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ICYMI: Rubio Discusses Opportunity Equality On “Face The Nation”

Jan 12, 2014 | Press Releases

Rubio: “I think we have failed to take the next step, which is to help people trapped with inequality of opportunity to have the opportunities to build for themselves a better life. And that’s what I hope we’ll be able to accomplish.”

Senator Marco Rubio
CBS News’ “Face the Nation”
January 12, 2014

Senator Marco Rubio: “Well first of all, let me just say, I understand there is going to be a political analysis done of this issue. But for me, I’ve been talking about this now for the better part of the decade — going back to my service in the Florida legislature. And the reason is: I, myself, am but a generation removed from poverty and despair. And the reason why I live a better life is because my parents had the opportunity to come to a place where people like them had the opportunity to improve their lives. I think that is still true for the majority of Americans, but I think it would be wrong not to recognize that there is a significant number of Americans that do not have an equality of opportunity. That is not a political issue. That is something that threatens what makes us exceptional and different from the rest of the world. We need to address that. We need to address the fact that we have 40-some odd million people who feel trapped in poverty and do not feel like they have an equal opportunity to get ahead. And I don’t view that as a partisan issue, or an electoral one. I think it goes to the heart of what it means to be America.

“As far as the war on poverty is concerned, these programs have utility. They do help alleviate the consequences of poverty, but they don’t help people to emerge from that poverty. And that’s why I feel like the war on poverty has failed, because it’s incomplete. I think we have failed to take the next step, which is to help people trapped with inequality of opportunity to have the opportunities to build for themselves a better life. And that’s what I hope we’ll be able to accomplish.”

Bob Schieffer: “Well you are not saying that programs like Head Start were a failure? Because I took that from your speech, that that is what you were saying. Is that what you meant?”

Rubio: “Well that is not what my speech said. Actually, I think programs like Head Start are geared in the right direction in the sense that they’re trying to get children educational opportunities as young as possible. I think where those programs can be completed and improved is if we create flexibility in them at the local level. So I’m not saying we should dismantle the efforts. I’m saying that these efforts need to be reformed. And I believe the best way to reform them is to turn the money and the influence over to the state and local level, where I think you’ll find the kinds of innovations that allow us to confront an issue that is complex and, quite frankly, diverse. For example, rural poverty looks different than urban poverty. And there are different approaches to it.”

Schieffer: “Well that was one of the major proposals that you outlined: just turn these programs over to the state. But I’ll tell you, the question I had when I heard you say that is: I know some of these states, when they had the opportunity, opted out of federal programs like Medicaid, especially some where there were conservatives, like yourself, running the local government. What if these states opt out of these programs? Then what happens?”

Rubio:  ”Well here’s the distinguishing factor: under ObamaCare when you turn Medicaid over to the states, what you’re saying to them is the money will be available up front for the expansion for a few years, then the money will go away. But you get stuck with the unfunded liability. I’m not saying we should do that. I’m actually saying that what we should do is take the existing federal funding that we use for some of these programs, and we’re still working through which ones those should be, collapse them into one central, federal agency  that would then transfer that money to fund innovative state programs that address the same issues. But it would be funded. It wouldn’t be something where states are told: you get the money for a few years and then we’ll back away. And it should be revenue neutral.”