Ryan Causes a Stir by Gate-Crashing a Soup Kitchen
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The Fiscal Times
October 16, 2012

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan caused a stir in the Midwest last week when he showed up unannounced –and without permission – for a photo op at a Youngstown soup kitchen.

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, made the 15-minute stop over at the Mahoning County St. Vincent DePaul Society “to bring attention to the meaningful charitable contributions” the society makes, according to Chris Maloney, Ohio communications director for the Romney campaign.

But the head of the charitable society complained that he was not contacted by the Romney  campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit, and said that the campaign had “ramrodded their way in” to score some political points by appearing to be concerned about the poor and hungry.

“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Brian J. Antal, president of the society, told the Washington Post in a phone interview. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”

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Photos of Ryan showed the lawmaker with his sleeves rolled up and washing a pan. In fact, by the time he arrived, the food had already been served, the patrons had left and the hall had been cleaned .

Left unsaid during his visit is that if Ryan and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are elected, there likely will be increased need for soup kitchens like the one in Youngstown. The budget drafted by Ryan, endorsed by Romney and approved by the GOP controlled House would send the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) back to the states as a block grant and cut the program by $134 billion over the coming decade.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “an average of almost 10 million people   would have to be cut from the program in the years from 2016 through 2022 to achieve the required savings.” If the cuts were to come from benefits, rather than kicking families out of the program, “All families of four — including the poorest — would see their benefits cut by about $90 a month in fiscal year 2016, or more than $1,100 on an annual basis." 

Ryan has repeatedly asserted that the $33 billion a year food stamp program, which has added 14.2 million recipients during the past three years, is rife with fraud and “unsustainable” in the long term. The Obama administration has taken steps to go after merchants who traffic in food stamp debit cards.

Washington Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief Eric Pianin is a veteran journalist who has covered the federal government, congressional budget and tax issues, and national politics. He spent over 25 years at The Washington Post.