My blog addresses the three main economic and fiscal issues facing the U.S. today: slow growth, economic inequality and massive debt. Today I focus on inequality by referring to a recent article by the Manhattan Institute’s Scott Winship, “Up: Expanding Opportunity in America.” Mr. Winship observes that there has been little change in upward mobility over the past three generations. Furthermore the U.S. has upward earnings mobility rates quite comparable to Canada and the Scandinavian countries, which are generally regarded as having strong economies.
Nevertheless he makes several suggestions for attempting to boost upward mobility in the U.S. as follows:
- Proposal 1: Wage War on Immobility through an Opportunity, Evidence and Innovation Office and an Opportunity Advisory Commission. OEIO would fund and evaluate an array of demonstration projects at the state and local levels. It would consolidate many already existing programs and have a budget of $20 billion per year.
- Proposal 2: Experiment with Promising and Innovative Approaches to Mobility Promotion. Examples are: text-messaging strategies such as READY4K, Language ENvironment Analysis, and Converting Large Schools with High Drop-out Rates into Small Personalized Schools.
- Proposal 3. Block-Grant Means Tested Programs and Send Them Out to the States. Such a proposal has recently been made by the House Budget Committee.
- Proposal 4. Encourage Employment through Work Subsidies. This is already being done with the Earned Income Tax Credit.
- Proposal 5. Encourage Delayed and Planned Childbearing through Tax Incentives. The idea is to promote marriage by expanding the current Child Tax Credit of $1000 per child for single parents to perhaps $4000 per child for married parents, but for low-income families only.
- Proposal 6. Reform the Social Security Disability Insurance Program. The share of adults age 25 to 64 receiving SSDI benefits has tripled from 1.6% in 1970 to 5% in 2010. Reform of this program would put many able-bodied men and women back to work and save lots of money, some of which could be used to fund the above programs.
Conclusion: Increasing upward mobility is one very good way to combat economic inequality. Mr Winship provides an excellent discussion of several new as well as already established ways of accomplishing this goal.