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Pay No Attention to the Facts Behind the Curtain...

March 14, 2012
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) has become a major target this election cycle, largely because of persistent accusations of waste and fraud in its administration. However, it is well documented that SNAP fraud is minimal; furthermore, there is a logical disconnect between the problems defined and the expensive solutions proposed in the name of “efficiency."

The Economic Research Service of the USDA just released a new publication on its website documenting the reasons that participation in SNAP has risen so significantly over the past few years. Unsurprisingly, high rates of unemployment since the recession began are largely to blame; ERS research has shown that since 1980, a 1-percentage-point increase in the national unemployment rate is associated with about 1 to 3 million additional SNAP participants. Another factor is that some of the most burdensome policies put in place by welfare reform—which caused the SNAP caseload to decline 47% between 1996 and 2000—have been lifted or eased over the past decade. Additionally, though participation is up, the average SNAP benefit remains low, even with the Recovery Act boost. In 2010, the average 2.2-person SNAP household had a monthly gross income of $731, net income of $336, and a SNAP benefit of $287.

Bi-Sectoralism: It's the Economy Stupid II

February 27, 2012

This piece is coauthored by Bruce Jentleson, Professor at Duke University, and Jay Pelosky, Principal of J2Z Advisory. It originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Future Inequality will be Driven by the Wealth Gap

February 22, 2012
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Last week, Mother Jones ran an article I wrote on the growing wealth gap. It opens with a closer look at the Romney’s tax return, which shows not that they “make” a lot of money but that they “have” a lot of wealth.  Those at the very top have done quite well. Recent estimates indicate that the while the top 1 percent earn 21 percent of the nation's income, they possess 36 percent of total wealth.

I argue that, in the future, the wealth gap will be larger and more consequential than the income gap.

What's the primary cause of our current and growing wealth gap? Home values, the largest item on most families' balance sheet, remain depressed, while stock prices, the largest item on the balance sheet for those at the top, have rebounded. In short, Wall Street has recovered, Main Street has not. Consequently, in the last three years, the concentration of wealth has occurred at the expense of those in the middle…Without drastic changes in the market or in policy, the divergence between housing values and securities prices will be the main driver of wealth inequality for the foreseeable future.

On top of this, the growing racial wealth gap is one of the most dramatic and disputing trends that has taken hold since the recession.

Mitt Romney Needs a Tutorial on How Well the Safety Net Works for Poor People

February 1, 2012

Conditional clauses are very important. Mitt Romney's statement yesterday that he's "not worried about the very poor" is based on the supposition that "there's a safety net there," an "ample" safety net at that. This is similar to my saying that I'm not worried about whether my husband will starve to death when I leave town because he knows how to order a pizza.

The Politics of Economic Opportunity: Will Growing Poverty Affect Election 2012?

January 30, 2012
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Engagement with elected leaders by their constituents is a powerful accountability mechanism, and elections are a decisive expression of that function. In a year where poverty and inequality are at historic levels and the prospects for low-income families to improve their circumstances increasingly uncertain, how will these conditions influence both the rhetoric and policy proposals of those seeking elected office and the choices of voters?

Economic Security Through Employment Assurance

  • By Steven Attewell, PhD Student, Policy History, UCSB
January 27, 2012

There are many reasons why America’s system of economic security is not working. Chief among them is a common factor in almost all of our social policies: they are designed with the assumption that people are constantly employed. For example, most social insurance programs, from Social Security to Unemployment Insurance to Medicare, require people to build up years of contributions before they can access benefits.1

The Escape Artists

February 28, 2012

A star White House journalist provides a gripping look inside the meeting rooms, the in-boxes, and the super-sharp minds of the pedigreed propeller heads who attempted to guide President Obama out of a global economic crisis. Deeply sourced within Obama’s economic team, Noam Scheiber is uniquely qualified to profile the squad of elite administration insiders who have set and managed the president’s economic policies from before the start of his term in office, through the crisis, and into our current prolonged recovery.

Bi-Sectoralism V: Beyond Short-Termism

January 24, 2012

This is the fifth column in a series by Bruce Jentleson, Professor at Duke University, and Jay Pelosky, Principal of J2Z Advisory. It originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Unequal and Unstable

  • By Anant A. Thaker, Boston Consulting Group. Elizabeth C. Williamson, Frontenac Company.
January 11, 2012

Over the past century, the United States has experienced two large-scale financial crises: the Great Depression of 1929 and the recent Great Recession, which began in 2007. These periods also represented peaks in the share of U.S. income collected by the top 1 percent of earners. In 1929, the top 1 percent accrued over 22 percent of total national income, including capital gains – a share several percentage points above its historical average, and one that would not be seen again until 2006. Notably, the number of bank failures in the U.S.

Recession or Depression — Are We Really Better Off Than in the 1930s?

  • By
  • Kat Aaron,
  • New America Foundation
January 6, 2012 |

Some call this moment the Great Recession. As the hardship has lingered, others have begun calling it the Little Depression. But equating the hard times of the 1930s with the hard times of today is mostly overblown rhetoric. Or is it?

On the surface, the comparisons are obvious: a period of great wealth and exuberance, followed by a stock market crash. After the crash, widespread economic pain. Millions of people out of work, thousands of homes lost. Families going hungry.

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