America is the most prosperous nation on earth, and yet millions of Americans remain entrenched in poverty. The hand of big government has not lifted them out of the cycle of poverty—the helping hand of family members, neighbors, and faith-based and community organizations is what makes a difference in the lives of people in need.
What we need to win the fight against poverty is more public-private partnerships and less direct government intervention. However, the government must not shrink or shirk its responsibilities. In fact, it must do more to expand the resources available to civic organizations that work with the poor, help build better neighborhoods, and empower struggling families.
On March 2, I introduced the Senate Republican Poverty Alleviation Agenda, the first-ever Republican initiative to fight poverty and strengthen families. The 12-point anti-poverty plan includes the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment Act (CARE), legislation that uses tax incentives to spur more private charitable giving and assists faith-based and community charities to help millions more people in need.
The agenda also includes new welfare reform legislation that builds on the tremendously successful 1996 welfare-to-work reforms by helping millions more welfare recipients find jobs and by promoting healthy marriages as an antidote to child poverty. In addition, to give more Americans the opportunity to build wealth, the plan includes innovative programs such as individual development accounts, matched savings accounts that allow low-income Americans to save for a home, education, or a small business.
Also on the Poverty Alleviation Agenda are hunger relief initiatives, incentives for businesses to hire people off welfare, low-income housing assistance, expanded partnerships with faith-based organizations, programs to help prisoners and their children, social services voucher programs, Medicaid assistance for families with disabled children, family tax relief, and charitable donation incentives.
This anti-poverty plan represents a fresh approach to fighting poverty while building a civil society that is compassionate and encourages private initiatives to assist the most vulnerable citizens. It is in the spirit of the great thinkers Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, who agreed that government and law, in addition to upholding private property, should encourage the sharing of resources for the welfare of others, civic spirit, and the common good.
Work, faith, and family are critical to the success of the fight against poverty. Promoting work and asset building gives struggling individuals and their families the promise of self-sufficiency and the pride of ownership. Partnering with faith-based organizations is critical because they minister to the whole person and treat the poor with loving care that produces results. And strengthening families by promoting marriage and responsible fatherhood is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. In fact, statistics show that marriage is second only to work in reducing poverty rates, and children with fathers at home are five times less likely to live in poverty than children of father-absent homes.
There is a group of compassionate conservatives in Congress that shares my philosophy for fighting poverty and is working with me to enact the Poverty Alleviation Agenda. The trouble is, many Republicans are slow to embrace the compassionate conservative model, while many Democrats are still pushing the old, tired, big-government approach.
Already this Congress, I have joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce legislation that covers most of the 12 agenda items. And I will continue to advocate these and other new initiatives to address the needs of the poor and promote the common good.