Despite being interrupted by heckling from immigration activists, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) managed to have an in-depth panel about combating poverty. Kasich noted that his state has created 385,000 jobs, which helps in the fight. More importantly, he stressed the principle that everyone should have an opportunity to rise. Like the first panel, Kasich weaved criminal justice reform into the discussion, citing initiatives like banning the box that removes the question about past criminal histories on job applications for state jobs.
The governor said that now we’ll find out about your criminal history, but only after the second or third interview, where the applicant can explain what happened. He also mentioned clean slate opportunities, where felons who had committed a crime, but have been crime-free or rehabilitated for a certain period of time have a way to reintegrate back into society and have access to social programs that would have been denied to them otherwise. Now, if you’re a violent offender and cause trouble while in prison, Kasich said he had no problems with throwing away the key for those individuals.
Regarding education and welfare reform, the governor was proud that he reformed the schools system in Cleveland, which is a Democratic bastion, and were able to give students at risk of dropping out of high school; a path to carve out a program to mitigate those chances. With welfare, Kasich mentioned how it used to be that there were more caseworkers than you would have in a hospital. Now, there is one caseworker, and he’s invited businesses into those offices, so when applicants apply for benefits they have an avenue for job training to eventually get them off benefits to earning a steady paycheck.
On the other hand, Sen. Marco Rubio had a more difficult time outlining his strategies to combat poverty since immigration activists heckled him several times during the panel.
“I think they probably support block granting,” quipped Rubio, as the first batch was led out of the exhibit hall by police and event security. The senator was talking about his support of flex funds, which diverts federal money aimed to fighting poverty to the states since the local level is where the innovative programs to combat this social ill are going to come from; it’s not going to be from the federal government.
He also laid out the social barriers to those living in poverty, and they’re steep. For those living in low-income neighborhoods riddled with crime, failing schools, poor role models, broken homes, drugs, and substandard housing, the chances of you rising above poverty is very slim. In fact, it would be something of a miracle if you were able to leave that neighborhood.
“That’s six strikes against you,” said Rubio, who added that it should be our goal to break that model, but it will only come from the state and local level.
Rubio mentioned that a barrier for someone like a single mother working as a receptionist for $10/hour trying to earn a raise, is education. For starters, it’s expensive to go back to school to earn a higher degree, and classes are usually during the day when she needs to work. He added that conservatives should focus on curing poverty, not treating its symptoms. Many programs were created to treat the symptoms–and have failed miserably. As other members of the 2016 field said throughout the day, having a strong, vibrant economy is key–and we have to focus.
Gov. Kasich also touched upon the fact that he believes education should count towards the 30-hour work requirement for welfare programs, but he needs to get permission from Washington to do that. He called that relationship between states and the federal government insane. In fact, he wishes he could ship back a lot of power regarding anti-poverty programs and Medicaid to the states, but with guardrails. A state would not be allowed to use those funds for transportation as an example. Also, he supports increasing the Milton Freidman-based Earned Income Tax Credit, which pays the working poor to work and eventually get off government welfare rolls.
Rubio added that he supports the Florida Corporate scholarship program, where instead of corporations paying their taxes to Washington, they could donate they money to this state-based not-for-profit scholarship program that helps kids get out of failing school districts. Furthermore, he added that there should be a renewed emphasis on trade schools, noting that these are institutions for kids to learn skills that will lead them to earning a decent wage. It’s not for kids who are not cut out for college. Gov. Kasich stressed early childhood education, raising the standards for guidance counselors, and teaching skills in the K-12 grades that are geared towards the 21st century job market. The days of high school graduates earning their way into the middle class through a steel mill, chemical plant, or a manufacturing job are over.
Rubio also mentioned making the tax code simpler, by allowing businesses to write off everything they’ve invested in their venture–something that’s critical for new and small businesses. He would also have a 25 percent flat tax on all business-related income minus investment, regardless of how these enterprises are organized. Kasich warned about how Dodd-Frank is placing local community banks in the crosshairs through heavy regulation. These banks know their customers and maybe could be a little more adventurous in handing out loans to energetic local entrepreneurs. Dodd-Frank eliminates that, and Kasich described job creation and their creators as gentle orchids that cannot be stomped on by the rolls or red tape emanating from the Capitol dome.
The other areas Kasich mentioned he’s proud of in his state are providing the resources to help the mentally ill in prison. He said they have the resources now to stop locking up the bipolar and schizophrenic. Like Gov. Christie, he’s pushing for drug rehabilitation programs, tackling the dealers, and tracking prescription drugs through prescribers who trace them back to pharmacy boards. The recidivism rate is less than 20 percent in Ohio, which is due to supervised release programs. While he didn’t say Medicaid specifically, but Kasich did mention offering the working poor health care is a tool to combat poverty. He expanded Medicaid coverage, which drew the ire of conservatives, as it’s an integral part of Obamacare. Nevertheless, Kasich mentioned how these people are the ones who live in the shadows–and we need to reach out and provide them the resources they need to lift their economic prospects.
While the heckling was certainly a low point for the forum, Rubio kept his cool, joking “Does the clock stop while they scream?”
“I thought about handling them the way another candidate does, but I thought it would be–it’s not my event,” he added.
Finally, he addressed the protesters saying, “We’re going to enforce our immigration laws, guys. We’re going to be a country that enforces our immigration laws.” It drew a standing ovation from the crowd.
Also, please be sure to read my colleague Amanda's post on the forum as well over at Hot Air.