Live from the Kemp Forum: Bush, Carson, and Christie

Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Chris Christie at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity / Photo: Daniel Huizinga

For the first candidate panel of the day, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) chatted with leading neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about their personal stories, records on poverty and proposals to empower Americans. The hour-long exchange covered policy specifics ranging from tax reform to educational choice to social programs.

Carson offered personal anecdotes about his childhood struggles with poverty, citing a love for reading as a key mechanism for escaping it. To help young people facing similar circumstances, Carson and his wife have established reading rooms in disadvantaged communities across the United States that incentivize children to learn to read. He also discussed how strong social systems can empower those in tough situations.

Carson said he prefers overall tax reform rather than keeping the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). He also reiterated the need for greater enrollment at vocational schools to increase students’ technical skills.

Bush reminded Kemp Forum attendees of the tremendous successes he achieved as governor and as a private citizen working to alleviate poverty. Bush encouraged strong families, as well as block granting aid, like food stamps, to the states for them to manage instead of the federal government.

He insists on work for welfare, reforming the tax code and promoting higher education and training programs. He outlined the need to improve public safety in impoverished areas so that entrepreneurs feel safe enough to start their own businesses. Bush reminded attendees that he sent nearly 150,000 four-year-old children to private pre-school on a voucher program in efforts to enroll them in quality early childhood education.

Christie detailed the adversity his parents faced in their lives and the abject poverty in which they were raised. He emphasized tailored, localized solutions to educational challenges to best serve impoverished students. Christie explained how he doubled the EITC in New Jersey and how that lifts New Jerseyans out of poverty.

The Garden State governor also believes it’s important to expand access to affordable financing for entrepreneurs so they can obtain the capital to achieve their dreams. To create greater educational opportunities, Christie urges loosening the teachers unions’ grip on school systems to empower students and their families.

Next up, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will visit with Sen. Scott and Speaker Ryan about his record and his ideas on tackling the poverty challenges facing our country. Stay tuned!

Ellen Carmichael is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter at @ellencarmichael.