A picture of Senator Mitch McConnell
Mitch M.
Republican KY

About Sen. Mitch
  • Unemployment Compensation

    by Senator Mitch McConnell

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    McCONNELL. For months the Democrats who run Washington have been desperate to distract from the pain of ObamaCare. If we listen to them, they think they have found something that might work for them.

    The one thing that can actually distract folks from the misery of this law is the misery of the economic malaise they have presided over for the past 5 years. We truly have to hand it to them in one respect. It takes a lot of chutzpah to spend an entire Presidential term pushing policies that are supposedly meant to help the little guy and then turn around and blame everybody else when they flop.

    But chutzpah won't solve the problem, and the poll-tested talking points and failed stimulus ideas we have seen Democrats trot out thus far won't do much to improve the plight of millions of Americans struggling in today's economy.

    To me that is the real tragedy, because the discussion about how to help Americans battle against the odds day after day is a conversation we actually should be having. In fact, it is a debate Republicans are having. In recent days we have seen several leading Republicans talk about how to tackle poverty in the 21st century.

    Unlike the Democrats' outdated ideas from the sixties, Republicans are thinking about ways to update our Nation's approach with fresh proposals that speak to the situation Americans actually find themselves in today, not back in the sixties.

    The Republican approach is to learn from past mistakes. It is about turning the left's good intentions into policies that can actually get the job done, and it is about moving beyond the treatment of symptoms and getting at the underlying problems.

    That is the thinking behind the Economic Freedom Zones Act, which Senator Paul and I recently introduced. It aims to shine a light into some of the most impoverished corners of our country, to raise up cities and families who have been left behind and sometimes literally crushed by the outdated ideas from the sixties and to actually do that in a way that lasts.

    With this legislation, some of the most disadvantaged areas of our country would acquire the ability to apply for economic freedom zone status that would help lift the burden of some of the poorest families in our country. Small business owners would see fewer government regulations, enabling them to create jobs and drive prosperity. Entrepreneurs would see punitive tax barriers peeled back, allowing them to lead a recovery with new ideas and new energy. Failed educational systems would see reforms that lift up disadvantaged children, giving new hope to a younger generation. Cities and regions that now face a dark future could transform themselves, if they chose, almost instantly into magnets for new ideas and for new hope.

    If our Democratic colleagues are serious about their focus on economic distress--if it is more than only some poll-tested ObamaCare distraction--then I would invite them to work with us on innovative new approaches such as this.

    This could allow the Senate, for instance, to consider our proposal as an amendment to the unemployment insurance legislation currently on the floor, because this is a discussion that needs to be about helping people. These economic freedom zones are similar in some ways to the Promise Zone initiative recently developed by the Obama administration.

    I was pleased to hear that eight counties in eastern Kentucky will soon receive Promise Zone designation. That is why I wrote in support of granting this designation last year, because there is no doubt that eastern Kentucky is a region that has suffered enormous hardship in recent years--much of it, unfortunately, related to the very same Obama administration war on coal families. But the promise zone designation is a step in the right direction nonetheless. Senator Paul and I will be heading to the White House later today for a promise zone event because we are encouraged the President is finally--finally--focused on a concrete approach to jobs that Members of both parties can support, proving that we can accomplish things when we focus on real efforts rather than political show votes that are designed to fail.

    Promise zones are something we can build on with far more comprehensive approaches, such as Senator Paul's economic freedom zones that would reach even more communities in need [[Page S191]] of revitalization. Because let's remember this: Government programs can sometimes help, but they can't do everything. The 1960s mindset about how to fight poverty needs to change to fit the realities of the 21st century.

    I want to share a sentiment I read yesterday from Thomas Vincent, an unemployed coal worker from the very Kentucky county where LBJ launched his big-government blitz 50 years ago. This was his take on the so- called ``war on poverty:'' What good are all these government programs if they do not get you a job? It is a feeling, the article noted, that is widespread among his neighbors in Martin County.

    This is why Republicans say it is time for modernization and new approaches. It is time to give folks such as Thomas real hope. It is time to give them more than just good intentions.


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