Sen. Marco Rubio’s War on Poverty

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) addresses an event held by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, January 8, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) addresses an event held by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, January 8, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC

The Daily Beast reported on yesterday’s big speach by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who declaired his own war on poverty.

This time, last year, Rubio wanted to be the Republican who tackled immigration reform. That didn’t work out. And after taking a few months of heat from conservative activists, he’s backed away from the effort entirely. But he still has national ambitions, and he still needs a signature issue.

Enter poverty and income inequality.

Republicans are trying to rebut Democratic attacks and rebrand themselves as a compassionate party that’s sensitive to low-income Americans. And in that fight, Rubio seeks to lead the charge. To that end, in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” he argued against welfare and unemployment benefits as effective policies for helping the poor, and outlined his vision for conservative anti-poverty policy.

“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,” he said. “I am proposing that we turn Washington’s anti-poverty programs–and the trillions spent on them–over to the states.”

Despite clear evidence that federal programs have dramatically lowered the poverty rate, Rubio believes the “war on poverty” was a failure. Like most members of his party, he sees broad federal programs as an obstacle to helping the poor.

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