Feb. 7, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

On Fiscal Cliff, Progressives Issue Poverty Plea

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Democratic Rep. Mike Honda sought to use a letter organized by the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus to contrast the two parties' approaches on poverty.

Last week, when an old speech of Obama's turned up recently in which he said, "I actually believe in redistribution" of wealth, Democratic politicians ran from that rhetoric, if not the concept.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said redistributing wealth is "absolutely not" a purpose of government. "I don't know that any Democrat believes that the redistribution of wealth is the end of government. It is not," he added.

Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a leading progressive Member, said in an interview: "I don't think it's as simplistic as taking from some to give to another. I think it is as complicated as everybody paying their fair share," which would create more "opportunity" for all.

"I know one thing: That poverty is not even being discussed in this campaign, by either party," anti-poverty activist Bob Woodson said at the RSC event.

Even the Out of Poverty Caucus letter cites the middle class and deficit reduction in its appeal to help the poor.

"Further, getting many struggling Americans into good paying jobs and supporting them along this journey, adds more to the ranks of a prosperous middle class. This effort, in itself, contributes to deficit reduction and a stronger American economy in the long run," the letter says.

The Out of Poverty Caucus letter offers more specifics than Members such as Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) offered at the RSC event. For instance, it points to past efforts in the 1980s to expand Medicaid and the earned income tax credit, both of which benefit the poor.

But it contains its share of vagueness, referring broadly to "fully funding education" and "economic development programs" without specifiying what that entails.

The letter also argues "savings from reductions in forces in Afghanistan" can help pay for those programs, but economists have noted that both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were financed by deficit spending, meaning no savings from them exist to pay for other priorities.

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