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
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 0730 GMT (1530 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT