Spotlight Exclusives

Rubio Says Dignity of Work is Key to Anti-Poverty Policy

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday that conservative anti-poverty efforts should focus on restoring the “dignity of work” and offering all Americans access to jobs “that connect the work that they do, not just to a paycheck, but to the dignity that comes with a productive life.”

Appearing before the Heritage Foundation’s annual Anti-Poverty Forum, the 2016 GOP presidential aspirant said it was not enough for Republican lawmakers to call for policies that add work requirements to existing safety net programs.

“It’s important for us to understand that as we strengthen these programs and gear them toward work, it’s not enough to say you have to get a job,” Rubio said. Instead, policymakers should be exploring ways to create quality jobs “that teach and reinforce skills, that make work more productive and keep people close to their families.”

A few specific proposals or policy changes Rubio outlined included:

  • Specific strategies to get millions of prime work age men back into the labor force, an issue Rubio called “a national crisis that deserves an emergency solution.” He urged a push for more manufacturing jobs, reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit to reward each hour of work, and adding work requirements to safety net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • Tax policies that promote job creation, such as making permanent the faster and bigger capital investment deduction included in the 2017 tax bill.
  • Free but fair trade policies that “make it painful for people who are trying to impose on us bad trade and unfair trade, like China.”
  • Creating more opportunities for students by reforming student loan and accreditation policies and promoting the utility of non-traditional degrees and educational products.
  • Labor laws that discourage broad non-compete, no-poach agreements for entry-level, lower-wage workers.

Rubio said adoption of a universal basic income or job guarantee would be counterproductive to anti-poverty efforts. “It would double down on what’s wrong in the first place,” Rubio said. “It writes off millions of Americans simply because they are currently in low-income jobs. It would pay Americans who are currently low-income to be unproductive.”

Jennifer Marshall, Vice President at the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity and the Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Fellow at Heritage, kicked off the event by saying that the think tank wants to stress a holistic approach to anti-poverty efforts.

“People are more than their material needs,” Marshall said, stressing that successful anti-poverty policies have to encompass issues that range from “health care to education to families to jobs.”

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