Cory Booker Has a Lot of Ideas About How to Reduce Child Poverty

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 13 2013 1:10 PM

Cory Booker Has a Lot of Ideas About How to Reduce Child Poverty  

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker, private equity coddler, bleeding heart

Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Cory Booker used to be cool and is going to be a United States senator soon, but cutting edge progressives know he's a banker-coddling neoliberal sellout and as Alex Pareene argues making the anti-Booker case he's also likely to be much more of a showhorse senator than a workhorse senator.

So I agree with all that. But life is complicated and I think that this is unfair:

It’s fine if you like Booker. He’s personable, charming, really good at Twitter, and he has done lots of stunts designed to make people aware of poverty, or at least to make people aware of Cory Booker’s awareness of poverty. He is a Good Liberal on many issues.
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The implication here is that rather than Booker being a leading spokesperson on the shamefully underdiscussed issue of poverty it's all just a charade. And, you know, maybe it is. But if you're interested, Booker's campaign website does feature a 15-page policy paper on ending child poverty and I think it's pretty smart. He cites Harry Holzer's research on the macroeconomic impact of child poverty, and manages to acknowledge the obvious-but-weirdly-controversial truth that better schools are an important part of the solution to poverty but that direct financial assistance is also needed. The plan calls for smart interventions like Nurse Family Partnerships and the use of Medicaid to promote overall child health and not just narrowly deliver health care services. There's stuff about higher minimum wage and more generous EITC and the need to fight cuts in SNAP and a call to expand Section 8 housing vouchers. Lurking in the affordable housing section there's an intriguing reference to how "New Jersey's more affluent towns" ought to have "greener, denser, more vibrant downtowns." 

It's pretty impressive.

Pareene prefers Rush Holt who I think has been an exemplary legislator, but seems interested in talking about poverty exclusively in the context of the merits of Social Security. On the other hand, Holt clearly has more passion than Booker for the very important issue of climate change. In practice they'd probably have similar voting records. But I think this idea that Booker has just been faking his way through a political career in a high-poverty city pretending to be concerned about poverty is a stretch. He seems like a guy who's done lots of stunts to make people aware of poverty because he (correctly) thinks that poverty has wrongly fallen off the national radar as an issue and he would like people to pay more attention to it. A lot of middle class people, especially in the New York City area, are full of class rage at the Wall Street overclass and Booker is not the voice of that rage. But that issue is not the only economic policy issue in the land—poverty is a real and somewhat separate thing.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.