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Helping the poor can help Republicans

As Republicans plot a new way forward that acknowledges changing voter demographics, it's clear they are hoping that an earnest approach to immigration reform w

As Republicans plot a new way forward that acknowledges changing voter demographics, it's clear they are hoping that an earnest approach to immigration reform will help solve at least one of their problems.

But those hopes might be somewhat naïve. The White House’s “back-up plan” on immigration reform was leaked over the weekend. And if one wanted to read into the strategy, it’s plausible that the Obama administration saw a too much progress coming out of the bipartisan Senate gang of 8, and they’re worried that Republicans like Marco Rubio might walk away with a little too much credit if meaningful immigration policy is actually passed. As laudable as Republican efforts have been to walk a delicate pathway to immigration reform, with political dangers on every side, they might want to accept now that they will never truly enjoy the fruits of their labor. Democrats will make sure that they get to bask in all the plaudits and kudos, and that Republicans are made to look like grudging, reluctant “me-tooers” who merely went along to save face.

The real area where Republicans could make up some ground is on poverty.

For all of the attention President Obama has given the middle class, his administration hasn’t been able to make any inroads in lowering poverty. And for all the efforts to malign the evil One-Percenters, income inequality has only widened under Obama.

In 2011, the Census Bureau reported that 46.2 million people were living in poverty, the largest number of people counted as poor in the 53 years that poverty has been measured.

Those tragic numbers come into even starker focus for blacks, Hispanics and women. Although blacks represent 13.1% of the general population, they accounted for 27.6% of the poor population in 2011. Hispanics, who make up 16.7% of the population, represent 25.3% of the poor population, and 34.2% of families with a female householder where no husband is present were poor; 16.9% were living in extreme poverty.

Here are some more shocking numbers. White Americans in 2011 had 22 times more wealth than blacks, a gap that nearly doubled in the time since Obama’s been president. The ratio between white and Hispanic wealth is now 15 to 1.

“Stimulating” the economy, expanding welfare programs and government aid have done nothing to lower poverty levels among blacks and Hispanics. It’s something a few black thought-leaders have tried to tackle, most notably Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West, who say that the Obama administration has ignored the plight of blacks and the poor in favor of corporate welfare and business interests.

This is where conservatives should direct their attention. A compassionate message, combined with empowering and provocative economic policies would be good for the country, good for poor minorities, and good for the conservative brand. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans like Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush relentlessly advocated for solving poverty. If conservatives are smart, they’ll shake off the damage from the Democrats’ “war on women” campaign by talking instead about Obama’s war on the poor.