New Ideas for Addressing Poverty and Inequality


While the political headlines this week are dominated by a public feud between the Secretary of the Interior and the likely incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, there are some people in Washington, D.C. who are still working on serious public policy issues.

Recently the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, and Opportunity America collaborated to produce a new study on employment in the United States titled “Work, Skills, Community: Restoring Opportunity for the Working Class.” In the video above, AEI’s Robert Doar interviews Opportunity America’s Tamar Jacoby about the project’s conclusions and policy recommendations.

The 136-page report’s 8-page executive summary highlights several of the policies this group endorsed, from occupational licensing reform and streamlining environmental permitting to tax credits for skills training and (rejecting) a universal basic income. The report is a much-needed addition to the serious literature on employment, inequality, and the social safety net. One might not know it by watching cable news and reading Twitter, but full communism and economic nationalism are not the only ideological positions available. Our nation’s policymakers have many well-researched options that could improve job prospects and lifetime prosperity while maintaining a robust, competitive economy.  

For more interesting ideas in the same area, see Samuel Hammond’s “The Free-Market Welfare State: Preserving Dynamism in a Volatile World” from earlier this year. Also, don’t forget the twin 2016 studies by my colleagues Iain Murray and Ryan Young, “People, Not Ratios: Why the Debate over Income Inequality Asks the Wrong Questions” and “The Rising Tide: Answering the Right Questions in the Inequality Debate.” We won’t always agree on the same set of recommendations, but a non-hysterical conversation is a good place to start.