Tamar Jacoby, Opportunity America
From the preface of the book "This Way Up"
More than 50 years after the War on Poverty, 20 years after welfare reform, 15 years since President George W. Bush created a federal office to coordinate faith-based efforts to fight poverty, the challenge is more pressing than ever: how to ensure economic mobility for all Americans—the very poor, both urban and rural, and a neglected working class struggling to keep up with globalization.
Past efforts have taught us many lessons, but our current approach is not enough. We need new, better solutions that help more Americans move up the economic ladder.
This booklet offers a compendium of new thinking about how to accomplish this essential goal. Contributors include some of the best conservative thinkers and researchers working in the field today. They draw on what has come before—chastened by the limits of the War on Poverty, inspired by Ronald Reagan, schooled by welfare reform and George W. Bush's faith-based initiative, among other efforts. The new center-right thinkers build on all of that, learning from what worked and jettisoning what hasn't. But what's emerging—today's conservative approach to poverty and mobility—is new: There's a new determination, new ideas, a new sense of responsibility for the problem and the solutions.
What follows are some of the best new ideas. Some address policy, state and federal. But most look beyond government to harness the power of communities—solutions driven by choice, competition, faith, public-private partnerships, and empowering individuals to make the most of their opportunities.
Many of these ideas were generated at a conference in Washington, DC, in December 2016. The booklet includes some excerpts from those sessions, including a speech by House Speaker Paul Ryan, and some compilations of excerpted remarks, grouped thematically. But many of the essays are fresh: deeper reflections and honed policy proposals that have grown over the months since from seeds planted at the conference.
The essays fall into three categories. Some are broad, general thinking about the principles and values that lie behind, or should lie behind, a conservative approach to poverty and mobility. Others are policy proposals: focused, specific, ready to enact today. Still others look at policy and practices already being implemented on the ground, by the government, a nonprofit organization, and a leading American company.
Together, we believe, they offer a window on an exciting new center-right movement. Not all adherents agree on all issues. There is robust debate in the pages that follow. But we see this contention as a sign of strength. Where there is no questioning or discussion, there is no life. What follows is a snapshot of a vibrant, evolving movement, fermenting new ideas, developing fresh approaches, and ever searching for new, better ways to address poverty and economic mobility in America.
Additional chapters to be released periodically.