Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Are we winning or losing the War on Poverty?

Published: Sunday, Jan. 19 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Webb: Republicans have not been articulate enough to make a strong case that conservative policies can reduce poverty. With Democrats throwing more money at problems, the conservative alternative of hard work, family support, individual responsibility and accountability doesn’t seem very appealing. Liberal policies too often don’t solve structural problems. They put an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, rather than a fence at the top.

Republicans also make a mistake by trying to be too aggressive. We can’t dismantle the welfare state all at once or it will be too wrenching. And voters will throw out of office anyone who pushes dramatic change. So we have to scale back slowly, balancing benefits with what we can afford.

Should the minimum wage be raised and unemployment benefits extended?

Pignanelli: There are no conclusive studies demonstrating that the minimum wage is a destructive force in the economy. Containing exceptions for farmers and teenagers, baseline wages help bridge the gap between working families and the affluent. Most individuals receiving minimum wages are working disgusting and demanding jobs (I know, because I was there).There is no better social program than incentivizing hard work. Furthermore, our economy is going through another important, and needed, dramatic shift. As with all economic movements in capitalistic societies, there are winners and losers. We should honor the victorious, but help the unfortunate victims of the Great Recession and extend unemployment benefits.

Webb: An infinite supply of problems exist in the world on which to spend tax or business dollars. We can’t do everything and we must have balance. I believe the marketplace should establish wage rates. I believe unemployment benefits should not continue indefinitely. If benefits are extended, they should be paid for by cutting elsewhere, not by borrowing more money.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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