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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  January 11, 2016 11:30pm-12:01am EST

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day. we can be all, just for one day. i people running for national office don't talk about poverty in america as much as they used to, giving more attention to the much larger middle class, and its concerns. but republicans and democrats ask different questions and give different answers when they talk about what it takes to lift americans out of poverty. over the weekend, republican presidential candidates gathered in south carolina to talk poverty and policy, what did he learn? g.o.p. and inside story. ♪
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r quarterback, new york congressman, and housing and urban development secretary's name was convened by his pro tocchet tocchet. >> yes, some progress has been made, but when you take a look at the war on poverty, i think there is a problem, and the problem has been our strategy.
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most of the thinking has been it's about people just don't have enough money. so the government has created 80 different programs. we have treated poverty like -- like they are potholes that need to be filled up. >> unlike the recent debates which crowd the stage with the big republican field. the kemp forum featured small groups at a time. and a call to values, their own, their parties, and those of poor people themselves. >> if you were born into a poor family in a school that is failing in your community, where the people on the street corners are drug dealers, you have six strikes against you. unless something shakes that up, statistics say you are going to
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struggle to get ahead. >> it's not allowing yourself to be defined as a victim. people talk about poor people as if they are poor because they want to be. and i often say if you grew up poor, you didn't want to grow up that way. you never wanted people to make fun of your shoes or you had two pair of jeans and nothing more, and you didn't enjoy that. you didn't enjoy when your friends talked about we went on vacation and you never did. but i grew up optimistic and hopeful that there would still be an opportunity to get an education, and one day enjoy more than i grew up enjoying. >> personal initiative, character, optimism, are really important. if the industrialize, offshoring, and automation had a
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role in making poverty worse, you didn't hear much about it at the kemp forum. >> poverty is a lot more complex. it's not just economic, it's -- there are all sorts of limits to people's aspirations, and it's -- and how you deal with it is important. compassion is not measured by how much money you spending through washington, and send it back down to other bureaucrats filling out forms. compassion is -- in the greek sense is acting on your sense of consciousness, and the only way we're going to become a more up. >> it was an interesting opportunity to hear a thorough, long-formed discussion of what has been a daunting problem. the g.o.p. and poverty on this prom. joining me, fellow in poverty studies at the american
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enterprise institute, and vice president of the poverty to prosperity program at the center for american progress. great to have you with us, robert, if someone sat and watched it end to end on c-span would you have gotten a pretty good tour of the waterfront of what republicans thinks around poverty issues is like in 2016? >> yes, you would have. they stressed the things they often stress. more power to the states. a little bit of focus on personal responsibility and work, and they talked about the ways government supports can make programs. work support as a way to make family's do better. your presentation was very solid. you saw the whole picture. >> when you talk about work supports what are those? >> earned income tax credits, food stamps, sometimes public
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health insurance. there are forms of assistance that can make low wages go further, so that was a topic that was discussed. it wasn't unanimously agreed to, but it showed republicans are willing to talk about the ways in which government can help people move into work and up and out of poverty. >> melissa was there anything you thought was encouraging? >> one area where i think progressives and conservatives can agree was support for expanding the earned income tax credit for workers who don't have independent children. in that would help make work pay and really make low wage goes a little bit further. however, there are also a lot of things absent from that debate. >> i did hear the calls for not only retaining but strengthening the earned income tax credit,
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but also implications that poor people should have, as one candidate said, skin in the game, in encouraging the tax rates too be re-engineered in a way so that even the poorest citizens pay taxes. would that work at cross purposes with protecting the earned income tax credit. >> that was a little bit of dialogue when dr. carson and governor bush and governor christie, where they talked about the earned income tax credit. he said he would rather do away with all of this government choosing winners and losers, have a flat tax. he did say thought everyone should feel as if they are contributing to the american experience through taxes, but that was a debate, a discussion, it is a divide among republicans. not everyone agrees that the earned income tax credit should be increased. but i'm not so sure that -- that other candidates jumped in. i mean it -- it will be a big discussion, the extent to which the republican conference can go
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along with earned income tax credit increase, i think efforts to reduce the waste that cams with the error rate that is in that program now will be the subject of real discussion. but, you know, i thought it was a good discussion, and most important is the value, the value of having a government intervention that promotes and encourages and rewards work. there was a general feeling in -- among the candidates that that was a good idea. >> you had pretty strenuous opposition to raising the minimum wage, which would put more money in low-income workers pockets. >> exactly. one way that conservatives were interested in shrinking government would be to actually raise the minimum wage. minimum wage left millions of people out of poverty.
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it was disappointing that there was such robust opposition. >> robert aren't there a lot of workers who's continued employment is basically subsidized by the taxpayer? . >> the minimum wage increase can have very bad effects on low-wage, low-skilled workers, because it can take your jobs away. and that's a legitimate issue to be concerned about in places where employers will decide they can't afford that additional worker and decide not to hire them. so i'm not so sure minimum wage increase at the rates we're talking about is all good for poor people. it could be very discharging to people who are really struging. someone returns from prison, for instance, someone without a high school degree. someone who looks like maybe might have some issues. we want employers to feel good about hiring those people, and imposing a minimum wage increase
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on them will make that harder. >> one aspect that got a lot of attention were the incentives and disincentives to various kinds of behavior embedded. we'll dissect those ideas with my guests. stay with us. it's "inside story." >> i just think sometimes the government policies we created are created by people who never spent a day poor, and they don't understand. ♪
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you are watching "inside story." i'm ray suarez. the g.o.p. and poverty tonight on the program. we are looking at the kemp forum which brought together many of the presidential candidates to talk about poverty in america. several of the candidates were critical of the structure of various kinds of means tested aid programs which use income thresholds as a trigger for cutting benefits. thus, they said, creating a strong disincentive to earn more money. here is chris christie. >> if you give people this choice of can i make more by sitting at home on the couch than i can going to work, that's what people are facing right now. i have had individuals say to me, it doesn't make any sense for me and my family. i if took a job i would make less than i am right now, when you put all of the programs
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receiving. >> robert and melissa are still with me. and melissa, when we look at programs and the way they are structured, are there a lot of sort of land mines in these programs where the situation that governor christie suggests, describes is a problem? >> not really. the biggest issue is actually in the states that have not expanded medicaid under the affordable care act. in those states if a worker makes slightly more, they can lose their medicare. but the affordable care act if properly implemented would eliminate that poverty cliff. and lack of child care, those are the kind of things that are preventing people from being able to move into or up in the labor force. and a lot of times the way i heard conservatives talking about people in poverty at the summit, is those who work and
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those who are on assistance. the majority of people in poverty are working, have worked, will work. four in five americans will experience at least one year of economic insecurity. poverty, this isn't some stagnant group of folks that as governor christie said want to sit on the couch because they might be slightly more benefits. >> robert, rather than a binary value, one that plots on a continuum. >> i think in general people are always better off. i think that's true. on the other hand, melissa mentioned child care. i do often hear that people are concerned about losing child care assistance when they go to work, and their salary goes up, and they are no longer eligible. so that does happen. and it always isn't -- >> but that
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is phaseouts. >> but sometimes there are cliffs. so that is the concept that people do make rational decisions about the value of their benefit package and work, and if work isn't -- if the difference isn't significant, they may decide to work less. it's just economic fact that that does happen. the question is, do we have our system structured so that happens less and people are more likely to choose work? and labor force participation, here we are this far in, and labor force participation is still at historic lows. something is going on there that is keeping people from not taking jobs when we're now at almost -- you know, 5% unemployment. that's little more full unemployment. i would like to see a greater willingness on democrats and the president to acknowledge that maybe our programs aren't doing enough
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to encourage people to finem employment. >> how would you fix that? >> the number one place is the food stamp program. where there is a clear priority to address hunger, but it doesn't mean you couldn't also ask someone who comes to you and says i have no earnings, but all i want is food stamps and medicaid, i don't want any help on jobs. people can't live on food stamps and medicaid. they ought to be asked, how can we get you earnings so you are better off -- >> so you are trying to plug them into more help. that is interesting. >> that's correct. >> would that work? >> as long as it's not a work requirement placed on people without deference to whether or not jobs are available, whether it's somebody that is searching because they have a criminal record and can't find a job. i'm all for a good job as the best pathway out of poverty.
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i think the question is how -- i don't think people need to be motivated to work. i think people desperately want good jobs. what we want to do is figure out jobs. >> let's say somebody was offered a job, and it fit their transportation and timing and they declined it, and they still wanted food stamps. what then? >> the vast majority of people on food stamps are elderly, and you are talking about a population -- >> 10 million adults who are not reporting earnings and are in that category of people. >> many people have all kinds of other barriers to work, such as criminal records, disabilities that don't rise to social security standards -- >> i have got to go to break. we have heard about many issues
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even allowing offshore profits to bring them home, what if all of that is mere detail? is the big dividing line really in where the blame and responsibility lie? stay with us, it's "inside story." >> the reason why i love free enterprise is because it's the only economic model in this the history of the world is where you can make poor people richer without making rich people poorer. [ applause ] >> i like that. >> so if there is poverty it is because there has been an impedestrianment to allowing free enterprise to work in people's lives. ♪
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♪ welcome back to "inside story." i'm ray suarez. it's a very old american idea that wealth and poverty are reflections of individual virtues and deficits not the product of big forces inside of
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societies or economies. the kemp forum this past weekend brought together republican presidential candidates to discuss approaches. they didn't mention mechanization of a lot of work, they didn't talk about moving the production of many goods to many other places in the world where it is done more cheaply. they did talk a lot about individual attributes and the inability of government to do much to answer the conditions individuals face. >> we don't cure poverty. we treat the symptoms and pain of poverty, but we do not cure it with these federal programs. >> robert and melissa are with me here in washington. ro robert, if we had been watching
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bernie, martin and hilary having this conversation, would we have seen the responsibility for doing something, and the ways to do it very different? this >> i think so. the bulk of the conference, on saturday, was really about having a heart and then understanding of people in need and how we can help them. it is true that republicans like to talk about choices. and i think that's important. i think we want to send messages to americans that they are in the game too, and the decisions they make about graduating from high school, about taking a job when it is offered, about not taking drugs, about having children when they have a committed partner to raise that child together with, those are important too. and what would happen with the discussion with bernie and hilary, is they wouldn't mention that at all. you can't leave that out. when i ran welfare programs in
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new york city, i knew one of the most important ingredients was the person i was trying to help realized they could help themselves. and when you have a situation when it's all about solving the problem for them, that diminishes. >> do democrats put too little emphasis on fixing the situation they are in. >> i don't think so. we empower people to make the decisions with the tools. for example, making sure that reproductive health care and birth control, ensuring access to an education through pell grants, and improving schools so people are more likely to graduate. you have to look at people's personal decisions in the context of what kind of decisions do they have in front of them, and do they have the tools to make them.
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if we are slashing access to birth control, and access to pell grants, those choices become much more meaningful. >> i was involved with re-entry programs for people coming out of prison. and one asked one who was successful, what was the key to their success. and the person said the key to success was my recognition that i could do it. personal responsibility does matter, and democrats should talk about it. >> there are some 45 or so million people officially counted as poor by the federal government, in the minute we have left, are we likely to hear more about them between now and november? >> i think we are. because these issues are tied to the state of the overall economy, the health of families, education, health, to basically the -- whether the american dream is real for people, and i think as we are heading into this election in 2016, those are
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the kind of questions people are asking thenses ash kitchen tables, and i think you will see the candidates talking more about them. >> robert. >> on that we can agree. it will be a priority for speaker ryan, and as we saw on saturday, the republicans are interested in it. >> and can we reore -- reorient our poverty. >> yes, but they will also talk about the middle class. >> i want to thank my guests, melissa, and robert. i'll be back in a minute with a final thought on suggesting where to go, based on where you think we are. it's "inside story." ♪
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>> on hard earned, down, but not out, >> i'm in recovery, i've been in recovery for 23 years... >> last shot, at a better life... >> this is the one... this is the one... >> we haven't got it yet... >> it's all or nothing... >> i've told walgreen's i quit... >> hard earned pride... hard earned respect... hard earned future... a real look at the american dream hard earned only on al jazeera america
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♪ when i listen to the republican candidates talk about wealth and poverty, i thought
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about the differences you might hear if candidate sanders, o'malley, and clinton indulged in a similar exercise, unless i totally missed my guest, they would put more responsibility on big systems rather than on individual's shoulders. some of the same culprits would be dengfied. inadequate education, and job training. but one fundamental difference would emerge. the g.o.p. candidates asserted that the growth society programs of the 1960s, did nothing to reduce poverty. except that's not true. proerty and the accompanying bad effects of poverty were significantly reduced by the great society, and more people got running water, and in door plumbing, more consistent nutrition and healthcare. so even for many people who remained poor, the impacts of
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poverty were lessened, but that blanket condemnation was a reminder of the pessimism of a lot of modern conservatism. the past was good. today is worse. ben carson who's own rise from poverty is one of the coner stones of his candidacy, said that things today were not only worse, they were much worse. true there are more people on food stamps than in the 60s, but there is also less chronic hunger. we have got problems. being president starting in 2017 is going to be really difficult. but it's tough to make the case that poverty is now worse because we try help poor people. we should be arguing about how, not whether. "inside story." ♪
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