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Hern: American Dream Means Working 'Until You're Not Here Anymore'

Facebook / Rep. Kevin Hern
Rep. Kevin Hern (left) tours Tulsa's Vacuworx on July 14, 2021.

Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) emphasized his support for work requirements being placed on more social safety net programs during a Tuesday committee meeting, saying part of what makes America great is continuous labor.

"That's what the American Dream is all about, is you take risks, you get knocked down and you get up and you do it again and again and again, and your journey of the American Dream is not a destination. It is a place that you continue to work until you're not here anymore," Hern said during the House Ways and Means Committee GOP meeting titled "Building on Welfare Reform's Success."

Hern said he supported the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program due to its work requirements, and that he believes current federal spending levels for welfare programs represent an existential threat to the United States.

"We're spending trillions of dollars on welfare programs, which is tragic," Hern said. "So instead of helping people get out of poverty, [President] Joe Biden and Democrats are wanting to keep people in poverty, because I do believe what we're seeing is this total onset of socialism in this country, probably the greatest threat we've ever had, a complete dominance of the American workforce with complete dependence on the American government. It doesn't help anyone, this poverty cycle."

Hern has previously criticized expanded federal unemployment benefits enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying his upbringing as the stepchild of a welfare recipient informed his belief that parents' reliance on such benefits harms children. He returned to that theme Tuesday.

"I grew up with a stepdad whose hardest work was running to the mailbox to get a welfare check," Hern said. "From a young age, I knew that wasn't going to be my life."

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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