In his effort to turn over a new leaf and at least appear as though he cares about poverty after his awful comments about inner city men, Paul Ryan deigned to invite an African-American woman who actually depends on the programs he cuts with such cold precision. Tianna Gaines-Turner came to Congress to tell the Budget Committee what it's like to have two parents working and still need to depend on government assistance, and she spared no one.
Gaines-Turner's appearance was a novelty in the world of Republican-controlled hearings. This was the fifth hearing on poverty programs, but the first where a beneficiary of those programs was heard. Up to now, it's been nonprofits and academic institutions in front of the committee. Today they heard a different, and refreshing perspective.
When asked how the ACA had impacted her life (video above), her answer was quite matter-of-fact. But as she continued, emotion broke through and she let the committee see how so many of us feel every time they talk about repealing it.
That was emotional enough, but her follow-up answer to a question about how SNAP cuts would impact her was sharp and direct. This was not a heartstrings moment; it was a flash of anger at how poor people are demonized and treated as though they wake up in the morning determined to remain on government assistance. She let them see what real people contend with every day while trying to dig themselves out of poverty.
In the course of her testimony, Gaines-Turner let employers like Target and WalMart hear about their contribution to keeping families in poverty by paying them so little they can't live without assistance from the government, and she really let the poor-shamers have it, especially when she was grilled about the specifics of her income.
You could tell she was aching to tell her story on the record. ThinkProgress:
Tianna Gaines-Turner, a childcare provider who makes $10.80 an hour, a mother of three, and a participant in the advocacy and story-telling Witnesses to Hunger program, will testify before the House Budget Committee about her experiences. She submitted written testimony for a hearing last year, even there was no indication on the hearing’s website and it was included on page 64 of the record. But she wanted to speak in person: the Witness program tried and failed twice to have its members testify at these hearings.
“It was a long time coming, but I’m glad it’s finally here,” Gaines-Turner told ThinkProgress about her testimony on Wednesday. “I’m finally getting the opportunity to speak up for so many Americans that are going through life struggles that obviously the committee doesn’t know anything about. I would hope that if they knew, they wouldn’t keep constantly trying to cut the programs in the safety net.”
Here are some more excerpts from her testimony, aired on Wednesday's The Last Word.
A personal note from me to Tianna, should she ever read this: Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your bold, straightforward and passionate testimony.
Now go read this.