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Event Summary

The question of how to create a stable and effective safety net for America’s most vulnerable is the source of much debate, and a topic that conservatives are sometimes hesitant to address. On Thursday afternoon, AEI’s Tim Carney opened a discussion about the safety net by asking panelists if and how conservative ideas can contribute to a better system for the poor.

AEI’s Brad Wilcox explained how education, work, and family are the core institutions through which the American dream can be made more accessible for struggling Americans. Wilcox highlighted the importance of marriage and family structure for children growing up in low-income communities.

Speaking from his experience implementing welfare reform in New York City, AEI’s Robert Doar emphasized the necessity of establishing a reciprocal relationship between the recipients and providers of government support. In exchange for temporary public assistance, low-income Americans who are able to work should be actively seeking or maintaining employment.

Scott Winship of the Manhattan Institute made a key distinction between poverty rates and economic mobility, noting that the war on poverty reduced the former but did little to increase the latter. Winship argued that to improve economic mobility, government programs should be free from incentives that discourage work and should fit into broader policies that encourage a vibrant economy.
–Janine Nichols

Event Description

Many Americans confuse support for expansive social welfare programs with concern for the poor. One reason may be that big-government proponents spend much time talking about the poor and working to help them. But despite these individuals’ best efforts, the US safety net is riddled with holes in many places and acts as a snare in others. On the other hand, conservatives often spend more time discussing the broad scope and heavy price tag of intrusive government than offering real policy solutions to help struggling Americans.

What can conservatives learn from how liberals talk and think about the safety net? Where do free-market economics, federalism, and social responsibility intersect to lift people out of poverty? How can these principles save the safety net for those who need it most?

Please join us for a luncheon event in which our panel will discuss these and other questions.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


11:45 AM
Registration and Lunch

12:00 PM
Robert Doar, AEI
W. Bradford Wilcox, AEI
Scott Winship, Manhattan Institute

Timothy P. Carney, AEI

1:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Janine Nichols at [email protected], 202.862.7171.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Timothy P. Carney is a visiting fellow at AEI, where he helps direct the Culture of Competition Project, examining barriers to competition in all areas of American life, from the economy to the world of ideas. Carney has more than a decade of experience as a journalist covering the intersection of politics and economics. His work at AEI focuses on how to reinvigorate a competitive culture in America in which all can reap the benefits of a fair economy. Carney is the author of two books: “The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money” (John Wiley & Sons, 2006) and “Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses” (Regnery Publishing, 2009).

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.

W. Bradford Wilcox is a visiting scholar at AEI. He also directs the National Marriage Project and serves as associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. Before coming to the University of Virginia, he held research fellowships at Princeton University (where he continues to serve as a member of the James Madison Society), Yale University, and the Brookings Institution. His research focuses on marriage, parenthood, and cohabitation and on the ways that gender, religion, and children influence the quality and stability of American marriages and family life. He has published widely about marriage, cohabitation, parenting, and fatherhood in the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. His research has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and many other media outlets.

Scott Winship is the Walter B. Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Previously a fellow at the Brookings Institution, his areas of expertise include living standards and economic mobility, inequality, and insecurity. Winship is a contributor to, and his research has been published in National Affairs, National Review, POLITICO, Wilson Quarterly, Breakthrough Journal, and Real Clear Markets, among other outlets. Recently, Winship contributed a chapter to the reform-conservative volume “Room to Grow” (YG Network, 2014). He has testified before Congress on the topics of inequality, poverty, and opportunity. Earlier in his career, Winship was research manager of the Economic Mobility Project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and a senior policy adviser at Third Way.

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