Marco Rubio Announces Anti-Poverty Agenda

The Republican Senator's plan involves centralizing anti-poverty funding and replacing the earned income credit

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on January 8, 2014 in Washington, DC.

On the fiftieth anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, in the second floor Capitol room named after him, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), presented the conservative rebuttal—and laid the groundwork for his own presidential campaign. He went big.

“What I am proposing today is the most fundamental change to how the federal government fights poverty and encourages income mobility since President Johnson first conceived of the War on Poverty fifty years ago,” said Rubio, according to his prepared remarks.

He outlined two major changes. One would move most of America’s existing federal anti-poverty funding into one single agency, which would administer a “revenue neutral flex fund” and dole out grants to states. The other major change would be to replace the earned income tax credit with a federal wage enhancement that would be “highly  targeted” to avoid fraud or abuse. Rubio also mentioned “bolstering” the nation’s existing job-training system and addressing the shortage in skilled labor through encouraging alternatives to the traditionally accredited college degree. Alex Conant, Rubio’s press secretary, said to expect legislation “sometime in the coming weeks,” but with a Senate Democratic majority, it’s highly unlikely that anything will come of it.

Welfare and poverty experts are mixed on Rubio’s proposals.

“Turning federal programs into block grants is a shopworn idea with a long history of disappointment,” Peter Edelman, a former aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and faculty director of Georgetown University’s Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy, writes TIME. “Without specificity and standards, there is no accountability and no assurance that funds will be used for their intended purposes.”

“If Senator Rubio is proposing something that seriously promises to create jobs and pay decent wages, we can talk,” he added. “I see nothing in his speech that contains anything of the kind.”

“Turning over more responsibility to the states can be part of the solution,” counters Isabel Sawhill, a poverty and federal fiscal policy expert at the Brookings Institute. “It would encourage more innovation, simplify program administration, and allow programs to be better tailored to the needs of a community.”

“I have two concerns,” adds Sawhill, who advocates for raising the minimum wage and reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit. “First, states must be given sufficient resources to do the job well and second, the amount of basic assistance you receive as an American shouldn’t depend just on where you live.”

While the country won’t decide its next President for nearly three years, Rubio spoke like a candidate, opening his speech with the hardship encountered by his Cuban immigrant parents—humbly calling it a “common” America story—and ending on a note of the country’s exceptionalism. Rubio managed to portray himself as someone with enough Washington experience to know how things get done, but not so much that he is associated with how little gets done. All of that, and a dash of patriotism.

“I haven’t been in Washington long, but I’ve been here long enough to know that everything here gets analyzed through the lens of electoral politics,” said Rubio. “But upward mobility and equal opportunity is not a partisan issue, it is our unifying American principle.”

26 comments
Trawlerman
Trawlerman

How to say nothing in many words.  Boiled down his comments are:

1.  I will just kick the can down to the State level to get if off my back.

2.  I will assume everyone long term unemployed is a loafer, even if they are a downsized 45+ yr/old casualty of business.

3.  My main thrust will be to promote marriage as the solution to the issue.

Brilliant, sounds like a real GOP star to me.

BrockLanders
BrockLanders

Gotta love this guy.

1.  He's never started a business, never met a payroll.  His avocation has been, and remains, running for the next elected office.

2.  His  private sector employment history - working as a lawyer/lobbyist - has derived from and traded on his public sector work.  He's never closed a deal, never tried a case from what I heard.   The revolving door thing.  He was a "fixer."

3.  He's never been in charge of anything, never been the decider.  Speaker of the House in Florida is a long way from actually governing and having accountability - just ask Nancy Pelosi.

The last thing we can afford is another career politican who can read a teleprompter.   

If the GOP nominates a vaporous talker like Rubio, a guy with no record of GOVERNING and achieving real results, I'm quitting the party.   

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

Rubio is being the new "Snidely Whiplash" face on GOP conservatism who wants to still cut funding for teh poor which the GOP-controllled states have been doing. The GOP has historically NEVER represented the working class much less the poor whom they dismiss as "takers."

tom.litton
tom.litton

I don't believe there are many democrats against improving the retraining and education systems in place for workers.  Why can't they get that done now?


Oh right, they want something to talk about for the election.  I forgot for a moment this is about getting elected, not running a country.

tom.litton
tom.litton

"revenue neutral flex fund"

This reminds me of one of the lines in Star Trek writers use to explain something away.  It seems like a reasonable explanation when you first read it, but then you think about it for a minute...

How can a fund be both revenue neutral and flexible?  Well, the revenue could be flexible as well, i.e. tax increases. So in recessions you would be increasing spending, which is good, but you would also be increasing taxes, which is bad.

Or it can only be flexible downward.  So to fully fund it, you would need more revenue.  But in the future, when not quite as much money is needed anymore, the fund decreases, but you can't decrease taxes, because you can't raise them when it's needed again. 

Unless you do, and leave the program underfunded for all of it's future. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

This clown voted against extending the unemployment benefits even though Florida has one of the highest numbers of people in the country losing their unemployment. That should tell you everything you need to know about how much he cares about helping people in need.

Tommy34684
Tommy34684

Florida government will not go along with any federal program. The columnist wannabe Rubio should know this after what Florida government did (did not do) with ObamaCare. Also his program adds too many layers of government. The federal government will have an agency overlooking, the state agency, overlooking the local agency etc.  Taxpayers cannot afford stuff like the columnists Rubio wants.

khuston
khuston

This article is like reading sound bytes in text form... thanks, Time.

dellflorida
dellflorida

I am a Floridianmwillsomeone mention any legislation this young jerk has passed that has helped increase employment in Florida? None, that I know of. He also was one of them that helped shut down the U.S. government recently and voted against the recent U.S. budget compromise that will fund the U.S. government for two years.. These have been his major accomplishment so far..so now he is an instant  elder statesman and knows what we really need.

jmac
jmac

I watched some of Rubio's speech tonight on C-Span.  Not a lot of details.  A question after the speech was what has he done so far on the question of inequality opportunity.   1) he sent out a form to citizens asking what could be done to help  2)he couches his kids football team and has seen kids in poverty and living in dangerous areas so we need creative and innovative ways to get them out 3) we need less paperwork.  


The devil's in the details and when Paul Ryan finally put out his details it was clear the math didn't add up.   We'll see.   

dellflorida
dellflorida

Hey turn federal programs  over to the state-is not the best......we have severly disbaled ,about 20,000, who are ignored while big tax breaks or subsidies are given to corporations. Recently a young man,18 years in the program-Florida started  funding his home care- only took 18 years...

by the way, Pres. Carter had set up a nation wide ,funded system of community mental health centers...Pres. Reagan came in and gave the states the same money for block grants-the community mental health centers never got built.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

I don't know all of the programs created by the War on Poverty, but I know they are vast and would be hard to reduce to simple Republican style evaluation.  I doubt that whatever any Republican has in mind is of value.  For example, is Rubio aware of the Job Corps?  

conservative2thecore
conservative2thecore

He'll need to provide some specifics and I would like to see him talk with the Heritage Foundation and use Sen. Coeburn's waste and fraud book to get a grip on specific problems. He has some bridges to rebuild after the gang of 8 fiasco; but, I'm willing to keep an open mind and listen.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

This is the same tired stuff Republicans have been peddling for 40 years -- and which clearly doesn't work. 

And is it me, or does Rubio ALWAYS look like a deer in the headlights? He's not ready for prime time, and I don't think he ever will be. Just not smart enough.

jmac
jmac

Rubio:  . .. addressing the shortage in skilled labor through encouraging alternatives to the traditionally accredited college degree.


When he says alternatives to traditionally accredited degrees does he mean colleges like Trump University instead of Harvard?    That's what I think he means.  We already know how that works out, but he has learned to phrase it so it sounds pretty.   


  And anyone that thinks block grants to the states works hasn't  noticed the money that goes to Texas that never goes where it's suppose to go.   It does make for a nice rainy-day fund.  



reallife
reallife

@tom.litton  "I forgot for a moment this is about getting elected, not running a country."


sounds familiar?


LOL



jmac
jmac

The speech was hosted by the American Enterprise Institute whose goals are limited government and support for private enterprise.  So it's the same old message.    

jmac
jmac

@PerryWhite1 He was having trouble again tonight with the water bottle and the brow wiping.  Very nervous and jittery waiting for the questions.  Very odd to watch.

BrockLanders
BrockLanders

funny, but sadly, so many of these of pols - dems and GOPers alike - are careerists and opportunists...I see nothing in rubio's background to show real executive/administrative brilliance.  I see a career pol on the climb, a guy who had no trouble using state GOP credit cards for personal expenses but who at the same time will pontificate on spending in DC.

Tommy34684
Tommy34684

@reallife@dellfloridaObamaphones? Do your homework buddy. They are BUSHPHONES!!!!! The fact is they began as lamdline REAGANPHONES and BUSH made them cellphones. Today the carriers look the other way and give them to all family members.

BobJan
BobJan

@reallife@dellflorida Dealing with your falsehoods are bad enough. You ought to try using your computer for something other than complaining about facts that aren't facts.

Q: Is there a U.S. government program that provides free or discounted phones and wireless service to low-income Americans?
A: Yes. It consists of two parts: "Link-Up," which helps income-eligible people set up new home phone service, and "Lifeline," which helps income-eligible people pay their monthly phone charges. (Source: FCC)

Q: Was this program instituted by the Obama administration?
A: No. Nor was it just instituted "earlier this year," as the email claims. The program as it exists today was created over a decade ago by an act of Congress, the Telecommunications Act of 1996. A version of the Lifeline program was already in operation as far back as the early 1980s. (Source: USAC.org)

jmac
jmac

@reallife @jmac I like that you and Rene come on to give the conservative view.   For anyone listening you reinforce just who the base of the party is and why it's gone the direction it has.   

jmac
jmac

@reallife @jmac What do you think I'm lying about?  You can watch the speech on C-Span - it will repeat.   Watch it.   You don't have to take anyone's word for it.