray: "When my father was diagnosed with MS and to stop working, it was food stamps that helped my family keep our heads above the water and put food on the table while my mom looked for work."
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: "When I was a young, single mother, I was on public assistance. It was a bridge over troubled water, and without it, I wouldn't be where I am today."
  • Former Rep. Joe Baca: "As a young Veteran, food stamps helped me feed my family."

Politicians not the kind of dreamer you respect? Fear not! People go on from food stamps to all kinds of achievement.

  • Music: Moby says "food stamps enabled my mom and I to eat without having to ask for hand-outs."
  • Acting: Tobey Maguire recalled how "Me and my Mom would go into a grocery store and get groceries and pay for them with food stamps, and I would run out of the store embarrassed."
  • Sports: Baseball's father-son legacy of Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder relied on food stamps early in Cecil's career. WNBA center Ruth Riley has been outspoken about how free school lunches "gave me the energy I needed to learn in school and participate in sports."

And of course, given the sheer number of people who've participated in nutrition programs over the years, there are millions of everyday successful adults—teachers, lawyers, writers, chefs, executives—who would say things similar to what politicians, actors, musicians and athletes say about how food stamps helped them get through tough times.

Of course, not everyone who needs food stamps at some point in their lives goes on to lavish success. But, as with so many other things about government assistance, that's more about poverty than it is about assistance. This is, after all, a nation where rich kids with low test scores are more likely to graduate from college than poor kids with high test scores and where, in big parts of the country, a kid raised in the bottom fifth of the income scale has less than a 10 percent chance of rising to the top fifth. And Paul Ryan's policies would make those outcomes worse, at the same time he's trying to rid himself of the stench of Mitt Romney by claiming to be some kind of anti-poverty crusader.

Anyway, Paul Ryan's own dreams apparently weren't killed by the Social Security survivor benefits he collected after his father died.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Hunger in America.

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