Trump Foreign Policy Turns Out to Be, Wait for It … Presidential

Who’d a thunk it? All the bloviating and hyperventilating and name-calling aside, turns out President Trump’s foreign policy actions in the first 100 days of his presidency (an entirely artificial edifice on which to judge a presidency) are pretty … normal.

He has been confronted with the realities of the office as they relate to conflicts and challenges abroad and has taken actions that pretty much are to be expected of the “leader of the free world.”

That’s the early conclusion of foreign policy strategist Danielle Pletka, who acknowledges that it’s a little premature to call the jury in on this very young presidency.

But 100 days into his term, President Trump has been far more conventional than many dared hope. Many of his promises, from labeling China a currency manipulator to staying out of Syria to making nice with Russia, appear to be on hold — which should surprise no one.

Trump came in to office after making some strong pledges of how he would deal with America’s foes, but confronted with the realities of global order, he turned toward a more incremental path, much like his predecessors, from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama. All of them promised one thing, but had to deal with real-time sets of circumstances once they got into office, making their campaign pledges tough to keep.

And this is how it always is. Leaders say one thing, but then must live up to American ideals. And America’s willingness to shoulder the burden in a time of need or instability is what makes this nation the great global leader it is.

While some argue for protectionist policies, this nation is too large and influential to turn tail and go home. Conversely, those who say that America needs to be more interventionist know that it is America’s exceptionalism that prevents it from denying other nations the freedom to set their own course, as long as they do not threaten others’ security.

But it is when moral leadership is most needed — during a breakdown in governance or the rise of a national or international security threat — that America demonstrates its greatest ideals and the universal truth — that liberty and the ability to pursue one’s happiness are not solely the domain of or privilege belonging to citizens of the United States.

The fact that Trump sits in an office to whom this responsibility is more greatly felt than any other is obviously not lost on Trump. As Pletka says, no one should be surprised Trump hasn’t acted more forcefully to turn over the status quo, even if candidate Trump spoke of global issues in cut and dried terms.

The world has a way of upending even the best-laid campaign platforms. And so, despite telling Obama to ‘stay the hell out of Syria,’ Trump blasted an air base used for a chemical weapons attack on Day 76 of his presidency. He has overturned Obama’s non-policy of ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea, recognizing that Pyongyang has used the past eight years to advance its nuclear and missile programs to the point of threatening the continental United States.

And while Trump’s actions toward Russia, Syria, NATO, Iran are in line with what other nations have come to expect from U.S. leadership — regardless of who’s president — future actions on dealing with foreign “despots” are murky.

For now, however, the world can only judge him by what they’ve seen him do thus far during his young tenure in office.

And thus far, there’s no resounding cause for alarm, if ever there had been.

What we have seen from Trump in his early days as president is a man who is owning his burdens, one who wants to rebuild the deterrent power of the United States, one who is shocked by the horrors of war, and one who is game to push back on enemies. All to the good.

But what we don’t see is a man who is game to threaten other leaders’ personal power. … Nor, most important, do we have a sense of his worldview or the policies that underpin his initial tactical steps. On national security, at least, it will be those policies, and not the occasional phone call or airstrike, that will make or break this president in the world.

What do you think of Trump’s foreign policy leadership so far?

Read the original article in The Washington Post.

Upward Mobility: New Routes in the Race For America’s Fastest Growing Cities

Wake up, America. We have a mobility problem. And we’re not talking about former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign or the number of potholes on the highways to America’s fastest growing cities.

Yes, infrastructure maintenance and improving the physical health of children are important. But for the kids who sit in front of electronics for the better part of a day, as long as they live in the American northeast, much of the Midwest and a good portion of the West, they are poised for a better life than their parents.

For children who live in Appalachia and the “Rust Belt,” on the other hand, the cards are stacked against them — even if they never lay eyes on a digital screen, always eat healthy school lunches, are physically active. That’s because their future employment opportunities are dwindling, as is their ability or likelihood to pick up and move down the road to another city with a more promising employment future.

For these kids, “Let’s move” isn’t that simple. Why? Because America’s post-recession recovery is more one-sided than we would like.

A recent Economic Innovation Group (EIG) report shows that while the United States has been recovering economically as a whole, the individual areas where new businesses have popped up – and employed people – are very limited.

According to the report, 20 counties alone generated half of the country’s new business establishments.

Most children in the United States are growing up today in counties with a poor record of fostering upward mobility. As the geography of U.S. economic growth narrows, it may become even harder to prevent further retreat of economic mobility.”

How do we change this? How do we spread out new business ventures and incentivize entrepreneurs to start and grow successful companies in areas that are currently economically depressed? How do we tighten the gap that only seems to be growing as economically vibrant cities get stronger and blighted cities become more depressed?

A recent piece by AEI’s James Pethokoukis on “left behind” America cites some creative ideas, including relocating large federal departments that don’t need to be inside Washington, D.C. (which usually enjoys low unemployment) into cities that do need help building economic infrastructure.

Pethokoukis also explores “Universal Basic Service,” an idea that would focus on helping to build communities in areas where demand is high, but supply is low. He cites economist Diane Coyle, who says,

If teachers or nurses do not want to move to Detroit and West Virginia … then there should be a pay premium large enough to overcome their reluctance. And the quality of service in local transport networks should be as good in declining as in wealthy areas.”

A third proposal uses tax breaks as incentives to encourage private investment – a route most strongly favored by the EIG itself. Yeah, that sounds boring, but the implementation is a whole rethinking of how America is structured today, and looks at removing regulatory hurdles to create specialized regions like Silicon Valley for technology and Raleigh-Durham for biotech research. Quoting venture capitalist Marc Andreessen,

Imagine a Bitcoin Valley, for instance, where some country fully legalizes cryptocurrencies for all financial functions. Or a Drone Valley, where a particular region removes all legal barriers to flying unmanned aerial vehicles locally. A Driverless Car Valley in a city that allows experimentation with different autonomous car designs, redesigned roadways and safety laws. A Stem Cell Valley. And so on.”

These three very big ideas would likely take quite a bit of political maneuvering for the legislation to begin the restructuring, let alone passage of laws to begin implementation, but there are other ways, smaller ways, to help people in distressed areas seek employment and help propel themselves toward upward mobility.

Pethokoukis colleague Michael Strain suggested multiple proposals to address relocation, disability, minimum wage, immigration, entrepreneurial endeavors, and more.

Ultimately, if we want America – all of America – to enjoy the benefits of our economic recovery, we need to make changes that make it possible for all citizens to earn their success with hard work.

“Let’s move” can have a whole new, broader meaning when we consider how we can offer a hand up to those who want to climb and make a better life for themselves and their families.

Getting Men Back to Work: A Little Public Shaming Doesn’t Hurt

Over the past year, three notable policy experts from across the political spectrum have documented the crisis of prime-working-age men dropping out of the labor force. And they have come up with some interesting ideas for getting men back to work.

In his 2016 book “Men Without Work,” demographer Nicholas Eberstadt found that more than 7 million men between the ages of 25 and 54 were not working or looking for work. President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers corroborated Eberstadt’s findings on the extent of the problem, concluding that the labor force participation rate for prime-aged men fell from 96 percent to 88 percent from 1967 to 2016. For those with only a high school diploma, the labor force participation rate now stands at 83 percent.

And it’s not because these men have something better to do.

These men are generally not engaged in other productive activities like education or child-rearing. Instead, they mostly spend time in leisure activities, though not happily. Opioid use and dependency among them is rampant, and their mortality rates — what Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton University call ‘deaths of despair’ — are rising.

In other words, this trend is a disaster. Getting men back to work is not only critical for them, but for their communities and the U.S. economy.

In a new paper released last week, former New York City Human Resources Administration Commissioner, Robert Doar; former Clinton Labor Department chief economist Harry Holzer; and family and economic stability expert Brent Orrell outlined a range of policy responses that leaders of both political parties in Washington would be smart to consider.

Interestingly, in their long road map for reforms, the authors cite a little public shaming, as well as a lively discussion of the dignity of hard work (as expertly expressed by Mike Rowe) as potential motivators for getting men off the sidelines and back into the workforce.

In other words, to sit around and do nothing deserves a little scolding,  they recently wrote in The Hill newspaper:

 We endorse a strong public commitment to work by our political, social and community leaders. A little stigma about non-work when work is available is a good thing. Every adult should be engaged in a productive activity in the job market, at school or at home.

They add in their research paper,

Of course, there is no obvious policy lever that can change social norms regarding work. However, that does not mean political leaders are powerless to affect change. Much has been made of our present ‘populist’ political moment, in which leaders have promised to stand up for the men and women forgotten by the distant political elites and victimized by trade, immigration, and elite corruption. These messages should come with an addendum: Just as elected officials have an obligation to defend the interests of Americans, able-bodied Americans must take some responsibility for improving their economic situations by working and pursuing the opportunities that are available.

Aside from calling men out, the authors acknowledge that they disagree among themselves about some of their own plan’s proposed reforms, but they would rather pick all than none. In other words, the political fights in Washington that devolve into each team rooting for its own side is damaging the playing field as much as the players. And for that, elected officials could use a little scolding of their own too.

The situation is dire enough that everything on the table needs to be implemented, particularly since the psychological impact on men not working has such far-reaching consequences, including a decline in marriage and intact families, increased drug use, and recidivism by ex-criminal offenders.

Their proposals include work-focused reforms to government benefit programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, increased tax credits, and more generous wage subsidies. Other ideas include training programs in community colleges and apprenticeships in sectors like health care, advanced manufacturing, and information technology, where labor demand is high.

For others who are hard to employ or residing in depressed communities where few jobs exist, we need to create more jobs through subsidies to employers. Recent evidence shows that we can do so quickly and in large numbers, thereby raising employment among the disadvantaged and creating indirect positive effects, like lower crime.

With the baby boomer generation heading into retirement, the need for more men to work is only going to get worse, especially in male-dominated sectors like construction, which could experience an even higher demand for labor if President Trump and Congress follow through on an infrastructure package.

So shame on the men who just sit around rather than diligently toiling away. There’s plenty of work to be had if men pick themselves up and go out and get it.

What Cities Can Do to Make America Move Again

Americans instinctively know that sometimes, in order to move up, you have to move out. And moving from one place to another has long been a key element of upward mobility in the nation.

Yeah, not so much anymore. America has become a nation of homebodies. And it’s not doing the economy, or America’s urban centers, a lot of good.

The ‘Go West, young man!’ ethic knitted into America’s DNA has apparently been lost on the young people. In fact, the few people who are moving around the country are retirees, not the scrappy young upstarts looking for a great new opportunity.

It’s a problem, says author Ryan Streeter, former deputy policy chief for then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, because cities are creating “policy disincentives” that make it harder for young people to take a chance on a new start.

These include locally administered public benefits, health insurance and licensure requirements that make moving too much of a hassle.

Americans traditionally have been able to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers, relocating to new cities to test their mettle. Unfortunately, those cities are being sustained with the savings of older Americans, not young people seeking new opportunity.

Nine of the 20 fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country are retirement destinations in which deaths outnumber or roughly equal births.”

Working-class Americans who seek opportunities should be rewarded with the ability to relocate to pursue them. But the “barriers of entry,” like relocation costs and high taxes, makes moving to new cities too tough to tackle.

The interplay of supply and demand with increasingly restrictive policies in growing cities tends to raise the barriers of entry to a city over time. It should be no surprise, then, that highly educated people with higher incomes are more likely to move to faster growing cities than people with lower levels of income and education.”

So how does America change this trend to make the perks that residents in the fastest-growing cities enjoy available to low and middle income workers?

Streeter says don’t turn to the federal government to solve this one.

No national policy can fix the fact that too few cities in the country combine economic dynamism with affordability.”

Instead, think local:

(I)t falls to municipal leaders to limit restrictive land-use and housing policies, ensure that good schools are widely distributed, and provide amenities in a safe environment that can be enjoyed by all classes of people.”

Pioneering America’s fastest growing cities is an important component of our country’s future. If local leaders and taxpayers are serious about sustaining the growth and building it with strong, working hands, they need to find ways to limit the barriers of entry and make these places accessible to working families. Just as the expansion of the West led to incredible and unforeseen prosperity, the contributions of today’s pioneers raise the potential to flourish, if cities allow them to do so.

How Innovation Can Defeat Homelessness

“I see no advantage in these new clocks. They run no faster than the ones made 100 years ago.”
― Henry Ford

Henry Ford is credited with making cars better than those who came before him, but he also found a way to make them cheaper. So perhaps you can appreciate how maddening it must have been for Ford to look at the rising cost of goods that didn’t perform any better than their predecessors.

Same is true for social policy. While Ford revolutionized the production lines for cars, America’s homeless policy could benefit from a big dose of innovation. But where do we find the intellectual muscle?

The new book entitled “A Safety Net That Works” brings together some big thinkers on upward mobility, antipoverty programs, and government assistance. Among them is Kevin Corinth, a research fellow in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, who argues that innovation, on both a small and a large scale, is a key component needed to fix the homelessness crisis facing too many Americans.

Homelessness in America remains a real and daunting problem despite reports of a decline in the number of homeless. While the number of homeless counted since 2007 has fallen, Corinth explains that the changing methodologies used to count the number of homeless may better explain the drop than an actual reduction in the number of people needing shelter. Meanwhile, Corinth reports, “A number of major cities have reportedly seen recent spikes in the numbers sleeping on the street, leading several to declare a homelessness state of emergency.”

Rather than double down on plans to end homelessness with old solutions, we should invest in innovative ideas that push progress forward, while ensuring that resources are prioritized to the people who need them most.”

That seems a simple ask … and a logical start. Knowing who needs help and then tailoring assistance programs to their needs seems like a much less complicated task if we know the population we’re dealing with and the variables in their situations. Without that, current housing assistance programs are throwing possible solutions at the wall to see what sticks.

To start, Corinth divides the homeless population into single adults versus families. He notes that “while 43 percent of homeless single adults are found on the street, only 10 percent of homeless families are found in unsheltered locations.” Disability, mental illness and addiction also play a critical role in identifying homeless individuals.

Better homelessness policy starts with making a fundamental distinction — homeless families are different than homeless single adults, and they require wholly different policy responses. Homeless families generally live in private rooms in shelters. They most often need temporary housing assistance to get back on their feet. Homeless single adults generally sleep on the street or in congregate shelters, and they often suffer from severe mental illness or substance abuse problems. They are more likely to require longer-term, service-rich interventions.”

After identifying who needs help and how we improve upon their current sheltering is just one step. Creating new ways to help people through better prioritization of resources, improved outreach, and increased quality of services, comes next.

How? One way would be to incentivize service providers – program managers who serve the homeless – by holding them responsible for achieving specific goals.

Service providers should be offered substantial flexibility in their service models, but they should be held accountable for their performance in helping their clients achieve desired outcomes.”

One way to do this could be to innovate new ways of tracking people, including where they sleep from night to night, if they are gaining and maintaining employment, and how their physical and mental health is affecting these variables.

Data mining, Corinth says, is critical to this kind of tracking, and as easy as using something as commonplace as smartphones:

Homelessness policy could be reoriented around smartphones and big data.  Homeless individuals could be given free smartphones and full service plans in return for providing daily information on their sleeping locations, health status, and other outcomes. Research could be revolutionized with access to detailed, longitudinal data on an otherwise hidden population.”

He certainly does think outside the box. And why not? With more than $4 billion a year spent on programs, greater accountability would certainly help measure success.

Instead of continuing to spend, spend, spend on programs that aren’t meeting goals, we need big thinkers like Corinth to be backed by leaders who control purse strings. We need them to collaborate, to innovate, to invent, and to implement new ways to tackle old problems.

There is no one-size-fits-all to helping those who are homeless. It’s an extremely challenging and complex issue. And while it’s easy to point a finger at the failures to help keep individuals and families safely sheltered, we can look once again to America’s great innovator, Henry Ford, to remind us that it’s not enough to see the problem.

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”

Numbers Don’t Lie: How Paid Parental Leave Helps the Economy

“Pawternity leave” is on the rise around the world. At the very least, several companies in the UK and India now provide “paid parental leave” for pets! That’s paid time off to employees when a new pet becomes part of the family.

“Pets are like babies nowadays,” according to the owner of a UK tech company. “So why shouldn’t staff have some time off when they arrive?”

Which begs the question: If puppy parents are reaping the benefits of paid parental leave, can’t the United States provide comparable benefits to ensure human babies receive the same support?

Perhaps it’s a bit more complicated than an optional company program to let people stay home to house-train the dog. And it’s not that Americans don’t care about new parents or babies. (A Pew Research survey from last month reveals Americans overwhelmingly support paid leave access following the birth or adoption of a new child.) Many Americans just disagree about who should foot the bill – private employers or taxpayers.

Well, how about both? Many in the private sector already enjoy weeks or months of paid leave as part of their company’s benefit package and they have no need for government assistance.  And those company policies can stay right where they are.

But many companies don’t offer assistance to new parents, especially when its too expensive to sustain an employee who is not actively contributing to the company’s bottom line for weeks at a time.

A new paper studying the paid leave system shows that parent workers who are least likely to be offered paid parental leave as a company benefit are the ones who need it most — they are at the lower-end of the economic ladder, and the ones whose families are least able to sustain themselves during a pause in earnings. The end result is that lower-income parents who choose (or need) to stay home with a new child often are forced to quit their jobs or are given no guarantee their job will be there when they come back. And they are least likely to have resources to support themselves during the break from work.

First-time parents, particularly low-income mothers, often find no other option than to quit their jobs to care for newborn children, even though work is their most effective path to self-sufficiency.”

That becomes a larger problem for the economy as a whole, according to the study’s co-authors Angela Rachidi and Ben Gitis. Their solution?

A better approach is to offer a modest, well-targeted government paid parental leave program to supplement what is already provided in the private market. …

An income-tested paid parental leave program would effectively target these workers so they can raise healthy children and remain attached to the labor force.”

Their program would include:

… a reasonable benefit ($300-$500 per week, depending on family size and income) to low- and lower-middle-income households. We suggest phasing it in and out in a way that targets those who are the least likely to already have it, as well as the least likely to handle an income loss from time away from work.”

What does that translate into on a national scale? An estimated $4.3 billion per year by taking into account the number of families who would qualify — 2 million qualified workers who add a child to their family each year.

Rachidi and Gitis recognize that many are hesitant to support new government programs, since they often result in higher taxes or potentially an increase in national debt.

But it turns out, there is a financial upside to providing paid parental leave.

Research shows that paid parental leave has positive effects on employment and job continuity, both of which support economic growth.”

More so, the overall cost of not providing paid parental leave could be substantially higher — and not just in short-term annualized dollar output. Returning to work too soon has been shown to negatively affect children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Rachidi and Gitis look at other proposed models on the table and find they are much more expensive. They also note the potential risk that employers may stop providing paid leave benefits to workers if there’s a federal program, but their study attempts to mitigate that risk by limiting the number of workers who would be eligible for the program to those who don’t already receive benefits.

Ultimately, self-reliance is important at every stage of life. Sustaining employment – especially as the number of dependents increase inside American households – is as critical to the stability of the family as it is to the government providing benefits to unemployed parents.  It is in the interest of the country at the family level and the national economic level to assist vulnerable parents who need to retain income during the early weeks of a new child’s life, and to keep their jobs in the long-term.

‘Choice Feminism’: Equal Opportunity and Gender Specialization

Picture this: Dad heads out to work in the morning. Mom stays home to care for the kids and maybe works part-time while they are in school. While Mom is home, she cooks, cleans, and runs the domestic sphere of the family while Dad earns the money needed to pay the bills. And everyone is happy.

Gasp! That sounds like the 1950s! Except it’s not. It’s 2017. And in this scenario, “Everyone is happy.”

“Feminism” is a word that has been loaded with undertones and assumptions for decades. And while critics may have a legitimate bone to pick with some of the social, cultural, and political issues that were born out of the 1960s feminist movement, don’t assume that the “f” word automatically refers to the man-hating, bra-burning ideology.

In fact, if we stopped to look at how millennial women — and men — now increasingly prefer traditional, female stay-at-home roles and male bread-winning roles, we might consider the principles of a certain kind of feminism that explains this recent shift.

It’s called “choice feminism,” and it is a term that has been adopted to describe the belief that women are free to choose the lifestyle they want, whether at home or in the workplace, without judgment. That work may be as the homemaker or as the breadwinner, or as a worker whose responsibilities are part-time in both of those environments.

The key is that women get to make the decision whether they stay in or work out of the home. And it’s a natural fit for the newest generation of parents.

In a recent analysis, researchers Samuel Sturgeon and W. Bradford Wilcox explore why the enthusiasm for choice feminism has increased among the millennial set. Citing a new report by sociologists Joanna Pepin and David Cotter, they write:

The increasing popularity of intensive mothering in the 1990s, frustrations over the stresses associated with balancing work and family, and a media and pop culture backlash to feminism in the 1990s — think of the ‘you can’t have it all’ meme from the era — made 1970s-style feminism, with its insistence on moms combining full-time work and family life, less appealing to a growing minority of young adults.

Translation: millennials, who as children in the 1990s watched the backlash by women trying to be on 100 percent of the time at work and 100 percent of the time at home, think the early feminist rat race is an exhausting and undesirable way to live.

Rather than embrace a ’70s-style feminism where everything is supposed to be split 50-50 in the home, a growing share of young adults embrace an ethic closer to matching two-parent families as they really are in 21st century America: That is, millennials may take a more favorable view of gender specialization in the family because it remains quite common in their own experience and, in an era of choice feminism, less problematic.

Just as this helps explain, at least in part, why preferences in gender roles have morphed since baby boomers and Generation Xers were young, Sturgeon and Wilcox also propose what choice feminism now provides to women: equality and gender specialization.

Choice feminism allowed women to invest heavily in their children, juggle work and family responsibilities, and maintain a sense of feminist self-respect. It stands to reason that, in the spirit of this choice feminism, many young adults support an ethic of equal opportunity for women in the public sphere even as they embrace an ethic of gender specialization in the private sphere.”

The authors also note that cultural and racial shifts in demographics may have contributed to changing beliefs in the division of labor. Today, 22 percent of young adults in the U.S. are Hispanic compared to only 7 percent in 1980.

That matters, because young Hispanics (especially young Hispanic men, who prefer traditional family arrangements at higher percentages than Hispanic women) are more likely to embrace a traditional division of family and work responsibilities than other young adults.”

But since they argue that demographics are only a portion of explaining today’s millennial views, perhaps those who gasp at traditional family structures should consider the power of a woman’s choice at home and in the workforce.

Simultaneously, conservatives shouldn’t hyperventilate at the notion of supporting feminism – at least the kind that enables women to reach their full potential at work and/or at home because their pursuit of both wasn’t foisted on them. These women have made their choices, and are pursuing their happiness.

The Dignity of Work — A UK Model for the US

There’s diamonds in the sidewalk, the gutters lined in song.
Dear, I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long.
There’s treasure for the taking, for any hard working man,
Who’ll make his home in the American land.

Leave it to Bruce Springsteen to celebrate the value and dignity of work in one of his most patriotic songs, “American Land.” It’s not surprising that he is appreciated as one of America’s greatest musicians by people from all walks of life, from poor to rich and old to young.

One of the reasons his popularity has spanned decades is his ability to tap into the belief that “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is a quintessentially American attribute. Pursuing happiness is American in nature. And the ability to achieve the American dream through hard-earned work is also American in nature.

But what happens to this foundational belief when the “hard-working man” begins to disappear from the picture? What happens when the “treasure for the taking” is actually easier to acquire via government handout than through blood, sweat, and tears?

While millions – perhaps billions – have memorized lyrics to songs composed by The Boss, a non-American leader reminds us that our value of hard work is the only way to success. Iain Duncan Smith recently spoke about the United States’ problem with labor, welfare, and the culture of dependence and demonstrated how the trend toward dependency is preventing so many Americans from pursuing their dreams.

Smith is a British Member of Parliament whose civil service has included posts such as leader of the Conservative Party and founder and chairman of the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), “an independent think tank committed to tackling poverty and social breakdown.” Under a program he established at the CSJ, he defined the “five pathways to poverty” — educational failure, addiction, serious personal debt, worklessness and dependency, and family breakdown. He then went on to craft a plan to reduce them.

A coalition led by Smith came to power in the United Kingdom in 2010. At the time, the UK was suffering a similar problem as the United States — a decline in labor participation and a growing dependence on government largesse. Nearly 20 percent of UK households had no member in the workforce, and 1.4 million people (in a nation with 52 million individuals age 15 and over) had been on public assistance “for most of the previous decade.”

Smith and his allies implemented a series of reforms that built off the ideas proposed by the CSJ. Today, just seven years later, the United Kingdom enjoys its lowest unemployment rate since 1975, “the highest proportion of people in work since records began,” and historic lows of people unemployed and not seeking work. It’s labor participation rate stands at 75 percent.

Smith recently delivered remarks at the American Enterprise Institute to address the social reform that American leaders, like their British brethren, can implement to help reverse the unintended damage caused by welfare programs. These U.S. programs — now standing at 126 in total, 71 of which provide a cash or in-kind benefit — were created with the best of intentions. But they have ended up trapping people into indefinite dependency instead of providing a temporary safety net for people while they get back on their feet to earn their own success.

As Duncan explains, the “temporary” nature of welfare makes not just financial sense, but human sense.

Work is about more than just money.

Culturally and socially, work is the spine that runs through a stable society. Not only is it the best way to increase your earnings, but it provides purpose, responsibility, dignity. It offers role models for children, and it builds community spirit.

Conversely, an ever-growing body of research has shown that inactivity not only reduces your financial well-being, but is directly linked to poor mental health, substance abuse, and in the very worst cases, suicide. Fundamentally, as Benjamin Franklin once observed, ‘It is the working man who is the happy man … [and] the idle man who is the miserable man.’

According to Smith, the idle man is the kiss of death for society because “worklessness” hurts the individuals who should be earning their success alongside society at large. Smith quoted the Father of Economics, Adam Smith, saying:

No society can surely be flourishing and happy of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable.

Sadly, the U.S. government has taught people “learned helplessness.” It has allowed people to become so permanently dependent upon it for money, food stamps, and other financial assistance that it makes more sense for these dependents to stop pursuing work at all. This mindset bleeds into new generations of dependence and, as a result, the vicious cycle continues.

Of course, Smith carves out exceptions for individuals who need assistance, citing sickness, disability, and “times of desperate hardship” as examples of when the state should step in to help carry them through their struggle. Even then, he argues, assistance should be less about sustenance and more focused on the journey of helping shift from dependence to independence.

It is both expensive and unconservative to manage and maintain those at the bottom rather than give them the opportunity to take back control of their lives.

For all the changes that must happen for the United States to implement the proper laws and procedures — and adopt the advantageous mindset that enables individuals to prosper through the blessing of work, Smith remains hopeful.

With a new administration, the United States has now a golden opportunity to give welfare the reform it so urgently needs.

There is the potential to create a welfare system that recognizes with compassion the situations people find themselves in, but ensures fairness for the taxpayer.

One that is more conditional, less chaotic, more dynamic.

But, above all, one that is about life change, enabling people to transform themselves and their families.

As Springsteen sings, “We Take Care of Our Own.” But the ability to pursue our happiness is easier when families are able to take care of themselves.

Teaching Doctors About Running A Business

The fields of science and medicine employ some of the most highly educated and hands-on professionals in the world. So you might scratch your head when hearing one expert call for training medical researchers on how to do their job more effectively. But the training isn’t more of the technical sciences; it’s an appreciation and understanding of business and entrepreneurship.

Scientists, medical researchers, and physicians are excellent at proposing ways to cure illnesses and overcome medical problems. Helping people, after all, is what drives so many in the medical profession. But as David Shaywitz says, medical training largely ill-equips doctors and scientists to translate their ideas into solutions and products that are viable for patients in the marketplace.

Too often, it seems, the training of doctors ends where the academic mission often seems to–with publication. Anything beyond that tends to be viewed as irrelevant and intellectually derivative at best, and vaguely (or not so vaguely) corrupt at worst. To make a discovery is noble; to see it commercialized is vulgar.

In other words, the pinnacle of success in the medical field is to innovate and invent. But that achievement is tainted when the practical, business side of medicine enters the equation.

Meanwhile, those of us who could benefit from medical discoveries wait in the balance. We aren’t exactly signing up to get surgery in a lab or get a prescription from a PhD lab researcher.  We need businesses to see potential in these products – and a way to sustain the costs of bringing them to market – in order to gain access to them in our doctor’s offices and hospitals. Finding a cure for cancer, for example, may be a brilliant medical breakthrough. But it doesn’t save any lives without the wings of a pharmaceutical company that will work to put it in the hands of prescribing physicians and, ultimately, their patients.

The good news is that connecting the worlds of medical research and commercialization is not unchartered territory. Shaywitz cites several doctors who have already begun to navigate these worlds successfully and, with education tweaking, there is great potential to grow an appreciation of entrepreneurship.

Shaywitz, Chief Medical Officer of DNAnexus, a health data management company based in Mountain View, Calif., notes that the goal of teaching the appreciation of medical entrepreneurship is not with an eye towards making everyone in the field into entrepreneurs. Citing serial entrepreneur Steve Blank, Shaywitz writes:

The goal of teaching entrepreneurship isn’t to persuade every basic scientist to become an entrepreneur– ‘most would be terrible at it,’ he says. He hopes to pick up a few individuals who identify with the mission, but mostly, he hopes to impart a broader appreciation for how ideas that are often developed in academia find their way to market.

For the success of those who dedicate their lives to helping people through science and medicine – and for the betterment of humanity that relies on their success – we are hopeful that an appreciation for the business of medicine will translate into more viable drugs, treatments, and technologies.

Read Shaywitz’ entire article in Forbes.

Scholarships to Encourage Kids to Attend School in Low-Income Neighborhoods?

Here’s a thought. Instead of busing underprivileged kids to wealthy suburbs, how about sending kids from wealthy households to private schools in low-income neighborhoods?

Some might say, “No way, I’m not sending my kid into a dangerous neighborhood just to attend a private school.” But what if a scholarship program could gentrify neighborhoods by encouraging parents to move to or stay in lower-income areas and send their kids to nearby private schools?

Residence as a determinant of school district has been a factor in the middle-class movement out of urban areas. Urban schools have declined in quality as a result of urban flight, and the surrounding neighborhoods have become blighted as the schools become increasingly dysfunctional. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Community Protection and Revitalization (CPR) scholarships aims to help decrease concentrated poverty, crime, and unemployment in communities that are threatened by urban flight. In a new brief, Bartley R. Danielsen identifies how more multifaceted reforms can not only improve educational outcomes for students but also increase opportunity on a larger scale for more Americans.

Many observe these problems and incorrectly attribute the plight of urban districts to bad school-district leadership. Bad leadership is not the primary cause of urban schools’ problems. If leadership could solve this problem, some urban district would have already solved it. Further, it is not reasonable to believe that all urban districts always have bad leadership. Instead, the plight of urban districts is a natural equilibrium condition that results when school assignments are based on residence.

Danielsen, an associate professor of finance and real estate at North Carolina State University, notes that historically, methods of addressing poverty in the education system have included moving kids — and often their entire family — out of poor neighborhoods through section 8 housing vouchers, and more recently, school choice vouchers.

These vouchers are often assigned by lottery or means-testing, but that method does nothing to actually fix the community that is being abandoned. The peripheral effect doesn’t just cause repercussions to the neighborhood left behind, but to wealthier communities that see rents and regulations go up in response to voucher families moving in.

An interesting argument Danielson makes is that a lot of areas that could benefit from these scholarships may be lower income, but that doesn’t mean they are bad places. Many families already live there, but decide to move when their kids are school age because they want them to attend a better quality public school. But dropping parochial or private schools into these areas and offering scholarships would keep those families in place.

Danielsen’s design for a CPR scholarship is aimed at not only keeping public money in the areas where it does the most good, but indirectly benefiting communities by attracting businesses that wish to be near quality schools. In other words, the scholarship not only is to ensure a good education, but to ensure resources are assigned to poorer neighborhoods.

You can read his proposal, but do you think that putting good schools in struggling neighborhoods and paying families to send their kids there could work to revitalize those neighborhoods?

James Madison: ‘Father of the Constitution’ Thought You Should Know This

James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” He was a statesman, a historian, a Pisces. He wrote the Bill of Rights.

But for some reason he doesn’t get the popular attention other founders receive, and Rebecca Burgess contends it may be because people today talk more and know less.

Not every past president and Founding Father needs his own national holiday. More legitimately concerning is the ever-growing distance between the sophistication of our technological methods of communication and the poverty of our public discourse. We are marvelously up-to-date but hardly well-informed. This is especially true when it comes to our particular constitutional form of government: knowing the branches of government (legislative, executive, judicial), by whom their powers are to be exercised, and, crucially, how they are to be exercised. …

Mere information about government (what now is often reduced to cries for “transparency!”) was only the baseline of what Madison had in mind. His intellectual dance around the issue of a bill of rights displays better how Madison connected popular opinion, political knowledge, and self-government premised on the preservation of rights (the first purpose of government, according to the Declaration of Independence). This is noteworthy, because Madison initially was not in favor of including a bill of rights in the Constitution—he believed that the Constitution was itself a bill of rights. Additionally, he was skeptical that a list of specified rights would have efficacy against actual abuses of those rights. It might only amount to a paper tiger, a “parchment barrier.” In other words (so to speak): They’re just words, words, words.

Burgess writes that “Madison was particularly concerned with the opinion of the vocal majority.” He anticipated that the tyranny of the masses executed through a central government could damage the rights of individuals, and he decided to write the Bill of Rights in order to ensure people felt a role and a stake in the federal republic outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

Why does Madison matter today? Partly because in the effort to gain political ground, Americans have become entrenched in their own belief system and more willing to argue with separate sets of facts. The facts themselves are not supposed to be negotiable; they are meant to be the immutable foundation on which debate is formed. And yet in the process of debate, Americans have left it to the government to choose the facts and make choices on our behalf.
We don’t know as much as we think we know because we tend to give up knowledge for less argument. This is exactly what Madison forewarned against in a letter now nearly 200 years old.

A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

Learn more facts about James Madison.

Helping Communities With Large Populations of Ex-Prisoners

Do you know someone who has been in prison or have you ever been in prison? It’s not that rare anymore in this country to answer yes.

Though the U.S. recidivism rate is as high as 50-75 percent within five years, suggesting many of the same people end up in prison more than once, about 650,000 men and women are released from prison every year. They are returned to the communities from where they came with slightly less than what they had when they first went in, except now, they’re stigmatized, have less chance of getting a job, and few skills to keep up with changing educational requirements and work environments.

It’s enough to leave these people with a feeling they’re never going to get back on their feet or achieve more than the little they started with.

But to become prepared for a new day and reduce that chance of going back in, prisoners need to learn skills while locked up, and isn’t that what prison is supposed to do? Rehabilitate, not just punish and incarcerate?

And less face it, if prisoners don’t get the skills needed to begin the climb up the economic ladder, communities with large ex-prisoner populations are going to remain less safe and families in them will be less stable. The cycle that resulted in these people going into prison will repeat itself.

So what to do? Education is key. Getting lessons in new skills will make prisoners more employable upon release.

Writing for CNN, Gerard Robinson and Van Jones suggest ways to extend opportunities for people who are returning to communities that most need workers who can earn a decent income and be productive members of society.

First, we need to lift the ban on access to Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals. This approach provides motivated individuals an opportunity to turn their lives around. When the Pell Grant program began, all qualifying students including the incarcerated were eligible to receive small amounts of federal funding to help pay for college tuition.

Beginning with the enactment of the 1994 crime bill, incarcerated individuals were excluded from receiving federal funds. As a result, nearly 350 in-prison college programs across the country disintegrated.

In 2015, the Second Chance Pell pilot program was announced, which has already helped 12,000 incarcerated individuals receive grants to access higher education in state and federal facilities across the country. We should expand this pilot program, or make it permanent.

Second, we should expand access to all federal student loan programs for incarcerated juveniles and adults. Some believe this approach makes fiscal sense and will help make our streets safer and economy more prosperous. For example, a study from the RAND Corp. showed that a $1 investment in education yields $4 to $5 in public safety cost-savings. It also found that individuals who received education while behind bars were 43% less likely to end up back in prison and 13% more likely to obtain employment following their release.

Third, we must ensure that individuals convicted of drug-related crimes are not barred from financial aid or federal student loans if they choose to pursue a college degree. It is counterproductive to lock individuals out of opportunity for higher learning after they have paid their debt to society, especially when there has been a growing, bipartisan movement to ensure that individuals convicted of drug crimes receive access to treatment and rehabilitation, moving them toward a path to success. It is past time.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy is pushing these ideas in a new campaign called #CollegeNotPrison, and #cut50, the national bipartisan criminal justice reform organization founded by Jones, is trying to introduce these programs where they are most needed.

Helping the 95 percent of prisoners who return to the neighborhoods they started in not only gives purpose to the lives of those who went down the wrong path, but ultimately aids the communities to which they return.

Taxes are Too High: How Does Reducing Tax Rates Affect You?

President Trump is proposing tax reforms that could include cutting corporate tax rates, reducing individual marginal tax rates, and broadening the tax base. The right mix could generate 3-4 percent growth in gross domestic product, which may not seem a lot, but would be larger than any year in the last 11.

What does that mean to you? The president’s proposal would be the largest tax overhaul since President Reagan and Congress lowered household average marginal income-tax rates by 2 percent in 1987 and then again in 1988.

What would 2 percentage points in individual tax rate reductions mean for the overall economy? About 0.5 percent extra growth per year, says Robert J. Barro, a professor of economics at Harvard University. So 4 percent of individual tax rate cuts could equal 1 percent in economic growth, and that’s not counting corporate tax rates.

America’s economy has not recovered from the Great Recession. Real GDP has been growing at around 2% a year. This weak performance mostly reflects the lack of productivity growth since 2010. If Mr. Trump can raise annual productivity growth from zero to 2%, that alone would be a huge favor to the economy.

It would also take the economy to 4 percent economic growth per year, something the country hasn’t felt in a long time. In a recent analysis, Barro also looks at ways to reduce the federal debt, raise the age of eligibility for Medicare, other entitlement reforms, a border-adjustment tax, construction, and infrastructure spending. All will have an impact on the economy, and whether Americans can create and fill jobs and experience an economic renaissance of sorts.

Tax reform also includes reducing regulations, which are imposed on the conduct of business. So, when individuals have more money and more freedom, they are more likely to risk starting a new business, right? And that’s good for the economy, right?

All in all, at 3-4 percent annual economic growth, Americans may begin to recall what it feels like to be in charge of their own future. And the dignity of feeling in control of one’s future leaves open a lot of possibilities.

Data Capture: Why Big Brother Isn’t Always Scary

About 0.20 percent of the federal budget is used collecting statistics by government agencies. We’re not talking about surveillance or data mining, but the actual work of determining numbers on labor participation rates and other information valuable to business, policymakers, and families.

This information, government collected, is extremely valuable to business. Companies like food store Kroger, chain store Target, and investment house like Charles Schwab use information from research by the American Community Survey or the International Energy Agency to determine prices, where to put their stores and what to fill them with, or how much to anticipate oil prices will rise or fall.

Government data are used in a variety of ways — for instance local cost of living determinations or expected future demand, even demographic data on where to put schools or whether distribution centers like Amazon belong in Dallas or Baltimore.

Yet, data, both the government’s collection of it and private industry research, are getting a bad rap. The surveillance culture has made people wary of data collection. People are sick of being followed on every website they turn by digital advertisements. And government data are recently seen as suspect or twisted to serve a particular political leaning.

But data are vital. Even the Founding Fathers thought so, says economist Michael R. Strain.

America’s desire to collect data for the common good dates back to the founding fathers, when James Madison argued that reliable data on agricultural, commercial and manufacturing interests would allow Congress to represent the interests of its citizens more effectively. Hard numbers would be useful to Congressional debaters “in order that they might rest their arguments on facts, instead of assertions and conjectures.” Indeed, collecting data is a specifically enumerated requirement of government in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution. …

We’ve come a long way since the 19th century. Today, the modern economy is especially reliant on data, and in this era of “big data,” businesses collect and analyze vast quantities of their own internal data to forecast sales, predict staffing and inventory needs, and weigh all sorts of decisions. The big data revolution is rightly celebrated as a great social and economic achievement. But a firm’s own data are not adequate to serve society’s larger purposes. Instead, private-sector data should be thought of as a fantastic complement to official statistics.

So what’s the big deal? Why should government be responsible for collecting data?

One reason: Consistency. It’s the same information being run year after year and decade after decade. Another: It’s free to everyone to access and use. A third reason: Credibility. The statistical methods and practices are designed to return high quality and impartial data — and to be shielded from political influence.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces statistics on employment and unemployment, has only one political appointee. The rest are dedicated career civil servants. Helping to maintain that credibility is that many data elements are carefully scrutinized by outsiders, whether the market — which reacts to certain regular data releases as important measures of economic health — or researchers.

Still a fourth reason: Confidentiality. Unauthorized use by government workers is punishable with prison terms while at the same time it can’t be used to prosecute providers of the information. Lastly, the ability to get it done. The public is more willing to respond to “direct requests for information from the government, with its strict confidentiality standards for data, than to a private firm.”

Finally, if government policymakers and lawmakers are going to decide on issues like how taxes are to be spent, it’s good to have data that are accurate.

Of course, when it comes to government, it’s not all rosy. Federal data collection is subject to shortcomings and limitations like the failure to capture information on new trends. Another problem is the refusal of people to participate in the data collection.

But failing to collect the data will never get us to learn where there’s room to make improvements, something we should always expect our government.

Are Happiness and Economic Growth Linked?

What makes you happy? Family, friends, a strong community? How about “economic growth”? It’s not typically a buzzword to trigger your feelings, but a recent report suggests a nation’s economic growth is a variable in one’s personal happiness.

Of course, happiness isn’t entirely dependent on economic growth, a national measurement for determining overall well-being, but it sure seems like it could contribute to one’s personal outlook.

Yet, the authors of a global happiness report seem to suggest that happiness and economic growth have been decoupled. The just-released World Happiness Report 2017, an annual survey of 1,000 people in 150 nations, places the United States just 14th on the happiness scale. But the real eyebrow raiser is that the top five happiest countries are facing slower economic growth.

Business journalist (and Former Jeopardy champ) James Pethokoukis says that the authors’ conclusions may not be what they seem.

One of its highly touted findings is that the world’s ‘happiest’ nations — such as Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland — have been growing more slowly than the world as whole, including the number 14-ranked U.S., in recent years. The report’s authors fully embrace the goal of pushing ‘happiness’ as the best measure of social progress rather than the ‘tyranny of GDP.’ And as economist Jeffrey Sachs writes in the report: ‘The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach.’

But is that what the data show, really?

The whole thing seems a little weird when you take a closer look.

Pethokoukis points out that the “happiest” countries are small — an average of 11 million people in the first 13 happiest nations (all the ones in front of the U.S.). The “happy places” are also culturally homogeneous, particularly the Nordic nations that rank at the top. Not surprisingly, the happiest nations also want faster-rising incomes, a component of economic growth.

Pethokoukis adds that the happiest nations also suffer from their fair share of unhappiness, with high suicide rates (and possibly low expectations)! Americans, on the other hand, “are demanding, complain when dissatisfied, and by the way, also produce the hard-driving entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who push the technological frontier so Europe doesn’t have to.”

He suggests national identity and culture most certainly has to be a variable in the happiness outlook, but more than that happiness isn’t the result of higher incomes, but more opportunity to create “a life of deeper human flourishing.”

Read Pethokoukis’ full article.

A Safety Net That Works: Enforcing Child Support Payments

What parent doesn’t want to help his or her child? Most people would wonder why the question even needs to be asked. But while child neglect and child poverty are issues that the social safety net and public assistance rightfully focus on addressing, legislative efforts to require delinquent or absent parents to take financial responsibility prove a handy tool for reducing the problem of childhood poverty.

Child Support Enforcement (CSE) was first passed into federal law in 1974. It was set up to make parents become financially responsible for their children. At the time, 75 percent of welfare caseloads involved an absent parent.

CSE became a part of the social services network in order to take pressure off government services and return the job of parenting to where it belonged — the parent.  Yet nonpayment of child support remains a huge problem today, even after the 1996 welfare reform law strongly enhanced enforcement mechanisms.

Child Support Enforcement is an issue that crosses partisan lines. Separation and divorce are an unfortunate circumstance of modern life, and child support delinquencies are not confined to one particular income level or political belief. At the same time, CSE was a major factor in reducing poverty among children after the 1996 welfare reform law was signed.

Believe it or not, one quarter of the welfare reform law of 1996 was dedicated to CSE. Its impact was notable. Child support agreements among poor parents increased by 8 percentage points from 1993-2003, meaning more children were assured that the parent not living with them helped pay for their upbringing. Enforcing child support payments resulted in a 74 percent increase in payment collections over 10 years.

So what happened? In the second decade since the law was passed, the percentage of custodial parents with a payment agreement dropped by nearly 14 points.

What accounts for the loss of momentum? Robert Doar, the former commissioner of New York City’s Health and Human Services, explains.

What accounts for this loss of momentum is a legitimate, although exaggerated, concern about being too tough on poor noncustodial parents, the parent who is not living with the child. A false wisdom has emerged in the policy community—from academics to the media—that the child support system forces noncustodial dads to, as the headline of a 2015 New York Times story put it, “Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Job. Repeat.” Some influential commentators even see the system as fundamentally unjust by imposing on poor men burdens that are viewed as the government’s responsibility. …

Certainly, some poor noncustodial parents are struggling and need help to live up to their obligations. But most noncustodial parents, poor and nonpoor alike, are capable of working and could contribute something—even a regular payment of $25 per month has value. Analysts who are critical of the program seem to forget that the parent raising the child full time is often poor too. In 2013, for poor custodial parents who received child support payments, the noncustodial parent’s payments represented 49 percent of their income. Allowing parents to completely walk away from their financial responsibility to their children should not be an option.

According to Doar, if the share of poor custodial parents with agreements had held steady at the percentage that it was in 2003 when the welfare reform law was still being closely enforced, then 500,000 more poor custodial parents would have had orders to receive support in 2013!

“Surely a substantial fraction of these parents would have received enough in payments for them and their children to be lifted above the poverty line,” he wrote in the introduction to a recent volume he edited on the topic.

What Reasons Are There For Parents to Refuse to Pay Child Support?

A lot of times, the parent responsible for child support payments is cut off from the child. Other times, resentment of one parent toward the other leads to a child being caught in the middle. Still other times, suspicion that the money is being misused by the custodial parent is made as an excuse by noncustodial parents to withhold payments.

But sometimes, the paying parent claims he just can’t afford it. And while that claim may have been doubted or disproven, it sadly is becoming a more frequent excuse due to an unfortunate shift in American culture and economy — notably the increasing struggle of men in the labor market. More from Doar:

Reliable data on noncustodial parents are hard to come by because the Census Bureau’s major surveys do not ask whether a man living alone is also a nonresident father. But a survey from 1997 conducted by the Urban Institute found that only 43 percent of noninstitutionalized, nonresident fathers who were poor worked at all—and this was during the late 1990s economic boom. Another study from the Urban Institute used administrative data from nine states in 2003 and 2004 and found that 25 percent of all obligors had no reported income. …

I suspect, given the evidence on young, low-skilled men generally, that these rates must look even worse today. In 2000, among African American men age 16–24 without a high school diploma and not in school, the employment rate was 40.8 percent, and for similarly positioned whites, it was 72.3 percent. By 2007 (like 2000, a year at the peak of the business cycle), the rates had fallen dramatically to 28.7 and 55.0 percent, respectively.

Seven million men age 25 to 54 are not working or even looking for work, according to recent data. Many of them have children despite having never married. These men are disproportionately less educated, and seen by woman as less “marriageable.” Yet marriage is a reliable indicator of higher paying jobs.

With the increasing struggle of men in the labor market, sympathy has shifted. But there is something of a chicken-and-egg argument to all this. Where once women claimed they didn’t need men to raise their children, they still demanded that fathers (a majority of noncustodial parents) help out. Did women tell men to get lost because they were dead weight? Or did men become deadbeats because their paternal role was rejected?

Data show that 70 percent of arrears are owed by noncustodial parents who have no documented income or very little earnings (less than $10,000 a year). And 25 percent of poor custodial parents with a support agreement aren’t receiving payments. So whatever the relationship between parents, the question is now whether it is even possible to get blood from a stone?

Much can be done to fix the mish-mash of regulations and changes that have occurred over the last 40 years. For instance, determining what is a proper measure of a noncustodial parent’s income would go a long way to changing the way male parents look at work. Why is this? Because evaluating a parent’s ability to pay support based on an over-the-table paycheck disincentivizes men from going to work.

The reforms to the program in 1996 focused on tracking down and holding accountable “deadbeat” dads, but it did little to acknowledge or address those who really are dead broke. This is a difficult balance to strike—I know from my experience working in New York that many fathers who appear to have few assets and no earnings are working off-the-books or involved in illicit activities, but they are reluctant to make that known because they either do not want to pay or do not want the government to know of their off-the-books activities.

Another issue is the requirement to declare the other parent’s ability to pay support before qualifying for assistance. The purpose of the requirement is to ensure custodial parents look to the other parent to contribute before going to the government for help. This is the case with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the cash welfare program.

But TANF is on the decline while Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, child care, and housing assistance programs are on the rise. And guess what? Those programs don’t require opening a child support case as a condition of receiving aid.

But the issue, Doar explains once more, isn’t necessarily a matter of what you have to reveal, but whether the revelation leads to some kind of change.

Policy should not have to choose between helping single mothers or low-income men. CSE is a rare government program (outside the criminal justice system) that interacts often with disconnected, low-skilled men, but it does not do enough to help them. Order amounts should be responsive to the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay and his changing economic circumstances, and significant improvements have been made on this front. But a singular focus on reducing order amounts and forgiving arrears distracts from the main challenge these men face: not enough of them are working. Instead of reducing what we expect of these men, we should help them better meet their obligations to their families and society.

Lastly, Doar notes that if federal or state assistance is dependent on parents working, then expand the programs that incentivize work.

While momentum has been building in Washington for an expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC) for all childless adults, this policy is not well-targeted. A better solution is to expand the EITC for noncustodial parents who work and pay current child support. As commissioner in New York State, I created and implemented such a program, and an Urban Institute analysis found that it increased the share of parents who paid their support in full.

Why Is the Child Support Enforcement Program Important?

Historically, CSE has worked. Even as late as 2015, CSE resulted in $5.26 in payments for ever dollar spent on enforcement. Doar explains that enforcement works for several reasons:

  1. The program sends a clear message to all potential parents: if you play a role in bringing a child into the world, you have a responsibility to help support him or her.
  2. Strong child support enforcement not only communicates that essential American value, it changes the incentives around fathering children outside of marriage by making it impossible to abandon the responsibilities of parenthood.
  3. When child support obligations force an absent parent to be reminded of his financial responsibilities, he is also more likely to take up his other parental duties and be more involved in the child’s life. Unsurprisingly then, receiving child support is also linked to better outcomes for the children involved.
  4. Studies have found that formal child support payments are associated with fewer behavioral problems, better academic performance, and increased self-esteem.
  5. While it may seem counterintuitive, the CSE program offers one of policy’s best opportunities to address the crisis of prime-age male nonwork in America.

CSE is a needed and effective program. It currently lifts more than one million families above the government’s official poverty line, reduces single parenthood, and improves child outcomes, all by enforcing and facilitating personal responsibility at very low cost to taxpayers.

Innovation Not Transformation: A Return to Weapons Technology

Defense Department officials spent the last couple administrations preoccupied with building a strategy to deal with cockroaches hellbent on asymmetrical warfare. But while they were busy with “transformation,” not “innovation,” Defense Department scientists and engineers have been quietly working on some pretty cool weapons technology that sounds like it comes straight out of sci-fi.

And though development has been slow to yield applicable products, defense and security policy analyst Tom Donnelly is clearly optimistic about some recent breakthroughs:

Perhaps the most tantalizing near-term technologies are related to the substitution of intense amounts of electrical energy for the explosive power of gunpowder. This comprises a kind of catch-all category that subsumes several developments and could have—at least to leaders with an engineering mindset—multiple applications. Fielding electrical-energy-based weapons depends upon the ability to generate and to store immense amounts of power, and then release it either as a destructive force on its own or to propel a projectile at extremely high speeds. Stored electricity might prove to be the gunpowder of the future.

The Defense Department and the military services have been experimenting with these technologies for a decade and more. The Army and Navy have tested a number of “railgun” designs. Railguns are electromagnetic launchers with a parallel set of conductors—the “rails”—that accelerate a sliding armature by passing a very strong current down one rail, along the armature to the other rail. In essence, it’s a 21st-century slingshot that hurls a very dense, but inert, projectile about twice as fast as a traditional cannon; the kinetic energy of these projectiles is enormous. …

(O)n the cusp of science fiction and reality is the prospect of using directed energy itself as a weapon. Indeed, some low-level forms of directed energy have been employed by the military for some time: microwave systems that heat the water in skin cells, causing irritation, have been used as a crowd-control measure; microwaves also have been fielded to fry enemy electronic systems. Even the radars on combat aircraft may have limited applications in disrupting the sensors of attacking missiles. And, as far back as 2002, the U.S. Air Force began flying an “Airborne Laser”—basically, a giant high-energy chemical laser stuffed inside a 747 commercial aircraft body—as a missile defense test system. In January 2010 the system successfully passed an intercept test and a month later destroyed two targets in a single engagement. But shortly thereafter, amid one of the many rounds of defense budget reductions during the Obama Administration, the effort was scrapped. In many ways, fielding the system as designed was a bad idea—the laser itself needed to be more powerful and would have required a large and vulnerable aircraft to fly within range of enemy air defenses—but the underlying concept was sound and indicative that such systems were technologically feasible, if tactically immature. Also, it was clear that using electricity rather than chemistry as a power source was a better solution.

Regardless of how America wants to deal with new or unknown threats, the most important element of a strong defense is making sure the U.S. has a tactical advantage — training, equipment, and numbers — if and when U.S. servicemen and women have to go back out and demonstrate America’s conventional-force strength.

That means keeping the focus on innovation, not transformation.

The enthusiasts for “transformation” of the past generation have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope; their model of innovation was that, starved of funds, the U.S. armed services would have to think of new ways to fight. But, through history, the process of change in war has been one that more frequently rewards practical tinkering — matching organizations and doctrine to technologies — more than bold conceptualization.

In other words, the key to winning war is being able to put up a wholly superior fight.

‘By Any Means Necessary’ on an Upswing? How to Stop Campus Violence

A major uptick in violence on college campuses has been reported lately, concerning many over whether violence as a means of protest is now in vogue after a long dormant state. Is there a way to put an end to campus violence? Former Sen. Jim Talent has some ideas.

But first to recap a recent disturbing episode: You may have heard the story about Charles Murray, the famous social scientist who was invited to Middlebury College to speak and a mob broke out, threatening him and sending one of his hosts, Professor Allison Stanger, to the hospital.

Apparently, students at the liberal arts school were afraid of Murray’s words. He had written the book Coming Apart, The State of White America, 1960-2010, several years back, which premised that white America, like other racial and ethnic groups, is starkly divergent as a result of disparate wealth levels. The book description reads:

Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.

The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America, and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. That divergence puts the success of the American project at risk.

Murray has been touring around the country discussing this book since its release. But college students at Middlebury decided that Murray needed to be shut down since he is so clearly (sarcasm) a “white supremacist.”

Murray says he was deeply shaken by the events that transpired, not because of the accusation, which he has confronted before, nor because of a protest of his speech, which is also not new to him. Murray said his fear stemmed from the animalistic behavior of the students.

Many looked like they had come straight out of casting for a film of brownshirt rallies. In some cases, I can only describe their eyes as crazed and their expressions as snarls. Melodramatic, I know. But that’s what they looked like.

Murray called for the university to inflict severe punishment on the students who behaved with such mob mentality, not because he was the subject of the attack, but because it is morally wrong and ultimately dangerous to normalize such behavior by letting it slide. Malcolm X popularized Jean-Paul Satre’s term “by any means necessary,” which predicated that violence is a fair tactic for protest. But even Malcolm X believed that violence is not necessary if the ends can be achieved through another method.

That’s where former Sen. Jim Talent comes in. Talent recently wrote that he thought America had already reached the point in which violence is never necessary as a means of political protest.

No one’s ideas should be shut out or shut down because of mob violence. Our people should not have to risk life and limb, or the destruction of property or property rights, because they want to speak or hear others speak.

But since it has evidently become popular again to use violence as protest (there seem to be plenty of examples of late), Talent says it’s time for government to get involved.

The government is not helpless to protect this right. Controlling the mob is something that governments have known how to do for millennia. In fact, if “controlling the mob” were a class in political science, it would be a survey course, part of “Government 101.”

And if local governments are unable or unwilling to protect the right to free speech on campus from the mob, state authorities should intervene and bring the full force of state law, and state resources, to bear.

In short, what is needed here is a classic exercise of the government’s police power, which belongs in the first instance to state government. So let’s not talk about the Justice Department intervening in this area. This is a job for the governments of the several states; in fact, it is an opportunity for the states to show that freedoms still matter, and that the law is still capable of defending them.

Talent offered a very legislative approach to coming up with rules about disorderly disruptions of speech on college campuses, including mandatory jail time for a first-time misdemeanor conviction, or a felony conviction for second offenses.

He also called for laws that require “automatic termination of any state employee, or expulsion of any student at a state university, convicted of violating the new statute, even if the conviction is a misdemeanor and regardless of whether the state employee has tenure or other civil-service protections.”

Talent also listed law enforcement training, special prosecutors, and other solutions in his piece.

Some of these solutions may seem severe, but Talent’s point, like Murray’s, is that failure to do anything is allowing the problem to grow.

Every time one of these episodes occurs, dozens of columns are written decrying them. That is good as far as it goes, but at a certain point it looks like hand wringing. The right response to speech is more speech, but the right response to violence against speech is not just verbal condemnation but strong laws, carefully written and stringently enforced.

We are not defenseless in the face of violence. This isn’t 1929, and America isn’t the Weimar Republic. Nor should our people have to rely on organizing their own self-defense. We don’t need anarchists and vigilantes fighting it out on the grounds of our universities. But that’s what we’re going to get, unless those who have the authority, and therefore the responsibility, take firm action to protect their people in the exercise of their rights.

Political speech is one thing, and shouldn’t be shut down, but violence is entirely another matter. Are new laws needed to curtail this particular type of violence?

Intelligence on Wikileaks: Why Can’t America Trust Its Own Spies?

Slightly out of TPOH’s wheelhouse, but interesting nonetheless. More of America’s spycraft ended up as a document dump on Wikileaks this week. Why can’t the intelligence community keep a secret?

Seems to be a historical problem. From Gary J. Schmitt:

Although the WikiLeaks publication of what it has dubbed the CIA’s “hacking arsenal” and Edward Snowden’s pilfering and release of documents about NSA’s cyber collection capabilities are the most recent examples, the problem itself is decades old. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, low-level functionaries at NSA were able to provide the Soviets with information on that agency’s technological prowess in reading Kremlin and Red Army communications. In the ’70s, a young TRW contractor in California handed the KGB station in Mexico City critical data on an American satellite system capable of listening in on various Soviet radio and microwave networks. Next to go was a handbook on America’s most advanced photographic spy satellite, the KH-11, provided to Soviet intelligence by a low level CIA employee. Then in the 1980s, an NSA employee gave away a top secret Navy program that involved tapping underwater Soviet communication cables.

Such losses in technical collection are important precisely because human collection — spying — is neither for the faint of heart nor for anyone looking for a high percentage of success. It can pay off in big ways, but it’s unlikely to fill the gaps in information American policymakers want when it comes to the most difficult and sophisticated targets.

Spying is a job. But it’s a job greatly enhanced by technology. Where HUMINT (human intelligence) fails, electronic intelligence takes over.

However, whereas HUMINT can be kept under wraps, for the most part, because so few people are involved in the planning and execution, electronic intelligence is very difficult to manage secretively, even among members allegedly on the same team.

Given the vagaries and uncertainties of the human spy business, employing American technical ingenuity has always been a way of trying to stay ahead of opposition when it comes to intelligence collection. But, unlike human collection operations, where the number of people “in the know” can be limited, technical collection efforts often require a large number of personnel to develop, test, and then put into operation. And a lot of that work, especially once a program is up and running, will be managed by a team, sustained by technicians, and, for reasons of cost and expertise, involve contractors. That’s a lot of hands in the pot; not all will be taking home large paychecks, but all know they are handling some of the country’s most valuable gems.

Compounding the difficulty of keeping these newest collection systems secret is the fact that the explosion in information-age systems, which provide the target-rich environment for U.S. intelligence to operate in, are the same systems the community uses to exploit, collate, and share information. Closed networks are obviously safer than open networks, but they are still networks with vast amounts of data potentially available.

And, finally, there is no getting around the fact that globalization, both politically and technically, has created an environment in which no small number of individuals believe that the “internet of things” should be free of the kind of state-centric competition that justifies and guides the work of intelligence agencies. Proud of their cyber savvy but perhaps relegated to mundane technical tasks, it’s not difficult to imagine just one or two individuals deciding to take things in their own hands and expose capabilities that should remain hidden.

You can question the value of spying as a whole. Does it protect or save lives? Is it the right thing to do? Why can’t countries and leaders just be more forthcoming about their national aspirations? Etc. But intelligence gathering is a fact of life. Countries spy on other countries merely because it is human nature (and thus leadership’s nature) to withhold or even deceive when a potential outcome may harm one’s personal interest (Plus, it also makes for some of the best novels ever written. And is anyone watching Homeland? Art imitates life!).

But you gotta ask yourself — are technological advancements hurting security? And why is the spy community so very bad at cultivating trustworthy employees? It may just be the nature of the business, in which case, what more can be done to keep the world safe?

The Dignity Deficit: Reclaiming Americans’ Sense of Purpose

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt on Arthur Brooks’ piece on the “Dignity Deficit” as published in Foreign Affairs magazine. The full text is available for subscribers:

“He who establishes conventional wisdom owns history,” a historian once told me.

So it’s no surprise that ever since last year’s extraordinary U.S. presidential election, all sides have been bitterly fighting over what happened—and why. The explanations for Donald Trump’s surprise victory have varied widely. But one factor that clearly played an important role was the alienation and disaffection of less educated white voters in rural and exurban areas. Trump may have proved to be a uniquely popular tribune for this constituency. But the anger he tapped into has been building for half a century.

The roots of that anger lie all the way back in the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson launched his so-called War on Poverty. Only by properly understanding the mistakes made in that war—mistakes that have deprived generations of Americans of their fundamental sense of dignity—can the country’s current leaders and political parties hope to start fixing them. And only once they properly understand the problem will they be able to craft the kind of cultural and political agenda that can heal the country’s wounds.

All the way with LBJ

On April 24, 1964, Johnson paid a highly publicized visit to Inez, the biggest town in eastern Kentucky’s Martin County. Inez was the heart of coal country, the most typical Appalachian town that Johnson’s advisers could find. In the 1960s, “typical Appalachian” meant a place suffering from crippling despair. The citizens of Inez were poor. Many of them were unemployed, and their children were malnourished. Johnson had chosen Inez to illustrate that dire poverty was not just a Third World phenomenon: it existed right here at home, and not just in cities but in rural America as well. But he also came to Inez to announce that this tragedy could be remedied.

In one famous photo op, Johnson stopped by the home of a man named Tom Fletcher, an unemployed 38-year-old father of eight. The president climbed up onto Fletcher’s porch, squatted down next to him, and listened to the man’s story. According to a 2013 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader by John Cheves, “Fletcher never finished elementary school and could not really read. The places where he had labored—coal mines, sawmills—were closed. He struggled to support his wife and eight children.” The president used Fletcher’s struggles as a springboard for his own announcement. “I have called for a national war on poverty,” he declared. “Our objective: total victory.” Years later, Cheves reports, Johnson still remembered the encounter. “My determination,” he wrote in his memoirs, “was reinforced that day to use the powers of the presidency to the fullest extent that I could, to persuade America to help all its Tom Fletchers.” Over the next five decades, the federal government would spend more than $20 trillion trying to achieve Johnson’s dream with social welfare programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

Tom Fletcher personally received some of this largess: he got welfare benefits and found employment through government make-work initiatives, laboring on crews that cleared brush and picked up trash from roadsides. But he never held down a steady job, Cheves recounts, and although his standard of living rose along with the national average, he never made it out of poverty. By 1969, he no longer worked at all and relied instead on disability checks and other public assistance. After his first wife died, he married a woman four decades his junior, with whom he had two more children. In a cruel final twist, Fletcher’s second wife murdered one of those children (and tried to kill the other) as part of a scam to collect on their burial insurance. In 2004, with his wife still in prison, Fletcher died, never having gotten much closer to the American dream than he was when Johnson climbed onto his porch.

Visit the area today, and despite Johnson’s promises, you’ll see that idleness and depression still hang heavy in the air. In Inez, as across the country, the welfare state and modern technology have made joblessness and poverty less materially painful. Homes have electricity and running water. Refrigerators, personal computers, and cars are ubiquitous. Economic growth and innovation have delivered material abundance, and some of the War on Poverty’s programs have proved effective at bolstering struggling families.

But even though poverty has become less materially miserable, it is no less common. In Martin County, just 27 percent of adults are in the labor force. Welfare is more common than work. Caloric deficits have been replaced by rampant obesity. Meanwhile, things aren’t much better on the national level. In 1966, when the War on Poverty programs were finally up and running, the national poverty rate stood at 14.7 percent. By 2014, it stood at 14.8 percent. In other words, the United States had spent trillions of dollars but seen no reduction in the poverty rate.

Of course, the poverty rate doesn’t take into account rising consumption standards or a variety of government transfers, from food stamps to public housing to cash assistance. But the calculations that determine it do include most of the income that Americans earn for themselves. So although the rate is a poor tool for gauging material conditions, it does capture trends in Americans’ ability to earn success. And what it shows is that progress on that front has been scant.

The War on Poverty has offered plenty of economic analgesics but few cures. This is a failure not just in the eyes of conservative critics but also according to the standard set by the man who launched the campaign. On signing the Appalachian Regional Development Act in March 1965, Johnson argued that the United States should aspire to more than simply sustaining people in poverty. “This nation,” he declared, “is committed not only to human freedom but also to human dignity and decency.” R. Sargent Shriver, a key Johnson adviser on the War on Poverty, put it even more explicitly: “We’re investing in human dignity, not doles.”

I need you to need me

At its core, to be treated with dignity means being considered worthy of respect. Certain situations bring out a clear, conscious sense of our own dignity: when we receive praise or promotions at work, when we see our children succeed, when we see a volunteer effort pay off and change our neighborhood for the better. We feel a sense of dignity when our own lives produce value for ourselves and others. Put simply, to feel dignified, one must be needed by others.

The War on Poverty did not fail because it did not raise the daily caloric consumption of Tom Fletcher (it did). It failed because it did nothing significant to make him and Americans like him needed and thus help them gain a sense of dignity. It also got the U.S. government into the business of treating people left behind by economic change as liabilities to manage rather than as human assets to develop.

The dignity deficit that has resulted is particularly acute among working-class men, most of whom are white and live in rural and exurban parts of the United States. In his recent book Men Without Work, the political economist (and American Enterprise Institute scholar) Nicholas Eberstadt shows that the percentage of working-age men outside the labor force—that is, neither working nor seeking work—has more than tripled since 1965, rising from 3.3 percent to 11.6 percent. And men without a high school degree are more than twice as likely to be part of this “un-working” class.

These men are withdrawing not only from the labor force but from other social institutions as well. Two-thirds of them are unmarried. And Eberstadt found that despite their lack of work obligations, these men are no more likely to spend time volunteering, participating in religious activities, or caring for family members than men with full-time employment.

That sort of isolation and idleness correlates with severe pathologies in rural areas where drug abuse and suicide have become far more common in recent years. In 2015, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published an extraordinary paper by the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton. They found that, in contrast to the favorable long-term trends in life expectancy across the rest of the developed world, the mortality rate among middle-aged white Americans without any college education has actually risen since 1999. The main reasons? Since that year, among that population, fatalities due to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis have increased by 46 percent, fatalities from suicide have risen by 78 percent, and fatalities due to drug and alcohol poisoning are up by a shocking 323 percent.

Unsurprisingly, those left behind hold a distinctly gloomy view of the future. According to a survey conducted last year by the Kaiser Family Foundation and CNN, fewer than one-quarter of white Americans without a college degree expect their children to enjoy a better standard of living in the future than they themselves have today, and half of them believe things will be even worse. (In contrast, according to the same survey, other historically marginalized communities have retained a more old-school American sense of optimism: 36 percent of working-class blacks and 48 percent of working-class Hispanics anticipate a better life for their children.)

To be sure, rural and exurban whites who possess few in-demand skills and little education are hardly the only vulnerable group in the United States today. But the evidence is undeniable that this community is suffering an acute dignity crisis. Left behind every bit as much as the urban poor, millions of working-class whites have languished while elites have largely ignored them or treated them with contempt.

Americans from all walks of life voted for Trump. But exit polls unambiguously showed that a crucial central pillar of his support came from modern-day Tom Fletchers: Trump beat Hillary Clinton among white men without a college degree by nearly 50 percentage points. Tellingly, among counties where Trump outperformed the 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney, the margins were greatest in those places with the highest rates of drug use, alcohol abuse, and suicide.

Many analysts and policy experts saw Trump’s campaign as a series of sideshows and unserious proposals that, even if implemented, would not actually improve things for his working-class supporters. For example, academic research clearly shows that trade protectionism—a major theme of Trump’s campaign—is more likely to destroy jobs than create them. Yet Trump won regardless, because he was the first major-party nominee in decades who even appeared to care about the dignity of these working-class voters whose lives are falling apart.

Welfare to work

If its goal is to instill dignity, the U.S. government does not need to find more innovative ways to “help” people; rather, it must find better ways to make them more necessary. The question for leaders, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, must be, Does this policy make people more or less needed—in their families, their communities, and the broader economy?

Read more here.


March 4 Is National Grammar Day: Don’t Mess Them Up

In English literary custom, the rules of the English road leave many scratching their heads. That’s probably why there’s a National Grammar Day, which happens to be on Saturday.

English is considered a very difficult language for some who learn it as a second language (or even as a first), and it’s no surprise. Here are some confusing English lessons:

  • “Homonyms” are words that sound alike but have different meanings.  (ex. “lie” – to rest one’s body, and “lie” – to not tell the truth).
  • “Homophones” are two or more words that sound alike but have different meanings and also different spellings (ex. “led” – to have been in charge of an event, like a meeting; and “lead” – a metal).
  • “Homographs” are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings (ex. “fair” – the county kind, and “fair” – equal treatment).
  • “Heteronyms” are words that are spelled the same, but don’t sound alike and have different meetings (ex. “tear” – a rip, or “tear” – liquid falling from your eye).

What’s the difference between a homonym and a homograph? Answer: Whether you get a headache thinking about it (ba-dum-tsss – an onomatopoeia).

ba dum tss photo: Ba dum tss Bateria_zps300f38d1.gif

America spends a fortune trying to educate its citizens, but even someone as lofty and educated as the president gets it wrong from time to time. President Trump wrote “Hearby” rather than “Hereby” on a tweet on Friday before correcting it.

020217 Potus hearby

Yet for all the harassment handed down when a high-profile person makes an error, social media memes earn extra guffaws when they include common grammar mistakes while the creator tries to project how smart he is.

Sometimes, they are uproarious. Here’s one. Can you spot the error?

030317 Grammar meme

IT’S one of Mark Perry’s biggest peeves. Perry, whose Carpe Diem blog regularly serves as a keeper of the language, points out several other fun grammatical errors in celebration of National Grammar Day.

Whether you’re perfect or not, enjoy Perry’s list on National Grammar Day, and if you need help, you can call the Grammar Hotline at University of West Florida.

Do you have a meme with an obvious error in English? Share it (or not) and let us all learn from our mistakes.

Shock Story: Exploiting the Homeless Addicted for Profit

The Washington City Paper is reporting a completely distressing story entitled “Eviction Companies Pay  the Homeless Illegally Low Wages to Put People on the Street.”

The headline pretty much says it all, but some of the details are worth noting. First, the homeless are coming to a local shelter in D.C. each day hoping to be picked up as day laborers. Second, the men (and occasional) women homeless people are generally dealing with addiction of some kind. Third, the eviction companies have already been sued about paying below minimum wage to these day workers. Fourth, while the payments are extremely low, the companies pick homeless addicts and occasionally supplement the wages with alcohol. This effectively drives the homeless addicts to get another fix, which then leads them back to the miserable work arrangement so they can get just enough money to get another boost.

Here’s part of the report:

A man who works for both Street Sense and on the trucks, who is homeless and did not want to be named for fear of retribution from the eviction companies, says he first got work on an East Coast Express Eviction truck right after he moved to D.C. several years ago. He had heard through the grapevine that employment was available outside S.O.M.E. and was surprised to find that he did not need to fill out paperwork. When he first got on the truck, he says he saw a cooler of beer, and thought, “I’m in the right place.” It seemed like a party—and it was—drinking in a van with other guys before work. But he soon learned that whatever he drank would be deducted from his pay at the end of the day. 

And he realized why the men were getting beers. “We have seen babies crying, grandmas. … You get a beer, so you don’t have any emotion,” he says in an interview at the Street Sense offices. “You do some kind of drugs, so then you don’t care, so you leave them on the curb over there crying, and go on to next one.” He says the evictees don’t get any information either—no shelter listing or hotline number.

The man, who struggles with a drinking problem, also says it was no mystery to him why eviction companies continued to show up outside S.O.M.E. even after the lawsuit. “Instead of choosing someone professional who says, ‘I can’t do it,’ they choose people who don’t have any feelings anymore, and have given up on life,” he says. “Because they will get on this truck for $7.”

As poverty and homelessness research Kevin Corinth states, this is NOT OKAY. But Corinth’s reasons aren’t exactly what you may expect. For one, he’s not arguing about whether the minimum wage is “fair.” Nor does Corinth have a problem with eviction in principle. Even as a researcher on homelessness, he acknowledges that landlords have a legal and moral right to be paid rent for providing living accommodations. As he points out, “Stopping all evictions would mean that landlords would no longer be willing to accept the tenants who are at greater risk of defaulting on their rental obligations in the first place.”

Corinth also doesn’t have an issue with the person who would take the job of evicting a family because while difficult to do, a professional and empathetic worker can “help preserve a sense of humanity in the face of horrible circumstances.”

For Corinth, his issue is with eviction companies that would exploit homeless people with addiction to keep them coming back to the illegally low-wage job.

Rather than being encouraged to serve with professionalism and empathy, they are encouraged to numb their humanity with alcohol.

And that means that families at their lowest point are dehumanized as well. Their personal belongings are handled by crews of men who have shut down. Meanwhile, some workers reportedly engage in theft to supplement their wages. As ACLU attorney Scott Michelman puts it, “[l]osing your home shouldn’t mean losing your dignity.”

Corinth says there are solutions to the mistreatment of homeless addicted aside from taking these companies to court. They include relaxing regulations on how many workers must be used to clear out a house, which leads eviction companies to look for cheap, unqualified work crews.

Another solution could be to prevent evictions from happening in the first place. Recent research has shown that offering families who are at risk of homelessness modest one-time payment leads to sharp reductions in entries into homeless shelters (and presumably reduces evictions as well).

The research Corinth references is here. It notes that one funding experiment found that giving someone who is about to become homeless a single cash infusion, averaging about $1000, could delay homelessness for two years. The research was done by offering one-time cash payments “to people on the brink of homelessness who can demonstrate that they will be able to pay rent by themselves in the future, but who have been afflicted by some nonrecurring crisis, such as a medical bill.” The team found those who received the cash infusion were 88 percent less likely to become homeless after three months and 76 percent less likely after six months. That’s a worthwhile investment when the overall cost of homelessness to society is much more expensive.

Read Corinth’s commentary here.

Suffering in ‘Real America’: The 21st Century Experience

Turns out America’s elite — the “talking and deciding classes,” as demographer Nick Eberstadt calls it — didn’t realize until Donald Trump was elected president that things weren’t going as swimmingly for Americans in the heartland as for Americans in the “bubble.”

The wake-up call, however, has been in the making for more than 15 years. “Real America” has been suffering through most of the 21st century, and the start of the difficulties can be traced to “a grim historical milestone of sorts.”

Eberstadt, who studies poverty trends, economic development, and political economy, says that the year 2000 is when the “Great American Escalator, which had lifted successive generations of Americans to ever higher standards of living and levels of social well-being, broke down around then — and broke down very badly.”

Since 2000, America has been experiencing “an ominous and growing divergence between three trends that should ordinarily move in tandem: wealth, output, and employment. Depending upon which of these three indicators you choose, America looks to be heading up, down, or more or less nowhere.”

In terms of wealth, things look good. The estimated net worth of American households and nonprofit institutions more than doubled between early 2000 and late 2016, from $44 trillion to $90 trillion.

Although that wealth is not evenly distributed, it is still a fantastic sum of money—an average of over a million dollars for every notional family of four. This upsurge of wealth took place despite the crash of 2008 — indeed, private wealth holdings are over $20 trillion higher now than they were at their pre-crash apogee. The value of American real-estate assets is near or at all-time highs, and America’s businesses appear to be thriving. Even before the “Trump rally” of late 2016 and early 2017, U.S. equities markets were hitting new highs — and since stock prices are strongly shaped by expectations of future profits, investors evidently are counting on the continuation of the current happy days for U.S. asset holders for some time to come.

That’s the good news. But looking at the economy from a different lens casts quite a stormy picture. The economic crash of 2008 was pretty awful, granted, but the recovery has been super slow, with the total value of the U.S. economy in 2016 being just 12 percent higher than it was in 2007.  However, the slowdown didn’t start in 2008.

Between late 2000 and late 2007, per capita GDP growth averaged less than 1.5 percent per annum. That compares with the nation’s long-term postwar 1948–2000 per capita growth rate of almost 2.3 percent, which in turn can be compared to the ‘snap back” tempo of 1.1 percent per annum since per capita GDP bottomed out in 2009. Between 2000 and 2016, per capita growth in America has averaged less than 1 percent a year. To state it plainly: With postwar, pre-21st-century rates for the years 20002016, per capita GDP in America would be more than 20 percent higher than it is today.

What is the cause of this middling performance? Economists can’t agree … except on one thing: The U.S. economy’s potential is declining — meaning that Americans should not expect growth to exceed 1 percent per year if things stay as they are.

Thirdly, Eberstadt notes that the jobs situation is shockingly pathetic. The labor force participation rate — the measure of what percentage of Americans age 20 and older are working — took a huge dive in 2007, and hasn’t come back up yet to where it was.

But again, it didn’t start there. U.S. adult work rates never recovered entirely from the recession of 2001, Eberstadt writes, even as America’s elite cite the oft-quoted “civilian unemployment rate,” to claim a rosy picture. In December 2016 the unemployment rate stood at 4.7 percent, about the same as in 1965, at a time of full employment. But as most people know by now, that rate doesn’t include people who “aren’t looking for work.” Add back in that group, and a much, much higher number is revealed of people out of work.

To put things another way: If our nation’s work rate today were back up to its start-of-the-century highs, well over 10 million more Americans would currently have paying jobs.

There is no way to sugarcoat these awful numbers. They are not a statistical artifact that can be explained away by population aging, or by increased educational enrollment for adult students, or by any other genuine change in contemporary American society. The plain fact is that 21st-century America has witnessed a dreadful collapse of work.

So how do we get to the point where we have more wealth, but slower growth and less work?

This is where Eberstadt starts to pull together some painful truths which many Americans, not just the elite, refuse to see, much less admit. These are the “nonmaterial” issues, specifically old-school notions of family breakdown and the decline of faith, but more recent and much graver concerns about society overall. They include a decline in general health, a drop in life expectancy, an increase in drug dependence, and an overwhelming number of ex-felons who have been precluded from the American Dream.

To start, the opioid epidemic has gone “mainstream” in America, with more people dying of drug overdoses since 2013 than from guns or traffic accidents. Eberstadt points to research by Alan Krueger, former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, who found that “nearly half of all prime working-age male labor-force dropouts — an army now totaling roughly 7 million men — currently take pain medication on a daily basis.”

And whose paying for all these drugs? The federal government. The Census Bureau’s SIPP survey (Survey of Income and Program Participation), reports that “as of 2013, over one-fifth (21 percent) of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age were Medicaid beneficiaries. For prime-age people not in the labor force, the share was over half (53 percent).”

By the way: Of the entire un-working prime-age male Anglo population in 2013, nearly three-fifths (57 percent) were reportedly collecting disability benefits from one or more government disability program in 2013. Disability checks and means-tested benefits cannot support a lavish lifestyle. But they can offer a permanent alternative to paid employment, and for growing numbers of American men, they do. The rise of these programs has coincided with the death of work for larger and larger numbers of American men not yet of retirement age. We cannot say that these programs caused the death of work for millions upon millions of younger men: What is incontrovertible, however, is that they have financed it—just as Medicaid inadvertently helped finance America’s immense and increasing appetite for opioids in our new century.

“In 21st-century America,” Eberstadt concludes, “‘dependence on government’ has thus come to take on an entirely new meaning.”

Lastly, Eberstadt notes that about 90 percent of felons are free and living in American society today. He estimates that to be about 17 million men — or about one of every eight adult males living in the U.S.

Noting that this population is “roughly twice the total size of our illegal-immigrant population and an adult population larger than that in any state but California,” it begs the question, what is their opportunity in America?

Answer: Not good.

We might guess that their odds in the real America are not all that favorable. And when we consider some of the other trends we have already mentioned—employment, health, addiction, welfare dependence—we can see the emergence of a malign new nationwide undertow, pulling downward against social mobility.

Why does he guess that? Casual observation seems to work, but also falling numbers for geographic mobility, a drop in the churn rate of jobs (meaning the ability to move up the economic ladder as resumes are built), and the decline in the chance of achieving more than one’s parents did.

Where does this all lead? To a drop in social mobility — the ability to survive on merit and hard work, which is the heart of the America Dream.

Eberstadt notes that while America’s elite love to discuss “economic inequality,” that’s irrelevant to a lot of Americans. What does matter is the “reality of economic insecurity.” And if it took the 2016 election to wake up the wealthholders, well, then, the wake-up call is at least a start.

How the ‘Fight for $15’ Movement Can Undermine Those It Aims to Help

What’s a better solution — higher wages at the cost of jobs, or more jobs with lower wages? If you’re interested in seeing more people working, the latter is the better option. But it’s not just about the number of jobs. That’s why several economists question the logic of the “Fight for $15” movement or other minimum wage arguments.

“While boosting wages for workers is critical, helping workers retain their jobs and stay on the income ladder makes more sense for the economy.”

That’s what economist Aparna Mathur says in a recent article on wage hikes. Even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour could result in the loss of 500,000 jobs.

Mathur notes that several localities aim to increase the minimum wage in the next few years, and warns that the people who are going to feel the impact are the very workers who would benefit from not being paid a mandated minimum wage.

Most policies of any kind involve trade-offs, and minimum wage hikes are no exception. When the government mandates that employers must pay minimum wage workers more — i.e., the hike is not because of any increases in productivity or skills — employers will strategize about how to recover the added costs. Can they pass them on to their customers? Should they invest more in automation? And of course: Should they decrease the size of the work force?

Mathur acknowledges disagreement in the economic models on the impact of minimum wages. It’s more than just the number of jobs available, the minimum wage is a variable with major reverberations to the overall economy and how work is conducted.

She points to the results of a major recent study by New York University. The study found that raising the minimum wage had a small impact on the overall drop in hiring, but a much greater impact on the amount of work each worker is doing.

Hours worked fell sharply, with reductions as large as 3% across all workers and 25% for the lowest-wage jobs. Presumably, the study’s authors wrote, some of the reduction was caused by employers economizing on labor. However, they also wrote, hours worked also likely fell because employers hired more productive workers.

And what’s the outcome for managing less productive employees? Automation, of course. The dreaded “robots.”

Many stores and fast-food restaurants are already planning this transformation. For example, McDonald’s plans to move away from cashiers to touch-screen kiosks nationwide and to allow mobile ordering rather than pay an employee $15 an hour to bag French fries. Wendy’s is considering a similar move. Walmart already is automating many positions that employ hourly workers.

Mathur says if government policy really wants to help low-wage workers, it could try more creative approaches, like the Earned Income Tax Credit program.

A targeted program with no risk of job loss, the EITC has been proven to lift people out of poverty, and it is the best way to boost incomes for poor households.”

At the same time, encouraging upgraded skills for workers through greater investments in on-the-job training and paid apprenticeship programs for younger workers would allow for greater upward mobility even for workers starting off in minimum wage jobs.

While boosting wages for workers is critical, helping workers retain their jobs and enabling them to move up the income ladder is even better. The risk of job loss that comes with a minimum wage hike threatens the ability of these workers to get on that ladder. States that are on track to approve such an increase should proceed with tremendous caution.

Wage Hikes: Proceed with Caution

Michael Novak’s Legacy: Welfare to Work Is Social Justice

“America’s system of democratic capitalism represents a fusion of our political, economic, and moral-cultural systems. No facet can exist apart from the others.”

This was the central thesis in the book “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism,” written by Michael Novak and published in 1982. It’s not the only book he wrote on the subject.

Novak died Friday at age 83 and he is remembered as a titan of intellectual thought. He is the progenitor of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law, which originated from conclusions laid out in the 1987 proposal for A New Consensus on Family and Welfare that Novak presented to President Ronald Reagan. It was the first major policy statement to suggest a work requirement in exchange for welfare aid.

That policy took shape among 35 other books that Novak wrote during his life.  Social justice was the general theme in his life’s work, and it is an outlook that helps guide new policy, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‘s latest attempt to encourage a work requirement in exchange for government assistance. Opponents of the idea try to cast it as cruel, but from Novak’s point of view, work is dignity, and the state’s support of the individual without any incentive to engage with larger society is the truly socially unjust act.

As Flavio Felice described it in a 2016 essay, Novak’s notion of social justice meant everyone is a contributor to the greater good, if only for the benefit of one’s personal growth.

According to Novak, “social justice” rather expresses the decisive rejection of individualistic sentiment, on the basis of a social anthropology in which the main actor is the “person,” which he understands as “individual and community”—the ontological, epistemological, and moral center of social action. In this way, in free societies, citizens are inclined to use their own tendencies to associate, to exercise new responsibilities, and to move towards social ends. In this sense, “social justice” is the particular form taken today of the ancient virtus of justice. Therefore, it does not necessarily involve the strengthening of the presence of the State, but rather, the development of civil society, in keeping with Hayek. In the words of Luigi Sturzo, a beloved author of the same Novak: “Nothing therefore exists of human activity, which, though originally individual has no associated value; nothing among men can come into being, which does not mention any form of association.”

Similarly, the most dangerous enemies of “social justice” appear the same as denounced by Sturzo on his return to Italy from his twenty years in  exile (1924-1946), which he identified as the “evil beasts of democracy:” “statism, particracy, waste of public money.” In practice, for “statism” we mean the false belief that, by entrusting to “the State activities for productive purposes, connected to a restrictionism that stifles the freedom of private initiative,” we can “make amends for inequalities” (Sturzo). Such a degeneration in the task of the State, which denies freedom, favors “particracy”, that is, the irresponsible interference of political parties and trade unions in legislative functions, which negates equality. A corollary of the first two “evil beasts” is the “waste of public money” which would violate justice.

That’s a heavy dose of philosophy, but as Felice summarized, “The work of Novak and (cowriter Paul) Adams puts us on guard against easy shortcuts, which are so often accompanied by rhetorical proclamations and authoritarian pretensions unsuited to a society of free men.”

Novak was a counselor of popes and politicians whose gentle and warm personality made him a beloved figure to many. His legacy lives on in good social policy.

Confessions of a Catholic Convert to Capitalism

Care for the vulnerable is not unique to one religion. All major philosophies share this goal, religious or otherwise. But how does religious belief intersect with capitalism?

Many goodhearted people mistrust markets. They believe that free enterprise worsens inequality and encourages greed and materialism. Many worry that capitalism sows division and economic exclusion. These fears are reasonable.

But rejecting free enterprise is the wrong approach. In a recent essay in American Magazine, I wrote that free enterprise is not inherently moral or immoral. However, it is humanity’s best tool for alleviating mass-scale poverty. It empowers billions of people to build happier lives filled with work and security.

I know you care about these big questions as much as I do.

Here are a couple excerpts from the article about my journey toward Catholicism and the free market.

As a Seattle-born bohemian living in Barcelona, my political views were predictably progressive. But my thinking began to change in my late 20s upon returning to college, which I did by correspondence while working as a musician.

I fancied myself a social justice warrior and regarded capitalism with a moderately hostile predisposition. I ‘knew’ what everyone knows: Capitalism is great for the rich but terrible for the poor. The natural progression of free enterprise is that the rich and powerful accumulate more and more of the world’s resources while the poor are exploited. That state of affairs might be fine for a follower of Ayn Rand, but it is hardly consistent for a devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Right? …

As I taught about the anti-poverty properties of free enterprise, a common objection—especially among my Catholic friends—remained. ‘Okay,’ many said, ‘I see that markets have pulled up the living standards of billions, and that’s great. But they haven’t pulled people up equally. In fact, capitalism has created more inequality than we have ever seen.’ This spawns ancillary concerns about the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor, and the rising inequality of opportunity. My challenge as a Catholic economist was to answer these questions in good faith.

The evidence on income inequality seems to be all around us and irrefutable, particularly in the United States. From 1979 to today, the income won by the ‘top 1 percent’ of Americans has surged by roughly 200 percent, while the bottom four-fifths have seen income growth of only about 40 percent. Today, the share of income that flows to the top 10 percent is higher than it has been since at any point since 1928, the peak of the bubble in the Roaring Twenties. And our lackluster ‘recovery’ following the Great Recession likely amplified these long-run trends. Emmanuel Saez, a University of California economist, estimates that 95 percent of all the country’s income growth from 2009 to 2012 wound up in the hands of the top 1 percent.

Taking this evidence on its face, it is easy to conclude that our capitalist system is hopelessly flawed. Digging deeper, however, produces a more textured story.

Please read the essay and let me know what you think on Twitter @arthurbrooks. If you enjoy it, pass it along to a friend or colleague — especially someone who is skeptical of capitalism.

Vast Array of Government Assistance Programs Ready for a Reboot

Reducing poverty is one of the biggest issues that TPOH discusses, with good reason. The expression that “a rising tide lifts all boats” is especially true in a liberal democratic society that values a free market. However, despite a vast array of government assistance programs, it doesn’t seem the tide is lifting the poverty blues.

For many Americans, the elusive path to success has not been found, and the promise of upward mobility has not felt like a reality for many families stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder. Various polls show that efforts to reduce poverty and expand opportunity are lacking. In an AEI/Los Angeles Times poll, 70 percent of Americans said they believe the conditions for the poor had either stayed the same or gotten worse over the past 10 or 15 years. A study by Pew Charitable Trusts found that 43 percent of Americans born in the bottom fifth of the income distribution remain there as adults.

Sadly, more than 20 percent of children lived in poverty in 2014.

Of course, the poverty rate is a flawed metric because it does not consider a significant amount of government-provided assistance that raises families’ incomes above the poverty line. On top of that, people in poverty are living with less material hardship than 50 years ago. The poor today are better off materially than in the past.

But as Robert Doar, the former commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, the city’s agency for managing 12 public assistance programs, notes in the introduction to a new volume of essays on reducing poverty in America, government assistance has helped people live with more stuff, but government has not created the outlets to get people working or earning on their own.

This is the cause of that swirling dissatisfaction even among those recipients of government benefits. More than half of people living in poverty surveyed in The AEI/Los Angeles Times poll said that the main purpose of welfare programs should be to help the poor get on their own two feet.

Able-bodied adults need to work because steady employment almost always leads a family out of poverty, provides opportunities for upward mobility, and is a source of dignity and purpose. Children are best off when they are raised by two committed parents, which is most likely to happen in marriage. And society must maintain a safety net that reduces material hardship, ensures that children can be raised in healthy environments, and rewards individuals who work.

The volume of essays offers ways to turn good ideas into legislative reform. The volume covers poverty assistance programs from housing and child support to food stamps and welfare. Doar acknowledges that none of the authors present all the answers, but he notes that the analyses and proposals can help move America toward finally living up to the goals of the War on Poverty, a war that needs to be won if everyone is going to do better.

Of course, not all of the problems facing low-income Americans will be solved by federal antipoverty programs. But political reality dictates that these major programs are not going to disappear anytime soon, meaning leaders who are serious about helping poor Americans should learn how they work and develop an agenda for improving them. Moreover, many of these assistance programs do reduce poverty and, with thoughtful reform, could be even more effective in helping struggling Americans move up. This volume intends to help policymakers understand how each program functions—its strengths, as well as its weaknesses.

Download the book in PDF form.

New Bill Encourages Private Sector to Help Struggling Communities

Turns out even lawmakers on Capitol Hill think  it’s not the government but the private sector that must make the needed investments to turn around struggling areas of the country. So a group of lawmakers has come up with a tax proposal to do just that.

The Republican-led Congress is getting ready to debate the Investing in Opportunity Act, but get a load of this: it’s a bipartisan bill! Whaa? Unheard of, it would seem, but a real-live attempt at creating some good.

The proposal is the work of Democratic Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio in the House of Representatives. Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., are shepherding the effort through the Senate. The bill is aimed at spurring private-sector investment in “distressed communities,” combating both poverty and the lingering gaps in economic recovery.

Those communities account for 50 million Americans that are below average thresholds on education, unemployment, poverty, median income ratio, and housing availability.

As Roll Call explains:

The legislation would allow investors to defer paying capital gains taxes if they reinvest in “opportunity funds” that would be targeted at “opportunity zones,” or a low-income communities designated by state governments.

“There’s really no direct federal involvement other than we defer capital gains,” Tiberi, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told a small group of reporters gathered in Scott’s office Thursday. “There is a cost because of the deferral of capital gains, but ultimately, those will be paid.”

The fact that the bill allows state governments to direct the funds and does not involve additional federal funds being sent to these communities should make it attractive to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the bill’s proponents said. …

The lawmakers said encouraging private-sector investment in those communities could have a multiplying effect. The addition of a new grocery store, Tiberi explained, would create more jobs and attract more people to the neighborhood.

This is not the first go-round of the bill. It was introduced in the last Congress, but because it dealt with taxes, it was dead on arrival. Now that President Trump has made tax reform and underserved communities two of his priorities, the GOP is looking at “budget reconciliation,” or bypassing the 60-vote threshold required in the Senate to end debate on legislation and head to a vote. Now it’s just a matter of picking up support for the legislation.



An Engineer-Turned-Baker on What Is the True Quality of Life

Income differences are often the result of career choices and training. For instance, few would expect an engineer and a baker to make the same amount of money. But what if you’re an MIT-trained biomedical engineer who decides to open a bakery? Well, clearly, the true quality of life isn’t based on finances, but on fulfillment.

In other words, if baking means happiness, all the money in the world couldn’t make Winnette McIntosh Ambrose happy being just an engineer. That was the quality-of-life choice that led Ambrose to open Sweet Lobby Café in Washington, D.C.

“It was during my post-doc at the NIH that I had the bright idea, I could do two careers. Why don’t I open a shop while doing my post-doc?” Ambrose said of her decision. Eventually, however, “as a small business owner I had to decide where to place most of my energies.”

Ambrose said years later, she still gets questions about why she left her “prestigious” career to focus on patisserie cupcakes. Most people are curious how she would leave her breakthrough field of vision-saving technology for something less “honorable” or “needed.”

She has a quick answer. Ambrose says that whatever one’s career choice, it is the right one if it means fulfilling a higher calling.

“As human beings we’re created with one purpose, and that is to glorify God, and that is to do that in whatever sphere we might be in,” she said.

Being a business owner means working long hours, but it also means flexibility. For Ambrose, it was attractive to have a few hours in the morning to play with or take her child to school. She learned along the way, that having a business also meant she could expand quality of life for others.

“I started to consider what a business really meant. It meant a community where you can provide employment. You have the an opportunity to do something else that I love, which is to mentor young people … It’s amazing to see the transformation.”

Winnette McIntosh Ambrose’s story is part of a new documentary called “To Whom is Given,” which looks at business owners’ faith-based decisions to help the common good.

Click here to learn more about Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and “To Whom Is Given.