My parents immigrated to America with few skills, limited education and no money. They worked long, hard hours – my father as a bartender and my mother as a maid and stock clerk – so that my siblings and I could have the lives they weren’t able to achieve. My parents’ story, of everyday people who were given the opportunities to work their way into a better life, is not rare here in America. Like so many others, they were able to achieve the American Dream: to fulfill the desire of every parent to leave their children with a better life than their own.

This country remains a place where hard work and perseverance can earn you a better life. But while America is still the land of opportunity for most, it is not a land of opportunity for all. If we are to remain an exceptional nation, we must close this gap in opportunity.

Today, too many Americans have no financial security. For millions of people trapped in low-wage jobs, or worse, unable to find work, the American Dream seems unreachable — and that is not acceptable. No American should have to live a life in poverty. This is why unemployment assistance must remain an important part of our social safety net. But these programs have to do more than simply provide a paycheck; they must be reformed to help people secure middle class jobs.

I believe giving states greater control and flexibility in determining what is right for their people will help solve some of these problems. Our anti-poverty programs should be replaced with a revenue neutral Flex Fund, in which we would streamline most of our existing federal anti-poverty funding into one single agency. Then each year, these Flex Funds would be transferred to the states so they can design and fund creative initiatives that address the factors behind inequality of opportunity. We should also pursue reforms that encourage and reward work. That’s why I am developing legislation that would allow an unemployed individual to take a job that doesn’t pay enough to make ends meet – but then receive a federal enhancement to make the job a better alternative to collecting unemployment insurance.

I believe my legislation will equip people with the skills they need to not only deal with poverty, but to escape it. All Americans should be able to achieve the American Dream, no matter the circumstances of their birth. Now, let us work together in reclaiming the land of opportunity.

As we develop our legislation, I hope you take a moment to tell me more about your story of struggle and things we can do to help you get back on your feet and rise above your current situation to stake your claim on the American Dream.





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