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Rep. Yarmuth on the GOP's Promise of Poverty

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the House floor today, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) called on House Republican Leaders to explain how their new poverty initiative – unveiled this morning by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan – works with the draconian budget they approved in April.

The Ryan poverty initiative claims to consolidate and streamline federal anti-poverty programs without cutting current resource levels. Yet the Ryan budget guts federal anti-poverty programs to subsidize new tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate special interests. Two-thirds of the cuts in the Republican budget are taken from programs that combat poverty and provide support and opportunities for low-income Americans.

“Cutting services for low-income Americans, blocking a livable wage, and increasing health care costs isn’t a path to prosperity – it’s a promise of poverty,” said Yarmuth, the second-ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee.

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The Republican poverty initiative comes one day before the House is set to vote on a Republican tax bill that pushes an estimated 12 million people – including 6 million children – deeper into poverty, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CPBB 7.22.14). The bill permanently extends various parts of the Child Tax Credit but fails to include a key provision allowing parents to count more of their earnings in calculating the credit, which helps lower-income workers.

While the Republican bill rewards higher-income families claiming the tax credit, it would eliminate the tax credit altogether for some low-income families. According to the CPBB analysis:

As a result, a married couple with two children making $160,000 a year would receive a new tax cut of $2,200 in 2018 under the bill. But a single mother with two children who works full time throughout the year at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (which House Leaders oppose raising) and earns just $14,500 would lose $1,725. Her CTC would disappear altogether. [CPBB 7.22.14]

In a sharp contrast, House Democrats last week unveiled Middle Class Jumpstart, a 100-day legislative action plan detailing specific bills Democrats would enact to create jobs, help middle-class families succeed, spur new economic growth, and lower the cost of education. The action plan includes legislation to:

-Create jobs by rebuilding and modernizing our crumbling infrastructure, including new investments in roads, bridges, broadband technology, and clean-energy initiatives;

-Provide new tax incentives to companies creating good-paying jobs in the U.S.;

-Deny CEOs the ability to claim tax deductions for pay over $1 million unless they give their employees a raise;

-Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour;

-Guarantee women are paid the same as men for the same work;

-And allow students to refinance their college loans at new, lower rates and increase access to Pell Grants.


The full text of Yarmuth’s remarks:

Madam Speaker, today, some of my colleagues from across the aisle unveiled their proposal to address poverty in America. That’s ironic, because tomorrow they will vote to push 6 million children deeper into poverty by excluding their low-income families from the child tax credit.  

I just wish they would explain what they’ll do differently from their current budget, which is a hardhearted and direct attack on the poor.

Two-thirds of the cuts in the Republican budget come from our social safety net – including Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and education. Their budget ends the Medicare guarantee and raises prescription drug costs for seniors.

It raids Pell Grants, raises the already overwhelming cost of college, and slashes investments in jobs to rebuild our national infrastructure. And it does this to cut taxes by one-third for the well-off and well-connected – while continuing to reward companies that ship our jobs overseas.

Madam Speaker, cutting services for low-income Americans, blocking a livable wage, and increasing health care costs isn’t a path to prosperity – it’s a promise of poverty.

If we expect to have any hope of reducing poverty in generations to come, we need a strong safety net today, and we need to invest in quality education and good jobs to create opportunities for the future. Democrats promise to do that.