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Fighting Poverty

America’s War on Poverty had its golden anniversary last week. Unlike a marriage that lasts a generation’s time, the celebration for Lyndon Johnson’s other crusade was not exactly joyful. Intellectuals and academics still fret over first worlders stricken by destitution. They decry the parsimonious structure of the American welfare state – even as a record number of citizens are in some way tied to the dole. Plenty of solutions are offered to fix the problem of ongoing poverty, but each turns out to be nothing more than state redistribution.

In his latest apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis implored believers to take a stronger initiative in helping out the less well-off among us. American conservatives appear to have heeded the call, and are beginning to focus attention on an anti-poverty agenda. The hope is to rile up the electorate and shed the conception of hating the poor. Whether these measures will succeed is another question. It’s easy to say “Hey! How about we get everyone out of the poor house!” Putting in place the necessary framework to foster rising living standards takes gumption and knowledge.

To mark the anniversary of Johnson’s welfare behemoth, Florida Senator Marco Rubio offered an alternative to Washington’s current approach to erase poverty. While decrying the government’s rob-and-reshuffle schemes, Rubio proposed to “replace the earned income tax credit with a federal wage enhancement for qualifying low-wage jobs.” Additionally, the political upstart paid lip service to block granting federal dollars to the states – an idea Ronald Reagan floated nearly four decades ago.

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