Republicans Move to Claim Poverty-Fighting Mantle

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from The New York Times,

Senator Marco Rubio says the American dream has become “unattainable.” Senator Mike Lee says reforming government benefits programs should be the country’s “first priority.” And Representative Paul D. Ryan says the government safety net has “failed miserably.”

Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, the message from Republicans in Congress is that the government has foundered in its efforts to address the problem.

“While we have programs in place that help deal with the pain of poverty, they don’t deal with the structural problems,” Mr. Rubio of Florida said in an interview.

Referring to President Obama and Democrats in Congress, he added, “I just think their thinking on this is stale and old and doesn’t really address the magnitude of the problem.”

Mindful of polls that show many Americans see them as detached from or indifferent to the hardships faced by the people most affected by the recession and slow recovery, Republicans have begun to speak publicly on the issue of poverty and to propose their own, more market-based solutions.

But at the same time that the party is shifting its focus to poverty, many Republicans are pushing for deep cuts to food assistance programs and unemployment insurance, while 11 million Americans are jobless and poverty rates remain elevated in the wake of the recession.

Democrats argue that budget cuts and other Republican initiatives would make the sting of poverty more acute.

“Republican leaders set out to make their party more appealing — or at least less insulting — to middle-class and working Americans,” American Bridge, a liberal advocacy group, wrote in an email to supporters on Wednesday. “The real war on poverty in America remains their endless attacks on the middle and working class.”

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