Bipartisan Bill Unveiled to Fight Poverty

For U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the decision was simple: either he got bipartisan support for his bill or his bill would be pointless.

That’s what makes Tiberi — and all lawmakers sponsoring the Investing in Opportunity Act — so unique. Their insistence upon consensus in an age of polarization almost sounds old-fashioned, considering our modern political climate.

But the bill has a very big goal: revitalizing the pockets of America that have seen little to no economic resurgence since the Great Recession. To accomplish that, Tiberi said he and his colleagues needed all the consensus they could get.

That’s why liberal U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) hopped onboard with the effort: because even though incentivizing private enterprises to boost economic investment in economically distressed communities doesn’t completely jibe with the Democratic Party’s preference for government intervention, it is nevertheless an idea worth trying.

This is not the first time that members of both parties have come together recently for the sake of fighting poverty.

This is not the first time that members of both parties have come together recently for the sake of fighting poverty.

Just last week, in a panel moderated by Opportunity Lives’ own Carrie Sheffield, Booker sat alongside Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) in a rare display of bipartisan unity. Both senators, despite their party differences, agreed that Washington must work diligently toward sparking innovation and opportunity for the millions of overlooked youth in America today.

“Restoring the American Dream isn’t going to be easy,” Booker said. “By focusing on closing skills gaps and providing apprenticeship opportunities, we can equip younger workers with the on-the-job skills they need to find a good-paying job in today’s knowledge-based economy.”

And when most of the loudest voices on the Left are screaming for total gridlock in Washington, such efforts are laudable.

“One of the things I historically knew, but certainly learned from my time in watching the Democrats in how they passed the Affordable Care Act, is that if you don’t historically have bipartisan buy-in, it’s much more difficult to sustain and have longterm support for a program,” Tiberi said in a recent episode of OppCast.

“if you don’t historically have bipartisan buy-in, it’s much more difficult to sustain and have longterm support for a program”

Tiberi’s bill would level the playing field for investment opportunities. Right now, investors have little reason or incentive to put their money in economically distressed communities. Absent incentives, the communities continue on a downward trend, and the wealth gap yawns ever wider.

The Investing in Opportunity Act would provide three solutions to the incentive problem.

First, the law would establish “Opportunity Zones” where investors would be incentivized to deploy capital in new and small businesses in economically distressed areas all across our country.

Second, it would be easier for investors to roll existing capital into “Opportunity Funds” that could be invested in early-stage businesses.

And third, the law would encourage long-term investor commitments by eliminating capital gains for certain types of investments.

With so much money not being invested, so many opportunities not being seized, it becomes clear why this bill, unlike so many others, has support across both sides of the aisle: it makes logical sense.

Still, with an increasing number of extreme voices in both parties shunning compromise, such an even-keeled bill may not survive the tumult.

“But we have to try,” Tiberi said, “and we’ll keep on trying no matter what.”

Check out this week’s OppCast for the full conversation with Rep. Tiberi.

Evan Smith is a Staff Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @Evansmithreport.