News Release

Clinton vs. Obama on Poverty Issues


Co-editor of the two-volume Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics and Policy and author of Welfare’s End, Mink said today: “Although Obama insists he is the candidate ‘for change,’ his record on poverty issues does not offer bold new visions for economic justice. Quite the opposite, in fact: Obama’s top anti-poverty commitments repeat the well-worn bromides of Clinton-era welfare reform. Obama supports an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit. Bill Clinton accomplished the first big EITC expansion in the early 1990s. Obama sponsored responsible fatherhood legislation that links poverty reduction to fathers’ contributions to families. Hillary Clinton introduced a responsible fatherhood bill several years before Obama, soon after she arrived in the Senate.

“At least on his website, he exclusively links poverty reduction to labor market reforms, and so neglects larger questions of economic justice for caregiving work performed for one’s own dependent family members. Notably, Obama gives little attention to the interaction of inequalities in the lives of the poor, especially racial and gender inequality.

“The point is not that Obama is worse than Clinton on poverty — certainly anyone who has engaged struggles against Temporary Assistance for Needy Families reauthorization knows that Clinton is not necessarily the better ally of the poor. The point is that Obama’s record on poverty does not bear out the hype that he personifies change.”
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President of the National Research Center for Women & Families, Zuckerman said today: “Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both have a strong commitment to reducing poverty compared to most members of Congress, and by any standard are equally progressive on poverty issues. Both have experience on these issues going back for years — Hillary’s at Children’s Defense Fund and the impoverished state of Arkansas, Obama’s as a community organizer in Chicago. Both have ideas of how to strengthen our safety net programs.

“There isn’t a substantial difference in their positions on poverty issues, and I doubt that there is a substantial difference in their ability to persuade Republican members of Congress to support their positions. Hillary takes the lead, however, on two fronts:
* proposing that subsidies be available for low-income women to care for their own infants instead of paying others to care for them;
* understanding how astronomical deficit spending on tax cuts, Iraq, and other expenses drains the Social Security Trust Fund and undermines entitlement programs. Her close-up view of the economic benefits and political costs of balancing the federal budget has apparently taught Hillary the importance of juggling those competing pressures.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167