Gingrich: Liberal 'War on Poverty' Has Failed

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 02:25 PM

By Melanie Batley and John Bachman

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The liberal approach to the "war on poverty" has been a resounding failure, and successful conservative solutions over the last 50 years have proven that Republicans are best placed to tackle poverty, says former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, the former 2012 Republican presidential candidate says that during the half-century after President Lyndon Johnson famously declared a war on poverty, it is precisely because liberals have presided over a massive expansion of the welfare bureaucracy that America still has not won the war.

"When [Republicans] followed principles of hard work, low taxes, limited regulation, encouraging small business, encouraging people to learn and to get a job, it's worked dramatically," said Gingrich, author of the new book "Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America's Fate."

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"During the years that the Republicans were actively involved when I first became speaker, we worked on things like welfare reform, capital-gains tax cuts, economic growth. We actually had 5.5 million people leave poverty in that period while under Obama; 3 million additional people moved into poverty. So what we learned is that big government can't solve the problem of poverty because it has exactly the wrong tools and exactly the wrong principles."

Gingrich goes on to say that conservatives, with their track record of successful policies, are uniquely placed and therefore obligated to take up the gauntlet to tackle the problem.

"It's important for conservatives to be actively involved in trying to find ways that work to help Americans — all Americans — have the right to pursue happiness, and it's important for us to take the moral responsibility of arguing on behalf of the poor that there's a courage to stand up to the left and insist that we look at why, after 50 years and $16 trillion, did big government fail?"

Gingrich said that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's education proposals are another example of how liberal attempts at tackling inequality are misguided, after de Blasio announced a tax hike on the wealthy — equivalent to what he said would be "a small soy latte" from Starbucks per day — to pay for full-day universal prekindergarten and after-school programs for every middle-school student.

"We know that school choice, the charter schools, that opportunities for parents to have a role in their children's education is working ... Mayor de Blasio is paying off his teachers' union allies, he's going to adopt a very strong anti-parental choice, anti-charter school position, exactly the wrong decision if you want to help poor children learn."

Gingrich also welcomed recent comments by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida about the importance of tackling poverty, and said that addressing the issue is in keeping with the philosophical basis of American conservatism.

"We're the ones who say, and the tea partiers are the strongest, that our Declaration of Independence says we're endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So we're the ones who said every American has the right to pursue happiness," he said.

"Well if they're trapped in poverty, if they're trapped in ignorance, if they're trapped without a job, if they're trapped in a dangerous neighborhood, they don't have their rights as Americans.

"We should be the leaders, the champions, of helping every American rise, helping every American have a better future, and we should say the answer to inequality is to level up by having everybody get a better job, a better income, a better future," Gingrich said.

He added, "The left wants to level down by taking away from one group to give to another."

Gingrich said that it will be important for conservatives to clearly explain to voters how they will help improve people's lives, adding that they must stand for a lower cost of living combined with a higher take-home pay, while promoting small businesses.

He pointed out that one of the reasons the cost of living is so high in major cities is because of the cost of big-government unions.

Gingrich said that one of the big side effects of the expansion of government programs such as the Food Stamp program, Medicaid and Medicare is that they are "trapping people in poverty, creating barriers to their rising by giving them just enough things to be dependent on that it's very expensive for them to give that up."

"That's a huge disincentive to people learning to work and learning to rise," he said.

Gingrich added, however, that he is in favor of extending unemployment insurance if it was tied to a work training program, and pointed to the availability of a number of new online learning programs aimed at helping people develop their skills and marketability.

"It seems to me that unemployment compensation could become the largest worker training program in the world if we redesign it. So I'm willing to help people, but I want to help people in such a way that they end up helping themselves," he said.

"That's a very important part of how we could approach this and how Republicans should think about it."

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