Skip to main content

Sen. Tim Scott: I have lived the power of the American Dream

By Sen. Tim Scott
February 23, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
A skills gap in the work force leads to unfilled jobs, says Sen. Tim Scott, despite an abundance of federal programs.
A skills gap in the work force leads to unfilled jobs, says Sen. Tim Scott, despite an abundance of federal programs.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sen. Tim Scott: The War on Poverty has struggled to fulfill its mission
  • Scott is working on a proposal to create opportunity zones across America
  • Scott: Instead of overregulating, government should cut out waste, duplication
  • Scott: It isn't the federal government's responsibility to guarantee outcomes

Editor's note: CNN invited the two African Americans in the U.S. Senate -- Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey -- to write companion pieces in conjunction with Black History Month. Scott is a former U.S. congressman and has been in the Senate since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @SenatorTimScott

(CNN) -- America's economy has the potential to transform lives like no other force on Earth, but too often in recent years we have seen Washington act as an anchor. And while CEOs and presidents may generate the business headlines, an over-involved federal government hurts employees and those looking for jobs across the entire spectrum.

As someone who grew up in poverty, watching his single mother work 16-hour days to provide as much as she possibly could for us, I have lived the power of the American Dream.

With help from my mom and my mentor, I learned that I didn't have to be an entertainer or an athlete to achieve my goals; I could think my way out of poverty. I realized the power of education, and the incredible opportunities provided by free markets.

Sen. Cory Booker: Finishing our nation's unfinished business

My fear is that too many folks these days aren't given the chance to see the greatness that resides within them. Over the past 50 years, we've seen the War on Poverty struggle in its core mission -- to help lift folks up. It's time for a change, so I have introduced my Opportunity Agenda.

Sen. Tim Scott
Sen. Tim Scott

A significant part of my Opportunity Agenda is focused on job-training efforts. There are 4 million open jobs across the country right now -- jobs that are unfilled because of a skills gap in the work force. This in spite of the fact there are 35 federal work-force development programs.

My SKILLS Act, which the House has already passed thanks to the efforts of Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, would cut through the bureaucratic maze and mountains of red tape that hinder these programs. We'll create one Workforce Investment Fund, cutting waste and duplication out while ensuring more dollars are used for their actual purpose -- job training. President Barack Obama signaled that Vice President Joe Biden would be looking at job-training programs this year -- I eagerly await their call to discuss my proposal.

I am also working on a proposal to create opportunity zones across America to tie some of the tax dollars coming out of our low-income communities to the community itself in order to rebuild infrastructure and lift those areas up. In my time on county council in Charleston County, this concept was referred to as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, and I see great potential in this concept at the federal level.

50 years later, War on Poverty rages on
Fight on extending unemployment continues
Obama: Raising wage is good for business

It is not enough to simply rebuild, or as some would call it gentrify, our tougher neighborhoods -- we have to provide the opportunity to the folks living there already to take part in a brighter future. Population shifting isn't fixing the problem, it is simply moving it somewhere else.

So instead of overtaxing and overregulating, I see a future where the government cuts out waste and duplication, and gives all Americans the chance to realize their full potential. As I travel throughout South Carolina, be it speaking with a local chamber of commerce, or a group of pastors, or working at a burrito store for a morning (verdict: my own skills with a broom could stand some polishing), my constituents are very clear: They don't want a handout, just a hand up.

It isn't the federal government's responsibility to guarantee outcomes. It is, however, our responsibility to make sure that a better future is possible if people want it. Opportunity knocks for all of us at some point. My hope is that Washington doesn't get in the way of folks answering.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sen. Tim Scott.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT