Toward a Political Future for the Common Good: Investing in Tomorrow

By Abby SkeansAlthough this year’s political climate may seem increasingly polarized, I am encouraged whenever places for mutual collaboration, or “common ground” can be found, especially on issues of opportunity and upward mobility for children and families. If you haven’t yet listened to the discussion at the Kemp Forum for Expanding Opportunity that was lead by Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Tim Scott with five of the Republican candidates on January 9, 2016 in South Carolina, I encourage you to watch the event videos on AEI’s website here. Clapham served as an advisory board member to the formation of this event alongside colleagues at Opportunity Nation, AEI, The Brookings Institution, Opportunity Lives, and the Economic Innovation Group, among others. While presidential debates offer an opportunity for pithy soundbites, this forum required a deeper analysis on issues of poverty and opportunity from the presidential hopefuls and allowed serious ideas for policy reform to compete so that solutions where all Americans are positively impacted were prioritized. For a detailed summary and policy analysis from the forum, check out Brad Wassink’s poverty studies blog at AEI, found here. One solution-focused idea that was championed by some of the candidates was the Earned Income Tax Credit. Recently, the team at Tax Credits for Working Families released a social video that can be view and shared here which demonstrates the positive reward of EITC for individuals who are working. Additionally, on January 20, 2016, Clapham’s longtime client, The Annie E. Casey Foundation released a federal policy brief, “Investing in Tomorrow: Helping Families Build Savings and Assets.”  The report was crafted with the input of conservative and faithful voices from institutions such as AEI, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, The Center for Public Justice, as well as Claphams’ feedback. “Investing in Tomorrow” describes how federal policy changes can help families develop savings habits and build financial stability. These steps include building savings from birth by creating savings accounts, allowing families receiving public benefits to save money, increasing access to homeownership through the Family Self-Sufficiency program and expanding access to retirement savings by making the federal My Retirement Account program more accessible.An important message in the brief is that building a secure base of assets is a big step toward improving the economic futures of low-income families. The brief also points out that straightforward changes to federal policies can help to narrow the racial wealth gap that today is growing and putting children of color at a disadvantage.I hope you’ll review this important brief and that it might be encouraging in your work as we seek to identify places of common concern in the policy landscape that provide a pathway for the upward mobility of  children and families. An election year may be a time whenever we’re especially prone to noticing acute policy differences. However, regardless of which candidate each party nominates or who wins the election, American will still desire the same thing: a country where the dream of mobility is achievable for every citizen, regardless of background, and citizens who care for one another, especially the most vulnerable, and seek to remove unnecessary barriers that would inhibit their opportunity to realize their God-given potential.   photo via aecf.org