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 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT