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Asset Building News Week, May 14-18

May 18, 2012
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include housing, women in poverty, access to public assistance, banking, student loan debt and inequality.

White House Summit on Financial Capability and Empowerment

May 16, 2012
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Last Thursday, The White House hosted the first ever Summit on Financial Capability and Empowerment.  Did you hear all about it?  Probably not – it somehow slipped the evening news. 

What’s really driving the proposed SNAP cuts?

May 9, 2012
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Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing about the Farm Bill that focused on some of the proposed reforms to SNAP. Notably, none of the panelists or representatives in attendance really had anything negative to say about the program. It was widely agreed that SNAP has lifted millions of Americans out of poverty, has provided a much-needed boost to the economy, and is one of the most efficient social welfare programs. Nearly 95% of federal SNAP funding goes directly to the benefits that allow families to purchase food; 93% of the benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line; and fraud and abuse are minimal. So this all begs the question: what’s really driving the proposed SNAP cuts?

New America NYC Event: Minimum Rage

May 8, 2012

Millennials are the first downwardly mobile generation in decades, staring down a host of economic challenges--student debt, the rise of low-wage jobs, and the ballooning cost of tuition, food, and rent. Media regularly serve up sobering statistics about twentysomethings, while Occupy Wall Street struggles to stay on message. How will the Great Recession affect Millennials longterm? And do they have what it takes to fight back?


Cutting SNAP is the Wrong Way to Fund Defense

April 18, 2012
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Monday, the House Republicans announced new domestic budget cuts to SNAP/Food Stamps, which would include lowering benefit levels and reinstating the federal asset test of $2000 for most families. The Budget Control Act pledged to cut budget deficits by $2.1 trillion between 2012 and 2021, with almost $500 million designated to come from defense. Automatic spending cuts would begin to take place in January—apparently prompting House Republicans to seek sufficient savings from other programs to fund future defense spending without resorting to new taxes. You’re reading that correctly, in order to prevent cuts in defense spending the House GOP has chosen to scale back food support for struggling families. Note the chart here that designates the amount of spending on the Defense budget and the amount of spending on the safety net (of which SNAP is a fraction.)In addition, these new rules will not only hurt millions of families struggling in the wake of the recession, but also impose additional administrative costs on states that are already dealing with their own budgetary shortfalls.

What will the New Supplemental Poverty Measure Tell Us?

April 16, 2012

In response to longstanding criticism of the official poverty measure, the Census Bureau has developed a new supplemental measure that will likely do a better job of capturing people’s economic well-being. It will do so by making a more accurate accounting of in-kind benefits received from the government, necessary expenses (like child and health care), and regional cost differences. The new measure does not include a savings component to might reflect an additional dimension of vulnerability but it should be a major step forward.

My friend Juliane Baron is organizing a webinar this week focusing on what the supplemental measure tells us about children living in poverty. This will be particularly of interest since it should provide a fuller picture of the Great Recession and how our public policies have both mitigated and compounded its impact.

The lineup and webinar details are below:

Budget Exacerbates Gaps in Retirement Security

April 13, 2012
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The Asset Report 2012’s new data on retirement reveals just how difficult it is becoming for Americans to save enough money to support themselves once they have stopped working, particularly in the wake of the recession. To start, fewer employers are offering retirement plans and fewer workers are participating in them; in fact, the level of participation in employer-sponsored plans is at its lowest level in thirty years. Additionally, the majority of workers who benefit from retirement plans are in higher-income jobs. Likewise, because virtually all of the funds the federal government allocates for retirement are in the form of regressive tax subsidies, workers in higher income brackets disproportionately benefit.  This policy in turn has a disparate impact on women and people of color, who are more likely to hold low-wage jobs without benefits.

The Pain in Spain

April 10, 2012

The eurozone crisis has re-emerged with rising borrowing costs in Italy and Spain and increasing concerns about the prospects for growth.

America’s Pent-Up Demand

  • By
  • Patrick C. Doherty,
  • New America Foundation
March 26, 2012

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is looking hard for demand. Without a “more-rapid expansion of production and demand from producers and consumers,” the Fed chairman does not see the recent employment gains as “sustainable.” That’s an understatement.

The Sidebar: The U.S. in Afghanistan and Rising Gas Prices

March 16, 2012
Counterterrorism Research Fellow Brian Fishman and Schwartz Fellow Steve Levine explore the real challenges facing the U.S. in Afghanistan and rising gas prices at home. Pamela Chan hosts.
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