Spotlight Exclusives

The Anti-Poverty Community Reacts to President Trump’s SOTU Address

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday received mixed reviews from anti-poverty experts and advocates from across the political spectrum. While some expressed support for the policy proposals he laid out, there were also questions as to whether the administration’s actions would match the rhetoric.

In the address to Congress, President Trump touted continued economic growth and low unemployment, and expressed general support for policies to build on the strong economic climate.

Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, summarized what he saw as the key Trump policy proposals in a statement to Spotlight. “More jobs, especially in manufacturing, higher wages, workforce training, vocational education, help for people coming home from prison, paid family leave and reduced low skilled immigration: these are the Trump administration anti-poverty priorities expressed in the State of the Union address, and if the president delivers on all of them, poverty will decline.”

Melissa Boteach, senior vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, focused on the perceived contrast between the president’s words and actions in a statement to Spotlight.

“Trump’s State of the Union rhetoric on poverty and opportunity is at odds with his actual policies,” Boteach said. “Moving people from ‘dependence to independence?’ He just invited states to impose Medicaid time limits that will strip healthcare and services from people with disabilities—services they need to live independently. Helping vets? From job training to proposed elimination of the Limb Loss Center, his budget guts supports that help them make ends meet.”

President Trump’s endorsement of paid family leave garnered particular attention. The idea has been a priority for his daughter and Senior White House Advisor Ivanka Trump. Florida Senator Marco Rubio praised the idea saying in a tweet that he is working on a forthcoming bill.

At the same time, others on the right pushed back on federally funded paid leave, with Daniel Payne of the Washington Examiner calling it a “terrible idea.” The paid family leave plan in the Trump administration’s previous budget proposals left some unanswered questions and was met with criticism from those on the left.  Potential support will depend on the specific details of any plan.

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