Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) gave what was promoted as a major speech on the economy in Detroit Tuesday afternoon. It turned out instead to be a sermon on social justice in which he proclaimed that a new war on poverty will be “the defining mission” of a Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine administration.
Kaine’s speech comes more than half a century after Democratic President Lyndon Johnson announced the original “War on Poverty” in 1964, a set of largely failed government policies designed to end poverty in our time.
Kaine delivered his speech at a private event attended by several hundred supporters that was held at the headquarters of a local non-profit, Focus:Hope.
“This is my ninth race,” Kaine began. “This has been by far the most surreal race I’ve ever seen.”
“The things that get attention aren’t the important things. I want to talk about something that is really important. That is what we can do to battle poverty in the United States,” he said.
Kained noted that Father Cunningham and Eleanor Josaitis “founded Focus:Hope to address poverty and injustice in struggling neighborhoods. Here they are fifty years later and Focus:Hope is doing so much good for so many people.”
This year’s presidential election is “more than just a difference between candidates,” Kaine said.
“It’s an election that’s a test of our values. It’s America looking in the mirror and saying what do we see there,” he added.
“Hillary and I have a plan for creating jobs and opportunities across the board,” the Democratic Senator from Virginia said.
“In order to fight poverty, you first have to see it,” he said, adding “Jesus talked about the poor probably more than any other topic.”
“Poverty is hiding in plain sight, and wherever it is and however it looks, we’ve got to challenge ourselves to tackle it,” he added.
“We’re in a global competition,” Kaine noted.
“Fighting poverty is really a growth strategy, a competitive strategy, but it’s also a moral issue,” he said.
It will be, he added, “the defining mission of a Clinton-Kaine administration.”
It was an unusual campaign tactic for “the defining mission” of a presidential campaign to be announced by the vice-presidential candidate while the presidential candidate is entirely off the campaign trail, preparing for the next debate.
Kaine then outlined what he called the pillars of the Clinton-Kaine anti-poverty program:
1. Invest in underserved communities and create jobs.
2. Help create safe housing in safe communities.
3. Give at risk kids skills and opportunities they need to succeed
“This jobs bill at the front is about infrastructure,” he said of the first pillar. Eight years ago, candidate Obama promoted an $800 billion “shovel ready” infrastructure jobs bill whose purely partisan passage by Congress in the first month of his administration in 2009 helped spark the popular outrage that helped launch the Tea Party Movement.
In the end, very few of those infrastructure projects turned out to be “shovel ready,” and the country’s infrastructure remains in poor condition in many areas.
Kaine then took a shot at Donald Trump, using the parable of the Good Samaritan from the New Testament.
“In my own faith tradition there is the tale of the Good Samaritan,” the story of a man traveling outside his home who is beaten, robbed, and left on the side of the road.
“A whole lot of people walked by him, and did nothing. I bet even one of them walked on by and said ‘You’re a loser!’ That’s a parable that speaks to today,” Kaine added.
“Here in this country there are still people on the side of the road, and they’re asking for help,” he said.
“Some made a mistake and are looking for a second chance,” he added.
“The question for us in this election is, do we just walk on by or do we offer help … to make somebody’s life better,” Kaine said.
“Hillary Clinton and I don’t just walk on by,” he said, noting they would help, “especially providing ladders of success for the poor.”
As the Detroit News reported, Kaine’s speech touched on themes first addressed by running mate Clinton “in a recent New York Times op-ed, where she began by declaring “the true measure of any society is how we take care of our children.”
Kaine also said that he and Hillary focused on “examining root causes,” of poverty in the United States.
Those causes, he said included the country’s “legacy of racial discrimination.”
Kaine said the Hillary Clinton plan would “target our public investments in hard hit neighborhoods” and “will provide funding for cities like Detroit.”
Our plan, he added will “put people to work building infrastructure for tomorrow,” which included “clean energy.”
“Let’s do something good in the first 100 days [of a Hillary Clinton administration],” he exhorted the crowd.
“In the area of jobs and wages it is important to kind of know where jobs come from. . . Small businesses in this country create two-thirds or more of new jobs,” he noted.
“We want to make it easier for small business to get started in our communities … especially minority and women-oriented businesses,” he explained.
Instead of focusing on the reduction of governmental regulations, which most small businesses consider the biggest impediment to their growth, Kaine lauded a program recently launched in Detroit.
“Your mayor has launched programs like Motor City Match, which accelerate the ability of small businesses [to get started].” Under that program, “people compete to get dollars to succeed,” he said.
In effect, Kaine is promoting the idea that a bankrupt local city government should get into the business of seed capital financing for small businesses.
“We’re putting an extra focus on youth jobs … On the wage side, we’ve got to make sure anyone who works full time doesn’t live in poverty. We ought to have a minimum wage that values work,” Kaine said.
“Hillary and I are proud that the party has put in its platform a $15-an-hour minimum wage,” he added.
“Here’s another idea … doubling the child care tax credit, letting benefits for low income families kick in immediately.”
Kaine claimed that one policy alone “could help many raise out of poverty.”
“Protecting social security,” he said, “is very connected to the poverty agenda.”
Kaine then talked about the second pillar of the Clinton-Kaine anti-poverty program. “Second, if we’re going to tackle poverty, we’re going to have to get into neighborhoods and poverty,” he said.
“Where you live, the zipcode you live in determines the jobs you can get … it can determine whether the very air you breathe is clean. . .It’s like a big lottery,” he added, and the lucky lottery winners just happen to be born in the right neighborhoods.
“This is what we have to do with respect to housing in neighborhoods. . . Provide more incentives to provide low income rental subsidies. . . We’ve got to expand tax credits to expand the choices…for working families,” he said.
Kaine also said we have to “stop predatory lending practices,” which include the worst abuses of payday lenders,” who are regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
He vowed to defend the CFPB, which was a key element of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Recently, a federal appeals court struck down the provision of the Dodd-Frank Act that made the director of the CFPB a lifetime appointee who could not be removed by a new president.
“Donald Trump says they want to eliminate Dodd-Frank. We’re not going to let them,” Kaine added.
Kaine also briefly touched on health care.
“We’re going to make sure our low income families maintain access to the quality affordable health care they have under the affordable health care act,” he said.
The Democratic vice-presidential nominee was particularly enamored in his discussion of “gun violence.”
“You can’t talk about the neighborhood issues without talking about gun violence,” he said.
“This epidemic scars every community in the United States. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for young black Americans,” he added.
Kaine vowed he would “fight for common sense reforms that the American public and even gun owners overwhelmingly want.”
He then noted that “the final pillar of the anti-poverty plan, this may be the most important one, is the education one.”
“Our administration would want to do a number of things. . . We’re going to start with early childhood education. If you can provide early childhood education, you will effect them positively throughout their entire life,” he added.
Kaine noted that his wife, Ann Holton, who was in attendance at the speech, had recently resigned as Secretary of Education in the State of Virginia and was very familiar with education issues.
“We want to make universal pre-K available for every four-year-old in the country,” he said.
He also vowed the federal government would “pay for the repair of poor public schools” because “kids should be entitled to go to good schools no matter what zipcodes they live in.”
He then outlined a significant expansion of public schools into social services.
“We can work with our school systems to reform overly punitive school penalties and help them invest in social workers,” he said.
“You’ve got to provide community services in school buildings that teachers aren’t really the ones to provide. You’ve got to have social services available. There should be the social services right there in school buildings,” he added.
As for college education, Kaine said he wants to make it more affordable for everyone, but especially for low income families.
“Hillary and I want to make it so that every low income family can send their child to college tuition free at community colleges and public universities,” he said.
College, he added, should be “debt free for everybody.”
Kaine also touched on technical education, and praised organized labor.
“We’ve got to focus on career and technical education. Nobody does this better than organized labor,” he said.
Kaine added that “we’ve got to stand up for the right to collective bargaining.”