Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is contemplating a presidential run in 2016, is one of several conservatives who would like to try to convince the country that the Republican Party cares about poverty (in contrast, of course, to the Democratic Party preference for portraying the Repubs as a party that cares mostly about rich people).
The hot political analysis of the moment is that, with unemployment benefits expiring for millions of Americans and with most Republicans opposed to extending those benefits, and with President Obama having declared rising concentration of wealth at the top to be a major theme for his second term, the Dems will do what they can to pound on the Republicans-rich people axis. (The folks at NBC’s “First Read” are calling this theme the “empathy gap.“)
Wednesday, on what is being treated as the 50th anniversary of the 1964 launch of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” Rubio will give a speech on economic mobility and the American dream. He has released a two-minute video previewing the speech (a link to which I’ll include below).
He has renamed Johnson’s “war on poverty” as the “big government war on poverty.”
The simple version of the argument is that if the various welfare benefits and programs begun since 1963 could solve the poverty problem, poverty should have disappeared by now, and yet, quoting Rubio, “tens of millions of Americans live beneath the poverty line…. After 50 years, isn’t it time to declare big government’s war on poverty a failure?”
Instead of welfare benefits, “what’s needed is a plan to help Americans acquire the skills they need to lift themselves out of poverty and to pursue the American Dream.” (The term “American Dream” pops up four times during the two-minute video.)
I assume there are details to follow. This is only the two-minute preview. But in the two-minute version, no actual programs are described, only the outcomes the unnamed programs would achieve, namely an increase in “good-paying middle-class jobs” and a decrease in the national debt.
The program would also “save and strengthen” Social Security and Medicare. And, although it’s a new idea to me that this part of any anti-poverty program, Rubio’s program would also “repeal Obamacare.”
It will be interesting to see the details. Here’s the detail-free two-minute version: