Harris County Republican Party Reaching Out

Artemio Muniz, Chris Carmona, and Trebor Gordon helping an applicantArtemio Muniz, Chris Carmona, and Trebor Gordon helping an applicant

And choice in education is the wave of the future because it represents a return to some of our most basic American values. Choice in education is no mere abstraction. Like its economic cousin, free enterprise, and its political cousin, democracy, it affords hope and opportunity. – Ronald Reagan, 1989

This past Sunday, Republicans in Harris County took a step toward the future.

Houston Young Republicans, led by Sandi Steinbacher, the Federation of Hispanic Republicans and the Harris County Republican Party Outreach Committee, of which I am the current Chairman, brought together a group of willing Republican volunteers to help families register their children for charter schools in the areas where they live.

This group spent three hours in the meeting room of a Spring Branch community center, assisting families with applications for various charter schools. Many of the schools have upcoming deadlines, which allowed us to help these families beat the deadlines and our team was equipped with answers to most questions.

Chris Carmona, a Republican State Rep candidate who embraces not only Parental Choice in Education, but also the concept of connecting with the community, was there to talk with families and he assisted several in filling out their applications. Republican precinct chair and former Houston city council candidate Trebor Gordon was there to assist as well, he worked hard for us and was very passionate about getting this job done.

To maximize the effectiveness of our group, we used four laptop computers, two iPads and an iPhone. The task was not easy, don’t be misled there. Various schools had varied deadlines. There was also the obstacle that some families were looking at schools for various age ranges, but we helped find elementary schools, middle schools and high schools for all. We don’t have a final count on the number of applications we filed. Some parents registered multiple children.

Moms and dads know that opportunity through education is the surest way to have a real shot at the American Dream. A good education can help avoid the traps of poverty. A good education can also give a lift-up to those in poverty. Connecting with these families over these principles is important and it is a vital step that our party needs to take on a massive scale. Our party is at a point where words mean nothing, if there is no action, then we are just empty suits.

The outreach committee of Harris County Republican Party will lead the party towards a very new place in activism, highlighting the importance of rebuilding our civic institutions, healing our neighborhoods, and exemplifying what it truly means to be a conservative. We cannot ask voters to simply believe our public policy proposals, we must rebuild the private safety net before others agree with us to scale back the public safety net.

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Paul Ryan: A New Direction in the War on Poverty

By Steve Parkhurst

It’s no secret, I’m a big fan and admirer of Paul Ryan. I’ve said for a while that his years of working with the late Jack Kemp, have helped mold him into a modern day Kemp. You don’t have to search our site long to find examples of this.

Congressman Ryan wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, outlining a few of his thoughts on the 50 years of the failed “war on poverty.” I wanted to take this time to highlight a few passages, though I’d encourage you to read the entire op-ed.

Yet for all its professed concern about families in need, Washington is more concerned with protecting the status quo than with pursuing what actually works.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. For years, politicians have pointed to the money they’ve spent or the programs they’ve created. But despite trillions of dollars in spending, 47 million Americans still live in poverty today. And the reason is simple: Poverty isn’t just a form of deprivation; it’s a form of isolation. Crime, drugs and broken families are dragging down millions of Americans. On every measure from education levels to marriage rates, poor families are drifting further away from the middle class.

Touche!

Poverty isn’t a rare disease from which the rest of us are immune. It’s the worst strain of a widespread scourge: economic insecurity. That’s why concern for the poor isn’t a policy niche; it goes to the heart of the American experiment. What the poor really need is to be reintegrated into our communities. But Washington is walling them up in a massive quarantine.

Absolutely true.

On this less-than-golden anniversary, we should renew the fight. The federal government needs to take a comprehensive view of the problem. It needs to dump decades-old programs and give poor families more flexibility. It needs to let communities like Pulaski High develop their own solutions. And it needs to remember that the best anti-poverty program is economic growth.

Ryan closes:

Other areas ripe for reform include health care, criminal justice and federal regulations. After all, the cultural antibodies that heal communities are already present and hard at work. For policy makers, the question is, how do we spread their influence? What barriers do we remove? What incentives do we put in place? And to whom do we look for guidance—government bureaucrats or community leaders?

For 50 years, we’ve been going in the wrong direction, and liberals want to march on. Some in Washington insist that you’re concerned for the poor only if you’re committed to a path that has failed the poor. But the question isn’t whether we should do more or less of the same. It is which new direction will work best.

That one line, “the cultural antibodies that heal communities are already present and hard at work,” that’s really strong. Think about it. These ideas are things that can lead to that American Renaissance that lies ahead, that we need.

Paul Ryan’s Kemp-Inspired Crusade Against Poverty

By Steve Parkhurst

While I admit to being one of those people that thinks Washington D.C. is incapable of controlling and patrolling itself, and that something like The Liberty Amendments proposed by Mark Levin are in order for us to rein government back in, there is something to be said for the efforts of Congressman Paul Ryan.

This is an interesting story in the Washington Post, or as I prefer to call it, Pravda on the Potomac. Still, this article is pretty well done:

Paul Ryan is ready to move beyond last year’s failed presidential campaign and the budget committee chairmanship that has defined him to embark on an ambitious new project: Steering Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp.

Since February, Ryan (R-Wis.) has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods with another old Kemp ally, Bob Woodson, the 76-year-old civil rights activist and anti-poverty crusader, to talk to ex-convicts and recovering addicts about the means of their salvation.

Ryan’s staff, meanwhile, has been trolling center-right think tanks and intellectuals for ideas to replace the “bureaucratic, top-down anti-poverty programs” that Ryan blames for “wrecking families and communities” since Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964.

Next year, for the 50th anniversary of that crusade, Ryan hopes to roll out an anti-poverty plan to rival his budgetary Roadmap for America’s Future in scope and ambition. He is also writing a book about what’s next for the GOP, recalling the 1979 tome that detailed Kemp’s vision under the subtitle, “The Brilliant Young Congressman’s Plan for a Return to Prosperity.”

Of course, that “1979 tome” was Jack Kemp’s An American Renaissance. But I digress.

Ryan’s new emphasis on social ills doesn’t imply that he’s willing to compromise with Democrats on spending more government money. His idea of a war on poverty so far relies heavily on promoting volunteerism and encouraging work through existing federal programs, including the tax code. That’s a skewed version of Kempism, which recognizes that “millions of Americans look to government as a lifeline,” said Bruce Bartlett, a historian who worked for Kemp and has become an acerbic critic of the modern GOP.

“They want to care,” Bartlett said of Ryan and modern Republicans. “But they’re so imprisoned by their ideology that they can’t offer anything meaningful.” Ryan has explained the difference by noting that the national debt has grown enormously since Kemp ran for president in 1988, nearly doubling as a percentage of the economy.

Kempism. Stay tuned in future months for more on that.

In the mid-1990s, crime and poverty were hot national issues. Kemp was a font of innovative ideas for reviving inner-city commerce, rebuilding public housing and overhauling the welfare system. He was pro-immigration, pro-equal opportunity and, above all, pro-tax cuts, which he viewed as government’s primary tool for promoting growth.

Unlike other Republicans, Kemp also frequently visited black and Hispanic voters and asked them directly for their votes.

Two days after Ryan was introduced as Romney’s running mate, he pushed to do the same. Advisers recall Ryan in workout clothes in a Des Moines Marriott, telling campaign officials in Boston that he had two requests: First, to meet the staff in person. And second, to travel to urban areas and speak about poverty.

No one said no. But with Romney focused relentlessly on Obama’s failure to improve the economy for middle-class Americans, the idea always seemed off-message. “We struggled to find the right timing to dovetail it into our messaging schedule,” Romney strategist Ed Gillespie said via e-mail.

Ryan adviser Dan Senor said Ryan argued that “47 million people on food stamps is an economic failure.” But Ryan did not get clearance to deliver a speech on poverty, his sole policy address, until two weeks before the election.

Great point: “47 million people on food stamps is an economic failure.”

Ryan had sought Woodson’s help with his poverty speech. The two reconnected after the election and began traveling together in February — once a month, no reporters — to inner-city programs supported by Woodson’s Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. In Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Denver, Woodson said, Ryan asked questions about “the agents of transformation and how this differs from the professional approach” of government social workers.

Like Woodson, the programs share a disdain for handouts and a focus on helping people address their own problems. In Southeast Washington, Ryan met Bishop Shirley Holloway, who gave up a comfortable career in the U.S. Postal Service to minister to drug addicts, ex-offenders, the homeless — people for whom government benefits can serve only to hasten their downfall, Holloway said.

At City of Hope, they are given an apartment and taught life skills and encouraged to confront their psychological wounds. They can stay as long as they’re sober and working, often in a job Holloway has somehow created.

“Paul wants people to dream again,” Holloway said of Ryan. “You don’t dream when you’ve got food stamps.”

Trips to Newark and Texas are slated for later this month. Woodson said Ryan has also asked him to gather community leaders for an event next year, and to help him compare the results of their work with the 78 means-tested programs that have cost the federal government $15 trillion since 1964.

The takeaway for Ryan, a Catholic, has been explicitly religious. “You cure poverty eye to eye, soul to soul,” he said last week at the Heritage forum. “Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people.”

How to translate spiritual redemption into public policy?

If you don’t have goosebumps at this point, what’s wrong with you?

“There’s definitely a feeling that conservatives need to get in this arena,” Winship said. Otherwise, “the voices on the left are going to have the entire conversation to themselves.”

A point Newt Gingrich has been making for many years now, and something we fight against here at GPH. To paraphrase Gingrich, you can’t get real solutions offered if you have two Leftists debating on stage, and Republicans standing off to the side yelling “no!” Conservatives and Republicans have to get into the less comfortable debates and have real discussions with people; start connecting with the community. As Jack Kemp used to say, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Also worth noting before closing, the swipe at the “angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement” is both senseless and pointless. It tells me that the Left is worried that Paul Ryan and those few like him may be on to something here. If they aren’t worried, then this was just another swipe at the tea party. You decide.

Mike Lee’s Anti-Poverty, Civil Society Speech

Senator Mike Lee

By Steve Parkhurst

United States Senator Mike Lee of Utah, yesterday delivered a very interesting speech at an anti-poverty forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation. The entire speech text can be found here, and it’s worth reading. Here are a few interesting takeaways for me.

We know that participation in civil society, volunteering, and religion are deteriorating in poor neighborhoods – compounding economic hardship with social isolation. And we know these trends cut across boundaries of race, ethnicity, and geography.

All of this might lead some to the depressing conclusion that – 50 years after Johnson’s speech – America’s war on poverty has failed. But the evidence proves nothing of the sort.  On the contrary, I believe the American people are poised to launch a new, bold, and heroic offensive in the war on poverty… if a renewed conservative movement has the courage to lead it.

Later:

Properly considered, then, the war on poverty is not so much about lifting people up. It’s about bringing people in. And so the challenge to conservatives today is to rethink the war on poverty along these lines, to bring into our economy and society the individuals, families, and communities that have for five decades been unfairly locked out.

Nineteen-sixty-four wasn’t the year Americans started fighting poverty; it was the year we started losing that fight. To start winning again, conservatives are going to have to lead the way – not simply by offering criticism, but alternatives. Our job is to identify the obstructions that impede Americans’ access to our market economy and civil society and clear them. And if we’re looking for impediments to mobility and opportunity, we’ve certainly come to the right place!

Finally:

Today, millions more of our neighbors are still out on the plains. They are not some government’s brothers and sisters – they are ours.

And the time has come to do something about it. As conservatives, as Americans, and as human beings, we have it in our power – individually, together, and where necessary through government… to bring them in:

  • to bring them into our free enterprise economy to earn a good living,
  • to bring them into our voluntary civil society to build a good life,
  • and to welcome them and their children home to an America that leaves no one behind.

Jack Kemp, Poverty and the Road Ahead for the GOP

The Sacramento Bee has a column today about the Republican party and its need to show it “cares about people”. There are any number of analyses since the November election about how the party can reform itself. At this point, I have not seen the exact right “silver bullet” theory that in my mind would turn the GOP ship around. In this column today, I was struck by the reference to Jack Kemp, at which point I think the author made some of his strongest points:

When Jack Kemp was on the national stage he addressed the real issues of poverty in our country, and once again, it is time for this debate. The real issues of poverty are the focus of resources on the people who actually need them, communities so lacking in resources that the ladder of opportunity is not stable, and crimes or unethical business practices that happen only because the people being disadvantaged are not in a position to negotiate or draw political attention.

While many of Kemp’s proposals proved to be too costly, he forced Republicans to critically think about an issue that affects millions of Americans.

Any debated policy that impacts the lives of millions of Americans is most likely good politics. A serious discussion and policy proposals aimed at reducing poverty will give Republicans the opportunity to break the stereotype that they are only for the rich. This is a path based on principle that also allows the Republican Party and its leaders to move into demographic areas it needs to win elections.

Read the rest of the column here.

There are some real opportunities here for this effort to show the Republican party “cares about people”. The Republican party has always had the right position on welfare reform. The idea is to reform the system so that those who are able and willing can return to work. Instead, the system cripples those with initiative or desire. The welfare system needs to be looked at as an investment in a future, an investment in American workers. There should be skill training or jobs training that goes along with a check from the government.

Anyway, show me a democrat thinking along these same lines, and then we’re onto something. Until then, Jack Kemp and his proteges like Congressman Paul Ryan are the only ones with real answers and real solutions.

What are your thoughts? Share them with us here on the blog, or tweet us @GPHconsulting.