A Response to the Path to Prosperity


June 20, 2014

path gate 2
In April, CHN hosted a webinar on the House-passed budget – the so-called “Path to Prosperity” – put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The webinar exposed the truth about the “path” this budget would take us on – one in which massive cuts to housing, education, nutrition, and health care are exchanged for new multi-billion dollar tax breaks to millionaires and big corporations. At the end of the presentation, we asked people to send us their reactions to the Ryan budget and tell us how they or their community would be hurt if our country goes down this road.

Shortly after, we heard from Serena Rice, who was inspired to offer her reactions poetically. Her poem is below. Our thanks to Serena for allowing us to share her words here.

If you’d like to be a part of the Truth Squad and share your thoughts on how the Ryan budget would hurt you, your family, and/or your community, click here for more information and here for tips on getting your message out.

What I Do Believe

By Serena Rice*

Do you want me to believe
that this “path” leads to my prosperity?
that you have constructed a ladder,
with no lower rungs,
that our economy can climb?
that rhetoric and messaging which make NO SENSE
are not paternalistic,
a pat on the head for us silly people who believe in “equal opportunity”?

Do you want me to believe
that just because my family does not use “assistance” programs,
I’ll be better off if they are cut?
that my health will improve
with 40 million more uninsured?
that my workplace will be more innovative
if fewer students can afford college?
that my children will learn more
if fewer classmates attend quality preschool?
that my food will be cheaper, or taste better,
if more of my neighbors are hungry?
that my security will be ensured
if the safety net is cut enough for “those people” to fall through?

Do you want me to believe
that personal responsibility
is the only kind that is important?
that there is no community or societal version?
that demands for individual performance are fair
regardless of a cliff-strewn playing field?
and that you are NOT responsible to own the specifics of this plan
the programs,
and the people,
that would be starved by your unspecified “discretionary cuts.”

Do you really want me to believe
that nothing is more important
than deficit reduction?
not food?
not education?
not new jobs?
not even human life?
Not anything, in fact,
except Defense spending,
and, of course, $200,000 more for every millionaire.

I’m afraid I can’t believe all that. But I’ll tell you what I DO believe.

I do believe
that a strong society requires strong commitments,
from individuals and industries, yes,
and also from our government.
that rhetoric is meaningless
and messaging is often pretty lies.
and that you can best judge a path
by the steps it leads you down.

I do believe
that when a program helps my neighbor meet a genuine need,
it helps me!
A neighbor that gets preventative care
makes my health spending more efficient.
A diverse population with Pell Grants for college
gives me co-workers who will know things I do not.
HeadStart preschool for poor children
makes my children’s schools more effective at teaching.
Food stamps that go where there is need,
bring more dollars to my local grocery store.
And a strong safety net offers more security
than the proverbial rising tide,
if I ever find myself drowning.

I do believe
that personal responsibility works best
in a society that understands its own obligations.
that inequality exists
and batters down so many who could give so much
if we could give them a hand up.
that numbers on a page translate to lives,
to faces,
to opportunities
that disappear from view
if sweeping cuts deny society’s role
in individuals’ success.

And I do believe
I know the two most important things.
My love of God, that is for me
I will not judge your faith, that’s not my place.
But loving neighbor as yourself, that’s for us all,
a golden rule that stands the test of time,
and culture,
and political persuasion.
And these two most important things convince me
if any of the programs you would cut
are good for ME.
If they can help
the “least of these”
they are worth paying for.


*Serena Rice is a Licensed Social Worker and the new Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey (APN). APN is a coalition of over 180 individuals, faith-based groups, community non-profits, and government officials committed to the prevention, reduction and elimination of poverty in New Jersey. APN’s work centers around three focus areas: hunger, housing, and economic empowerment. Rice also publishes poetry and other reflections on her personal blog.


Budget and Appropriations
Path to Prosperity
Ryan budget
tax policy