Marco Rubio on Welfare & Poverty
RUBIO: There are significant number of Americans that do not have equality of opportunity. We need to address the fact that we have 40-some odd million people who feel trapped in poverty and do not feel like they have an equal opportunity to get ahead. As far as the war on poverty is concerned, its programs have utility--they do help alleviate the consequences of poverty--but they don't help people to emerge from that poverty. And that's why I feel like the war on poverty has failed because it's incomplete. I think we have to take the next step, which is to help people trapped with inequality of opportunity to have the opportunity to build for themselves a better life.
Speaking on the 50th anniversary of Johnson's declaration of the War on Poverty, Rubio argued that the government should not only work to close the gap between rich and poor, but also focus on improving economic mobility to lift families out of poverty and expand the middle class. "Our current government programs offer, at best, only a partial solution," Rubio said. "They help people deal with poverty, but they do not help them escape it."
For conservatives like Rubio, a key challenge will be reconciling a call for a greater focus on the needy with Republican efforts to scale back food stamps, and opposing an increase the minimum wage.
But even as Obama celebrated the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, GOP leaders were citing it as proof of liberalism's failure. Sen. Marco Rubio noted, "Five decades and trillions of dollars after President Johnson waged his War on Poverty, the results of this big-government approach are in. We have 4 million Americans who have been out of work for six months or more. We have a staggering 49 million Americans living below the poverty line, and over twice that number--over 100 million people--who get some form of food aid from the federal government," Rubio said. "Meanwhile, our labor force participation is at a 35-year low, and children raised in the bottom 20 percent of the national income scale have a 42 percent chance of being stuck there for life."
That final observation that entitlement programs had weakened Americans was the point he clearly wanted to hammer home.
Solution: Increase incentives for developers to construct affordable housing. The 2006 Legislature encouraged the provision of affordable housing for essential service personnel, extending housing assistance to those with extremely low incomes, and providing other financial and regulatory incentives to encourage affordable housing. The legislation included density bonus incentives for land donations for affordable housing purposes. Florida should increase incentives for developers to not only provide the land for affordable housing, but also construct the housing units themselves.
The 2005 Legislature authorized a pilot program to create a block-grant structure that establishes a fixed price contrast with an independent, outcome-based evaluation. Significant progress has been made, but greater opportunities exist in the movement toward block-grant, outcome-driven operations. These programs should be modified as necessary and expanded as soon as feasible.Florida should enhance independence and flexibility in community-based care.
Fostering growth in downtrodden regions requires a bold, dramatic, and innovative approach to economic development and urban revitalization. The Legislature should institute a pilot program that creates a tax-free zone in the most economically depressed areas of our state. Florida must resolve to break down the economic obstacles that exist in many urban centers today with the same vigilance and zeal used to assail racial and gender barriers over the past forty years.
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