Rubio Demands States’ Right to Ignore the Poor

New York Times, David Firestone

For a senator who likes to hold himself out as the future of the Republican brand, Marco Rubio has come up with a remarkably retrograde contribution to the party’s chorus of phony empathy for the poor: Let the states do it.

All anti-poverty funds should be combined into one “flex fund,” he said in a speech on Wednesday, and then given to the states to spend as they see fit. He actually believes that states will “design and fund creative initiatives” to address inequality.

“Washington continues to rule over the world of anti-poverty policy-making, with beltway bureaucrats picking and choosing rigid nationwide programs and forcing America’s elected state legislatures to watch from the sidelines,” he said. “As someone who served nine years in the state house, two of them as Speaker, I know how frustrating this is.”

Do-nothing legislators in states like Mr. Rubio’s Florida feel frustrated precisely because most federal safety-net programs are designed to limit the ability of states to refuse to help their less fortunate residents. As Lyndon Johnson knew from personal experience in 1964, when he began the War on Poverty, states could not be trusted to properly address the poverty in their midst. Or, to put it another way, certain states could be trusted to yell and scream and fight to the end for their right to do as little as possible.

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