Rahm Emanuel on Welfare & Poverty
Democratic Rep. (IL-5); Chief of Staff-Designee
EMANUEL: We are getting to a point where we can make a pension payment or pave a road but we can't do both. I am not tough on pensions. I am realistic. There is a difference. It is also realistic from a fiscal side that, if all we do is make no changes, I would have to raise taxes at a level that would harm the economy.
Q: Are we seeing cleavages within the Democratic Party? On pensions? Negotiation with the unions?
EMANUEL: There are divisions, or I would call them differences. Too much of the debate in Washington is about ideological gradations. I have a piece today [in the Chicago Sun-Times] about the Earned Income Tax Credit. I have negotiated to expand it. Now, is that considered left or right?
EMANUEL: I consider myself a progressive. I have a passion for people who work. To me, this is about forward versus backward looking. Ideological gradations are the wrong way to look at it.
Help Working Families Lift Themselves from Poverty
In the 1990s, Americans resolved to end welfare dependency and forge a new social compact on the basis of work and reciprocal responsibility. The results so far are encouraging: The welfare rolls have been cut by more than half since 1992 without the social calamities predicted by defenders of the old welfare entitlement. People are more likely than ever to leave welfare for work, and even those still on welfare are four times more likely to be working. But the job of welfare reform will not be done until we help all who can
work to find and keep jobs -- including absent fathers who must be held responsible for supporting their children.
In the next decade, progressives should embrace an even more ambitious social goal -- helping every working family lift itself from poverty. Our new social compact must reinforce work, responsibility, and family. By expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, increasing the supply of affordable child care, reforming tax policies that hurt working families, making sure absent parents live up to their financial obligations, promoting access to home ownership and other wealth-building assets, and refocusing other social policies on the new goal of rewarding work, we can create a new progressive guarantee: No American family with a full-time worker will live in poverty.
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