While that may sound like the kind of Big-Government proposal Republicans typically hate, Clinton and the plan’s creator, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), have found the key to bipartisan appeal: a funding formula that will help millions of poor white voters who live in GOP-held districts as well as African-American voters who live in Democratic districts.
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Speaker Ryan has effectively given his blessing, spurring the plan’s inclusion in several of this year’s bills to fund the government. Donald Trump, who recently began new outreach to minority voters, has yet to weigh in, effectively ceding the political benefit to his Democratic rival.
The math of the so-called 10-20-30 proposal is simple: At least 10 percent of a federal program’s funds should go to counties where 20 percent of the population has lived below the poverty line for 30 years.
Nearly 500 counties across the United States suffer from the kind of persistent poverty that would make them eligible for the plan’s targeted funding, Clyburn says — and it would give more Republican lawmakers something to brag about to constituents than Democrats. In 2009, Clyburn likes to note, 84 Republicans represented those counties, compared with 43 Democrats. The GOP held 311 counties and Democrats represented 149. (In terms of total population, the parties were more evenly split, with Republicans representing 8.3 million people from those counties and Democrats representing 8.8 million; another 14 counties with 5.3 million people were split between Republicans and Democrats.)
If there’s anything that the last 40+ years has taught us, it’s that gigantic federal poverty programs don’t actually solve poverty. It’s just not that easy.
But as this story illustrates, politicians love these programs because they can dump a pile of our money into communities where they want votes. Then they get to pose for pictures and give quotes to reporters about how they are helping their constituents. And people in those communities can feel good about their government for a few minutes.
And then the money runs out and they are all still poor. Because it’s just not that easy.