NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — "There are many reasons why poverty persists to such a wide extent today," states Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in his House Budget Committee report about the progress - or lack thereof - in the war on poverty. The report provides a comprehensive look at the federal government's anti-poverty programs. It states that in fiscal year 2012 at least $799 billion was spent on 92 programs to help the poor.

The monograph indicates that some of these poverty programs either duplicate others or are counterproductive. Generally, the document claims, some programs are disincentives to stop being on the welfare rolls.

"For too long, we have measured compassion by how much we spend instead of how many people get out of poverty," Ryan said in a comminqué accompanying the release of the report. "We need to take a hard look at what the federal government is doing and ask, 'Is this working?' This report will help start the conversation. It shows that some programs work; others don't. And for many of them, we just don't know. Clearly, we can do better. We can rework these federal programs and help families in need lead lives of dignity."

As a former welfare recipient, I know that social programs have the potential to restore dignity to a working person. I know first hand what it feels like to have to make a choice between paying the rent or buying food. The term "discretionary dollar" meant - for me at the time - spending on necessities not entertainment.

But, I also know firsthand some of the problems in these programs.

I learned there were people who considered welfare a career choice. Welfare for them was a hammock not a safety net - as the intake worker who processed my application told me.

There is also fraud and abuse in the system. People who supplement their income with government tax dollars.

There are also people who willingly accept a dependent lifestyle. But I do not believe this attitude is representative of most welfare recipients. Most want to get out of the poverty cycle as quickly as possible.

After welfare reform was passed in the mid-1990s, I noticed an uptick of people in their 20s who would be manning cashiers in local convenience stores. They were always accompanied by some sort of textbook. Invariably, I would learn they were former welfare recipients who were now part of the work world and attending college or finishing high school. They seemed to be glad to be out of the welfare world. I know I was when I eventually got a job after several months of collecting.

Four social programs - state subsidized day care, heating assistance, mortgage assistance and welfare - enabled my children and me to stave off homelessness. During the six months I was on welfare, we had food, clothing, shelter, heat, health insurance and some cash for carfare and other incidentals. Also, during this time, I scavenged a typewriter which I used to type resumes and send them out in reply to the want ads. I eventually landed a job in the managed care field and removed myself from the welfare rolls.