What barriers do America’s poor face in moving up and out of poverty, and what proven principles should inform our policies for the poor? In the first installment of AEI’s Vision Talks series, AEI’s Arthur Brooks described conservatives’ mandate to fight for people rather than against policies — especially for struggling Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution. He pointed to work, entrepreneurship, and education reform as three elements of an agenda to help low-income Americans rise out of poverty.
Megan McArdle of Bloomberg View described how many low-income Americans are rich in social capital but lack financial capital. Poor Americans often rely on their social network to carry them through rough patches, but because others call on financial resources when they need support, it is very difficult for anyone in the social network to accumulate enough financial capital to become independent. She emphasized that the Earned Income Tax Credit lump-sum benefit and MyRA retirement account program both help address these issues.
AEI’s Robert Doar concluded the evening by underlining four characteristics that should undergird efforts to reform the current safety net, based on his experience in New York’s Human Resources Administration and on the success of the 1996 welfare reform: requiring work as a condition for receiving public assistance, rewarding work with public supports to make low wages go further, stressing the importance of family in creating a firmer financial and emotional foundation for poor children, and fostering economic growth across the wage scale.
Arthur C. Brooks, AEI
Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View
Robert Doar, AEI
Adjournment and Reception
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Arthur C. Brooks is the president of AEI and the Beth and Ravenel Curry Scholar in Free Enterprise. Until January 1, 2009, he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is the author of 10 books and many articles on topics ranging from the economics of the arts to applied mathematics. His books include “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise,” “Social Entrepreneurship,” and “Who Really Cares.” Before pursuing his work in public policy, Brooks spent 12 years as a professional French hornist with the City Orchestra of Barcelona and other ensembles.
Robert Doar is the Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at AEI, where he studies and evaluates how free enterprise and improved federal policies and programs can reduce poverty and provide opportunities for vulnerable Americans. Before joining AEI, Doar worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration as commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, where he administered 12 public assistance programs, including welfare, food assistance, and public health insurance, and help for people living with HIV/AIDS, for the largest local social-services agency in the United States. Before joining the Bloomberg administration, Doar was New York State commissioner of social services, helping make New York a model for the implementation of welfare reform.
Megan McArdle is a Washington-based journalist who writes about economics, business, and public policy as a full-time blogger for Bloomberg View. McArdle has been a correspondent for The Atlantic, The Economist, and Newsweek and appears regularly on MSNBC, Fox News, and National Public Radio. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and numerous other outlets. McArdle’s new book, “The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success” (Viking, 2014), argues that risk and failure are essential components of both high-achieving individuals and dynamic societies.