GOP Candidates Take the Stage to Discuss Poverty, But Will They Walk the Talk?


January 7, 2016

2016 is finally here, which means the presidential election is now only 305 days away. Reducing poverty and expanding opportunity for all Americans should be a key issue during the campaign season. So you can bet we’ll be watching with interest this Saturday, January 9th, when at least seven Republican presidential candidates will gather to discuss their proposals to do just that. Moderated by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity will run from 8:30am to 2:00pm and will be live-streamed and covered on C-SPAN.
We hope you’ll tune in, too. CHN and a number of our member organizations will be following the forum and will be tweeting during and after the event. You can join in the conversation by using the hashtags #KempForum16, #talkpoverty, and #walkthetalk. Stay tuned to this blog and watch your email for sample tweets and additional resources, too.

We obviously don’t know what any of the speakers will say before they say it, and we truly hope that they will be open to discussing ways to expand proven programs like SNAP/food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and others that lift people out of poverty and level the playing field. What we do know is what some of the participants have said in the past. When Speaker Ryan released his poverty plan in July 2014, CHN showed how that his plan would result in less help for poor Americans, not more. Rep. Ryan’s plan would create an “Opportunity Grant,” which is basically a block grant that would consolidate up to 11 different federal programs (including SNAP/food stamps, child care, housing assistance, home heating assistance and others) into one funding stream for states. CHN and others pointed out that this would actually increase poverty, not reduce it – a view that is shared in this piece released Wednesday by Bob Greenstein at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. We also showed the Head Smacker-ness of Ryan saying the programs lumped together in his “Opportunity Grant” would receive the same level of funding as before, when the budgets he has proposed in the past repeatedly slashed these programs.

We hope we don’t hear more ideas along these lines on Saturday. Instead, we hope to hear about proven means of increasing employment and earnings for low-income people, as well as ideas for expanding the safety net and the programs we know will reduce poverty, like Social Security, housing assistance, unemployment insurance, Head Start, and quality, affordable child care. We hope we hear them talking about ending hunger, especially following the press conference that will be held nearby on Friday by Vote to End Hunger. We hope to hear them talk about what we can do to end homelessness and childhood poverty and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot. If all they say about jobs is that they’ll reduce taxes and regulations on corporations and the rich, they don’t have a plan to reduce poverty.

What issues do you want to hear the candidates talk about at the event? If you were in the room, what questions would you ask? Share these in the comments section below.

Budget and Appropriations
Earned Income Tax Credit
gop candidates
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
minimum wage
Poverty and Income
Ryan budget
Ryan poverty plan
Social Services
tax policy
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
unemployment insurance