NYC Wins Award for Innovative Government

February 13, 2012
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New York City's pioneering anti-poverty work has won an award for "Innovations in American Government" from Harvard University. The award recognizes the City's Center for Economic Opportunity and the innovative work done there to experiment with a variety of anti-poverty programs.

It's the Wealth Gap, Stupid

  • By
  • Reid Cramer,
  • New America Foundation
February 13, 2012 |

When Mitt Romney bowed to political pressure and released his 2010 tax return, it showed, to no one's great surprise, that the Romneys are rich. Really, really rich. They reported income of more than $21 million, itemized deductions of over $4.5 million, and a total tax bill of just over $3 million. They made charitable contributions of almost $3 million, although more than half of that went to their church.

Asset Building News Week, Feb 6-10

February 10, 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 jobs, income inequality, housing, the unbanked, retirement security, personal finance, and economic mobility. Stay tuned for next week, which will likely be dominated by the release of the President's FY 2013 budget proposal on Monday, which tends to send Washington, DC into a budget-centric tizzy.

Why Thrift Matters!

February 8, 2012
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The rise of America’s debt culture has fueled impressive levels of consumption but proven to be unsustainable. Combined with poor oversight of risky credit products, including mortgages and credit cards, it played a role in the advent of the Great Recession. A group of scholars have been convened by the Institute for American Values to consider the question of what comes next. What’s the upside to welcoming the return of a culture of thrift?

In their new report, they remind us that “thrift is the ethic of wise use. The root of thrift is thrive.” There are some values at play here, such as industry, frugality, and stewardship, which may generate collective benefits if adopted widely. As the authors of the report write:

Indeed, for much of our history, thrift has provided a way forward for aspiring Americans of every rank and description. It has pointed the way to saving and security… It has urged us all to conserve, repurpose, save, act as good stewards of small amounts and sums, and protect our natural environment… For generations, thrift was a core value in creating a wiser citizenry and a more broadly shared prosperity.

In making the case for thrift, the report lays out 20 propositions that paint the picture of what a new thrift culture can do for our families, our neighborhoods, our economy, and our planet. Here they are below in brief, but check out the book for a fuller discussion and be sure to glance at the long and diverse list of signatories (of which I am but one).

Newt Should Reconsider Plans to Privatize Social Security Along the Chilean Model

February 3, 2012
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Newt Gingrich doesn't shy away from taking dramatic policy positions. But he doesn't always stick with them. For instance, he no longer supports limiting carbon emissions through a system of cap and trade permits. Nor is his proposal to execute anyone convicted of bringing two ounces of pot into the U.S. being featured in his presidential run (The Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996). His support of other big ideas, such as privatizing Social Security, is more enduring and particularly deserving of scrutiny.

When the topic of Social Security comes up, Gingrich has proposed the U.S. follow the Chilean model of pension reform. By allowing workers to divert payroll taxes into personal savings accounts, he argues that workers would receive much higher benefits than what they would get under the current system and if there's a market downturn, the government can step in. At a recent debate, Newt said that "Chile has promised that if you don't have as much savings as you would get from Social Security, the government would make up the difference. In 30 years time, they've paid zero dollars." Is it really that easy? At first glance, this type of transition in the U.S. would change our underfunded Social Security system into an unfunded one, creating a huge liability for future generations. But we decided to take a closer look at the Chilean experience to see how the process of reform has unfolded down there.

Asset Building News Week, Groundhog Day Edition

February 3, 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 CFED's release of its Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, financial education, jobs, asset limits, lower-income consumers, the mortgage mess, and rhetoric about poverty, inequality, and mobility.

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.

CFED Scorecard Release Highlights Widespread Asset Poverty

January 31, 2012
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CFED released their 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard today and held a webinar to introduce new data on asset poverty, financial security, and sound policy approaches. This is the 10-year anniversary of the Scorecard, which grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia in five key areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education.

New Podcast: Is there a Business Case for Youth Savings Accounts? - Perspectives from YouthSave Financial Partners

January 30, 2012

Originally posted on

In this podcast, Payal Pathak, policy analyst for the Global Assets Project at the New America Foundation, highlights key takeaways from YouthSave’s Financial Institution Learning Exchange in Nairobi, Kenya. During the event, members of the YouthSave Project including Consortium representatives, financial institutions and researchers gathered to discuss and debate several questions emerging from the youth savings field; for example, can youth savings accounts be commercially sustainable? This is the first podcast in a series featuring interviews of the Project's financial partners who discuss how their respective banks define the business case for the YouthSave Product. 

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?

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