Experts outweigh experience


It would appear that, once again, if conservatives are going to discuss any group of people, and arrive at policy decisions about what is best for them, they will assemble panels of “experts” at hearings that are devoid of any representative of the group they plan to discuss.

When it came to women’s health and safety, the witnesses at the hearings who explained things to the senators were all males. Females were not included in spite of their requests to be.

Generally when there are discussions about Gay people, either as people or a policy concern, the people doing all the explaining about who they are and what they think are all straight people with no Gay person having been included.

And now, Paul Ryan held a hearing called “A Progress Report on the War on Poverty: Lessons from the Frontline” about people experiencing poverty, but did not include anyone who is actually poor in spite of Witnesses to Hunger requesting to do what it does best, sharing the stories of low-income Americans.

The advocacy group has tried at least twice to get Ryan to have some of its members speak at his poverty related hearings. Since many of its members are actually living in poverty, this would seem to be a good idea if the hearings were to be honest.

As the group’s director, Mariana Clinton explained, “When Ryan had his first hearing last July, we wrote to his office to see if we could testify, but they weren’t interested”.

The best they were allowed to do was to submit written testimony. But no one hears the written testimony, so it really isn’t all the effective in televised hearing sessions.

As a matter of fact, none of the submitted written testimony even showed up in either Ryan’s earlier report, on the hearing’s web site, or in the Congressional Record.

In spite of staying in contact with Ryan’s office after the July hearings, Witnesses to Hunger was taken by surprise when Ryan announced the new hearings, and in response to, again, requesting to be part of things was told they were too late and that the participants had been selected.

According to Mariana Clinton, none of the people who were set to testify this are currently living in poverty and clearly can’t speak from the perspective of people living in poverty.

According to Ryan’s opening remarks this past week, the experts were:

Bob Woodson, the president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise—“and a great friend of mine”—whose organization has “supported a number of groups that are changing their communities for the better. In Milwaukee, for instance, CNE has helped organize several Violence-Free Zones near public schools. The VFZ program is helping keep kids safe and encouraging them to go to college. He’s taught me a lot over the years, and I’m delighted to have him here today”.

Bishop Shirley Holloway of House of Help City of Hope who “has been doing wonderful work in Washington, D.C. for nearly two decades now. Her ministry has served thousands of people struggling with drug abuse. She has helped families reunite and put their lives back together”.

And
Marian Wright Edelman who “has been an eloquent spokeswoman for children and civil rights”.

He concluded his opening remarks by saying, “And I want to make something clear: The question isn’t whether the federal government should help. The question is how. Bob Woodson and Bishop Holloway have made real progress. How can we support them? What else do we need to do? And how do we make sure that every single taxpayer dollar we spend to reduce poverty is actually working?”

So he had an expert on violence, one on chemical drug dependencies and the broken families that result, and the last who was a children’s and civil rights advocate.

But none were experiencing poverty first hand, nor was involved with people who were unless they were connected to violence, drugs, or civil rights violations. .

If Paul Ryan was serious about his latest hearings, and if he really wanted to learn and not simply find ways to support his already established opinion, it would seem having had actual people living in poverty would have been a way to do that.

One good reason to go beyond the experts and hear from actual people living in poverty is because, as Clinton said, “They can talk about the shortcomings of federal programs,” while experts cannot speak from experience.

So the first two examples I mentioned above included “experts” who apparently know more about the subjects of their expertise than do the actual people experiencing poverty.

In the third instance, they have, once again, shown themselves to be consistent in just not wanting to deal face to face with the people they want to discuss..

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