Persistent, intergenerational poverty is one of the largest problems facing the people of our state and nation. Too many of our fellow Delawareans struggle every day to fund the everyday basics of life: food, clothing, shelter & transportation. The societal costs of persistent poverty continue to mount, as do the resulting costs to taxpayers. Despite 50 years of the federal government’s “War on Poverty,” which now costs nearly $1 trillion per year, a higher percentage of people under 65 in America are in poverty today than in 1966.
Ask any well-intentioned bureaucrat or elected official how we’re doing on the issue of poverty in America or Delaware, and the answer usually involves how much we spend or how many government programs we have, and not any measure of how successful those programs are. It is time to change the focus from spending trillions to ease the difficulty of poverty, and instead aggressively focus on getting people out of poverty. It is only through reducing intergenerational poverty that our state will truly see a long-term benefit.
Here is our goal: together, we believe we can make Delaware the lowest-poverty state in America by 2024. This is not only an achievable goal; it is the right commitment to make at this time.
Today, the Senate Republican Caucus will be releasing A Brighter Future, our 11-point agenda to reduce poverty in Delaware. The agenda covers many different approaches to reducing poverty, from education, to worker training, to housing and beyond. We are convinced that we can meaningfully reduce poverty while also reducing long-term government spending.
One of the consistent problems we face in fighting poverty is that federal programs are structured so as to trap people in poverty. Many people who receive benefits know precisely the line in which making one additional dollar means they will begin to lose those benefits, and therefore they will attempt to increase their quality of life, but only up to the line in which those benefits begin to go away.
The only way to stop this hardened structure of misaligned incentives is to allow states flexibility to apply anti-poverty dollars in ways that create the best outcomes for individuals and families at the bottom of the economic ladder. This is why the first plank in our agenda calls for our congressional delegation to introduce and/or support sending all anti-poverty funds to Delaware in the form of an annual block grant with protections to ensure that the money is restricted to anti-poverty purposes.
Justice Louis Brandeis, in his famous “states are the laboratories of democracy” speech, also said “[t]here must be power in the States and the nation to remold, through experimentation, our economic practices and institutions to meet changing social and economic needs.” We couldn’t agree more. If given the ability to be flexible with major federal funding, we are certain that Delaware could creatively realign incentives for people to steadily work their way out of poverty.
From that beginning, the remainder of our agenda focuses on ideas that are actionable at the state level: tax credits for poverty housing, a review of worker training programs, creating a “cottage food” industry in Delaware and much more.
It is our sincere hope that a conversation will form around making Delaware the lowest-poverty state in America by 2024. We look forward to working with the Governor and our colleagues in the General Assembly to fully develop these ideas and others, as we proceed to make a meaningful difference for Delawareans.