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Asset Building News Week, March 3-7

March 7, 2014
Publication Image 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 children's savings accounts, the budget, and inequality.

The Next Social Contract: An American Agenda for Reform

  • By
  • Michael Lind,
  • New America Foundation
June 10, 2013

The American social contract is in crisis. Even before the Great Recession exposed its inadequacy, it was clear that the existing American social contract — the system of policies and institutions designed to provide adequate incomes and economic security for all Americans — needed to be reformed to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. What is needed is not mere incremental tinkering, but rather rethinking and reconstruction. Policies that have worked should be expanded, while others that have failed should be replaced.

Social Contract Budgeting: Prescriptions from Economics and History

  • By Peter Lindert, University of California - Davis
December 17, 2012

If there is to be any durable hope for a social contract that transcends left-right partisanship, that contract must rest upon a majority consensus about policies that are efficient, fair, and sustainable. Once the smoke has cleared from this November’s battle over the role of government, what will endure are several policy prescriptions kept alive by an objective reading of economic history and a general consensus among economists.

Debt, Deficits, and Demographics

  • By Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
November 19, 2012

For much of the last three decades, policy debates in the United States have been dominated by a quixotic concern about deficits, debt, and demographics. This concern has distracted policy from fundamental economic issues that have much more direct bearing on economic well-being, most notably the growth (and bursting) of the housing bubble in the last decade. While large deficits can have a negative impact on economic growth, this impact has been hugely misrepresented in public debates.

Highway Robbery

  • By
  • Rosa Brooks,
  • New America Foundation
August 22, 2012 |

In August 2003, some colleagues and I were held up by armed bandits on the highway in Fallujah, Iraq. (Don't ask why I was dumb enough to be wandering around Fallujah.) My bandit -- there were quite a few of them, but I like to think of the guy who stuck a gun in my face as my bandit -- was straight out of central casting, complete with a red kerchief around his mouth and nose to disguise his facial features.

Room For Debate: "Is the Deficit Urgent, or a Distraction?"

  • By
  • Maya MacGuineas,
  • New America Foundation
August 30, 2012 |

The federal debt is the nation’s most pressing economic problem because our dangerously high debt levels are a threat on every issue — be it jobs, growth, competitiveness or public under-investment. The deficit is already harming the economy, and could eventually lead to a devastating fiscal crisis.

NYC's Health Bucks: Incentive-Based Policies for the Win!

July 9, 2012
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Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he was expanding the city’s “Health Bucks” program, which gives shoppers using SNAP at farmers markets an additional $2.00 for every $5.00 they spend, to all 138 of the city’s markets. Like matched savings accounts and other initiatives that reward productive choices, Health Bucks is a great example of how incentive-based policies and investments can change behavior—and counter longstanding myths about what is and is not possible for low-income families in the meantime.

Preserving Access to Justice: Legal Services and the Safety Net

June 19, 2012
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The Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which provides funding to legal services organizations throughout the country, is an essential feature of the safety net—though rarely described as such. LSC funding is used to provide civil legal services to households at or below 125% of the federal poverty line. Unlike in criminal cases, where the right to counsel is constitutionally guaranteed for indigent defendants, parties to civil cases have no such right under federal law. In other words, depending on where you live, it’s perfectly legal for you to lose your house, all your possessions, and perhaps even custody of your child without ever talking to a lawyer, no matter how little money you make.

LSC-funded services are crucial in helping keep many families afloat. Yet perhaps unsurprisingly, like other social services programs, LSC has faced major budget cuts, and continues to see its funding attacked. Over the past three decades, LSC’s budget has been effectively cut by just around seventy percent. One member of Congress even proposed an amendment to the FY 2013 House Appropriations Bill that would have ended all funding for LSC, citing the organization as “nonessential” and alleging fraud (it failed, but received 122 votes in the House). Like the proposed cuts to SNAP, cutting LSC’s funding—or even failing to increase it—could have truly dire consequences for low-income communities nationwide.

Why Jerry Brown’s Bid to Fix California’s Budget Isn’t Working

  • By
  • Joe Mathews,
  • New America Foundation
May 16, 2012 |

How desperate is Gov. Jerry Brown?

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?

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