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Excerpts of Marco Rubio’s Address on 50th Anniversary of the “War on Poverty”

Jan 8, 2014 | Press Releases

On proposing the most fundamental change in 50 years:
“Washington is too bureaucratic and resistant to change. And its one-size-fits-all approach to policy is not conducive to solving a problem as diverse as this one. Therefore, 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 50 years ago. I am proposing that we turn Washington’s anti-poverty programs – and the trillions spent on them – over to the states.”

On the opportunity gap in America:
“We are still a country where hard work and perseverance can earn you a better life. The vast majority of Americans today live lives much better than their parents. Yet we are rightfully troubled that many of our people are still caught in what seems to be a pervasive, unending financial struggle. It bothers us because we are a people united by the belief that every American deserves an equal opportunity to achieve success. … America is still the land of opportunity for most, but it is not a land of opportunity for all. If we are to remain an exceptional nation, we must close this gap in opportunity.”

On the Democrats’ stale proposals:
“Our current President and his liberal allies propose that we address this by spending more on these failed programs and increasing the minimum wage to $10.10. Really? That is their solution to what President Obama has identified as the defining issue of our time? Raising the minimum wage may poll well, but having a job that pays $10 an hour is not the American Dream. And our current government programs offer, at best, only a partial solution. They help people deal with poverty, but they do not help them escape it.”

On why the War on Poverty has failed:
“The only solution that will achieve meaningful and lasting results is to provide those who are stuck in low paying jobs the real opportunity to move up to better paying jobs. And to do this we must focus on policies that help our economy create those jobs and that help people overcome the obstacles between them and better paying work. The War on Poverty accomplished neither of these two things.”

On giving states flexibility to fight local poverty:
“I know from my time in the Florida legislature that if states were given the flexibility, they would design and pursue innovative and effective ways to help those trapped in poverty. As we’ve seen, they could put in place programs that give those currently stuck in low-wage jobs access to a job training system.”

On encouraging work with wage enhancement:
“We should pursue reforms that encourage and reward work. That’s why I am developing legislation to replace the earned income tax credit with a federal wage enhancement for qualifying low-wage jobs. This would allow an unemployed individual to take a job that pays, say, $18,000 a year – which on its own is not enough to make ends meet – but then receive a federal enhancement to make the job a more enticing alternative to collecting unemployment insurance.”

On the potential of Americans stuck in poverty:
“The erosion of equal opportunity is among the greatest threats to our exceptionalism as a nation. But it also provides us with an exciting and historic opportunity: to help more people than ever achieve the American Dream. The millions currently trapped in poverty and despair are a tremendous untapped resource. Just think of what it would mean for America to gain full use of the talents and abilities of all her people. … We are a great country despite the fact that we have over 40 million people stuck in poverty. Imagine how much greater we would be if they were not. If the dreams and talents of over 40 million human beings were unleashed into our economy.”