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Assessing the GOP Candidates' Plans on Poverty

May 20, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

In the aftermath of the Baltimore riots, attention is once again being turned to questions of poverty, and inner-city poverty in particular. Democrats, unsurprisingly, took about 30 seconds to think about the issue before coming up with their favorite solution: spend more money. President Obama, for instance, wants “massive investments in urban communities.” Representative Elijah Cummings, who represents inner-city Baltimore in Congress says, “We have to invest in our cities and our children.” And according to Maryland representative Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, “We’re going to have to as a country invest if we’re going to have the kinds of communities we want.”

Apparently the $22 trillion we’ve spent fighting poverty since 1965 — including just under $1 trillion last year — isn’t enough.

But if Democrats are predictably doubling down on the failed policies of the past, what do Republicans offer as an alternative? Interestingly, for a party with a reputation for indifference toward the poor, the major Republican presidential candidates have actually had quite a bit to say on the issue.

Democrats offer more of the same; Republicans have fresh ideas.”

Florida senator Marco Rubio offers perhaps the most detailed and well-thought-out set of policy proposals. Rubio would consolidate most of the more than 100 current federal anti-poverty programs and send the funding for them back to the states as block grants. Unlike a similar but much smaller plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Rubio’s block grants would come with few strings. States would be free to use the money in any way that they chose, as long as the spending is consistent with the broad purpose of the programs they are replacing. A state could not use the funds to reduce taxes on businesses, for instance. Within those limits, states would be free to be, in Justice Brandeis’s famous phrase, “laboratories of democracy,” experimenting with a wide variety of innovative approaches to fighting poverty. And successful states would be rewarded. If a state reduced its poverty rate, its allocation would not be reduced, and the state could use the money however it wished — for education or infrastructure, for example. Rubio would also revamp the earned-income tax credit (EITC) to make it a better wage enhancement.

Meanwhile, Kentucky senator Rand Paul has also spent a great deal of time talking about disadvantaged communities. While his proposals to fight over-criminalization and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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