Six GOP presidential candidates were in Columbia, SC, Saturday attending the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).
The event is named after late-Congressman Jack Kemp, who famously advocated for conservative solutions to poverty in America during his public service tenure which spanned three decades.
The general consensus among the 2016 Republican contenders was that the federal government has too much control over welfare program policy, which ultimately hurts those receiving benefits by keeping them unemployed or underemployed. Instead, funding for those benefits should be transferred to the states which can implement their own programs specific to local poverty issues.
Currently, 14 percent of the U.S. population is below the federal poverty line – defined as a family of three (two parents, one child) which makes $19,000 per year or less.
Policy differences between the candidates emerged on tax policy however, as Chris Christie suggested increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (explained in the video below), while Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee advocated more radical changes.
Dr. Carson favors a “flat tax” system where everyone pays the same percentage of their income to the government, while Gov. Huckabee touts a single-rate consumption “fair tax” that taxes purchases of goods instead of income.
Sen. Rubio, interrupted several times by pro-immigration protesters, and Rep. Ryan both sought to highlight the inadequacy of today’s federal “safety-net” programs that were designed during President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” era of the mid-1960s.
Ryan said that alternate solutions to poverty, such as weaning welfare precipitants off public assistance when they find work instead of cutting them off all at once, “can open up a renaissance,” and replace a system that “isolated the poor.”
Rubio called the system “outmoded and outdated”.
“People are stuck in poverty, and the notion of some that they want to stay there is just totally ridiculous,” said former Florida governor Jeb Bush. “We’ll never win elections if we send any kind of message like that. We’ll become the minority party”.
The Forum drew about 1,000 people to the Metropolitan Convention Center, located next to the University of South Carolina and downtown state capitol.
Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham, and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley also made solo appearances at Saturday’s event.
[USA Today] [AP] [The State]