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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.

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

Asset Building News Week, 2nd Edition

January 12, 2012
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on the 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 food assistance, tax issues, the health-wealth connection, alternatives to banking and the prepaid card industry, and the mortgage crisis. 

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.

Inequality and the Global Crisis -- Evidence and Policies

  • By Raymond Torres, International Labour Organization
January 5, 2012

This presentation was part of the World Economic Roundtable.  A summary of the Roundtable session can be read here.

New Feature: Asset Building News Week

January 6, 2012
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Way back in 2011, we conducted a survey of readers that told us a number of things: importantly, we learned that many of you look to us for timely news from the asset building field and that a regular round-up of articles would be a welcome addition to our other content. In keeping with the spirit of 2012 and resolutions and all that good stuff, the Asset Building Program is introducing a new weekly blog feature: a Friday news round-up. We hope this will help you (and us, for that matter) keep up with developments in the field, note-worthy news, and learn about partner organizations working around the U.S. on asset building, economic security, anti-poverty policy, and accessible financial services for low- and middle-income Americans. Topics will vary week-to-week (and depending on the news!) but we’ll aim to provide a diverse overview of the things we’re keeping an eye on that we think you’ll find interesting too.

Year of the Fist

  • By
  • Romesh Ratnesar,
  • New America Foundation
December 22, 2011 |

By historical measures, there’s really not all that much to be angry about. Since 1981, the proportion of the developing world living in extreme poverty has fallen from 50 percent to less than 20 percent, according to the United Nations. Infant mortality is down across the board; the number of girls in school is up. Terrorists and tyrants get their comeuppance with toe-tapping regularity. The chances of dying in war have never been lower. In 2011, the 7 billionth person was born into a world that’s richer, healthier, and safer than at any time in history.


Obama's 2012 Reelection Strategy: Blame the Republicans

  • By
  • Peter Beinart,
  • New America Foundation
December 12, 2011 |

There are two ways a president can run for reelection. The first is to boast about your success in your first term, and promise to build on it in the next. That's what Dwight Eisenhower did in 1956; it's what Ronald Reagan did in 1984; it's what Bill Clinton did in 1996. For the strategy to work, Americans have to be relatively satisfied with their lot, and relatively optimistic about the future.


Obama's Populist Address Features Inequality, Mobility, and Fairness

December 9, 2011
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It’s a busy time of year. Perhaps you didn’t hear President Obama’s December 6thspeech in Osawatomie, Kansas. It’s worth a closer look—both for its specific language and general themes. The speech was a billed as a thematic statement of Obama’s vision for the economy and if that’s the case, we can expect to hear more in the coming campaign about inequality, mobility, opportunity, and even fairness. Given the state of the economy, we should expect these issues to attract attention, but still the speech sounded like a departure for a president who has often shied away from taking a populist stance. 

I’ll be honest and say that Osawatomie had not previously been on my radar. But the choice of using this heartland town as the site for a major economic address was not accidental. In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt delivered what’s been called his “New Nationalism” speech, a milestone for the progressive era, where he called upon government to regulate capitalism and elevate the public interests above those of money and property. The press reports piqued my interest and I tracked down TR’s address. Reading it, I was surprised by how contemporary it felt.

TR used his address to rail against the rising power of corporations and moneyed interests that “too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics.” The very triumph of America was at stake, which at that time held the hopes of anyone believing in the desirability of democratic and popular government. Property was to be respected and protected but not given undue influence – and certainly not “the right of suffrage.” (We should send this speech to the current Roberts Court.) TR believed that the unleveled playing field was tipping the scales of justice and the promise of America could only be realized with “practical equality of opportunity for all citizens.”

“…when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled.

I stand for the square deal. But when I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the games, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service.”

Pardon the dated gender language and my bolding of the passage, but for me all it would take to make this passage ring true today is a few new pronouns. Now, let’s see how President Obama picks up on these ideas in his speech delivered over a hundred years later. 

Battling the Global Youth Bulge: Mobile Phones are Making New Connections Between Youth and Economic Opportunity

November 30, 2011
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Originally posted on www.youthsave.org

Born and raised in the slums of Cape Town amid poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence, Marlon Parker was like millions of youth living in hardship today.

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