There are two ways of looking at illness: either treat the symptoms or find a cure. In this case, poverty is a disease. An illness for which a cure is yet to be found.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that poverty is an issue. The point of difference, however, occurs when it comes to the policies trying to fix this issue. Democrats are focused on treating the symptoms. Republicans desire to find a cure. The amount of money spent on government programs aimed at helping those in poverty is astronomical, and let’s face it — the War on Poverty hasn’t worked. Rather than pouring money into government dependency, let’s work together to find a cure for poverty in the first place.

One of the more commonly held notions of the Republican Party from those on the left side, is that we blame the poor, that we hate the poor — that we don’t stand up for those in need. This statement is bred from a misunderstanding of the GOP’s mindset toward poverty. Yes, we want to reform the welfare system because there are better ways in dealing with the issue of poverty than simply throwing money at the issue

One way of dealing with poverty at its core is through job creation. The Joseph Project, based out of Milwaukee, is a program aimed at decreasing unemployment. Led by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and Elder Jerome Smith Sr., a pastor from the Greater Praise Church of God in Christ, the Joseph Project is a job-training program. Potential employers, facilitated by Johnson, are connected with citizens who are serious about obtaining a job. The participants are then taught the skills necessary to attain the jobs available.

After their week-long session is over, the employers are then reconnected with the participants and interview them for potential jobs. The project has found full-time employment for citizens who would have never dreamed of working where they are today. Preparing citizens for the workforce and providing them with opportunities to gain employment is one of the more efficient ways of eliminating poverty — preventing the issue before it even occurs. By providing citizens with jobs, the cyclical nature of poverty can be halted.

One of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s top policy issues right now directly deals with combating poverty. He wants the issue of poverty to be at the forefront of the legislative agenda. Ryan focuses on empowerment and sending power back to the local level of government. Poverty is as much a conservative issue as a liberal one.

Ryan, along with the rest of the GOP, believes the federal government is inefficient when it comes to dealing with poverty. The welfare programs that currently exist are huge burdens on our economy and don’t address the root causes of poverty. They may provide short-term solutions to a long-term problem. Instead of merely accepting that people will be dependent on the government for the rest of their lives, Republicans believe people are capable of getting out of poverty.

Currently in our nation, progress is measured by the amount of welfare programs that exist and the amount of spending that goes into them — not by the amount of people who no longer need those programs.

The best way to deal with poverty is at a local level. The communities where these people live are best suited to dealing with these problems. Ryan wants to focus on getting people out of poverty. People aren’t meant to live on social welfare programs permanently. We should be encouraging people to want to get off welfare, not leading them on a life of government dependency. Providing short-term funds, without providing long-term skills to get a job doesn’t solve poverty, it prolongs it. These programs aren’t meant to live on permanently, only temporarily. Ultimately, they’re meant to get you back on your feet. 

Instead of solely treating the symptoms, the Republican Party is working to find a cure. The party of empowerment and opportunity believes in the individual. Every American is capable of rising up out of poverty and living the American Dream — and they can do it without lifelong government dependency.

Kennedy Borman ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and legal studies.