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Moving Working Families Forward

Moving Working Families Forward: Third Way Policies That Can Work

Robert Cherry
with Robert Lerman
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 263
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  • Book Info
    Moving Working Families Forward
    Book Description:

    Even as our political system remains deeply divided between right and left, there is a clear yearning for a more moderate third way that navigates an intermediate position to address the most pressing issues facing the United States today. Moving Working Families Forward points to a Third Way between liberals and conservatives, combining a commitment to government expenditures that enhance the incomes of working families while recognizing that concerns for program effectiveness, individual responsibility, and underutilization of market incentives are justified. While conservatives often propose economic incentives to promote desirable behavior, and liberals are often aghast at these policies, Third Way advocates take a more flexible position.Robert Cherry and Robert Lerman provide the context to understand the distinctive qualities of Third Way policies, focusing on seven areas that substantially affect working families: immigration, race and gender earnings disparities, education, housing, strengthening partnerships, and federal taxes. Balancing quantitative empirical studies with voices of working class people who are affected by the policies being discussed, they argue that, in each of these areas, Third Way policies are superior compared to those proposed by the right and the left, offering an engaging and important perspective on how public policies should be changed. A timely approach, Moving Working Families Forward makes policy recommendations that are both practical and transformative.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6990-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 A Third Way Perspective
    (pp. 1-22)

    Deep conflicts over public policy persist not simply between Republicans and Democrats but also within the Democratic Party. This book highlights these intra-Democratic differences. It points to a “Third Way” between the left-liberal wing of the Democratic Party and conservatives who dominate the Republican Party. These policies are crucial given the current economic malaise that persists, and the divided Congress that must find common ground.

    With persistent near-double-digit official unemployment rates, with record levels of long-term joblessness, more must be done to aid working families. But almost from the start, the Obama administration has had to struggle with Congress. In...

  5. 2 Employment Growth: Its Strengths and Limitations
    (pp. 23-40)

    The Obama administration initially focused its efforts on limiting the economic contraction, and by the third quarter of 2009, production increased at an annual 3.5 percent rate. Production increases continued through 2010, with modest employment growth. A “rising tide lifts all boats,” so that all groups of workers are benefiting from the employment expansion. Once unemployment begins to fall rapidly,wagegrowth should improve for workers, including those at the bottom of the economic ladder. We should not, however, rely on employment growth alone to solve the problems of working families, particularly those at risk. Even at the peak of...

  6. 3 Evaluating Targeted Policies
    (pp. 41-58)

    Society cannot rely solely on macroeconomic expansions to solve problems of underemployment of at-risk populations or to lift families out of near poverty. Some targeted policies are required. Subsequent chapters will present the targeted policies that we believe can be most effective in raising the material living standards of those who could be left behind. In this chapter, some general guidelines will be developed for judging program effectiveness. Here is where conservative, market-oriented analystssometimeshave something important to offer: well-intentioned policies recommended by left liberals may not be well targeted enough and may have unintended consequences or other defects...

  7. 4 Combating Racial Earnings Disparities
    (pp. 59-77)

    When President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Civil Rights Act, he lamented that this would be the end of the Democratic Party in the South. Sure enough the Republicans developed their “Southern Strategy,” which led to their dominance not only there but also in many northern areas where they won over the so-called Reagan Democrats. At the epicenter of this transformation were the white Detroit-area families whose lives were tied to U.S. automakers.

    While these Reagan Democrats favored Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries, most voted for Barack Obama over John McCain in the general election. Indeed, except in...

  8. 5 Combating Gender Earnings Disparities
    (pp. 78-95)

    Increasingly, public concern for gender employment inequities has been muted. The disproportionate job loss among men and black workers directed energies elsewhere. Initial expectations were that the Obama administration’s stimulus funds would focus exclusively on “rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars; and the alternative-energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.”¹ While there is certainly a need for bridges, roads, schools and investment in green technology, economist Randy Albelda feared:


  9. 6 Refocusing Community College Programs
    (pp. 96-115)

    Today almost half of all college-bound students start out in community colleges, which are the overwhelming destination for high school graduates whose parents lack a college degree. Historically, their primary mission was the transfer function: preparing students to move on to four-year colleges. In the last twenty years, however, there has been a movement toward also preparing students for immediate entry into the workforce with certification programs and two-year associate degrees. This chapter will argue that community colleges should reorganize spending and hiring priorities to strengthen and expand their occupational programs. In addition, they should strengthen their work with employers...

  10. 7 Strengthening Partnerships
    (pp. 116-132)

    As we have documented, family income is strongly correlated with the structure of the modern family. Over the last fifty years, the United States and other countries have experienced sharp increases in childbearing taking place outside marriage and in child rearing taking place outside a two-parent household. In the United States, the proportion of births to unmarried couples has jumped eightfold, from 5 percent in 1960 to more than one-third in the early 1990s, reaching a new high of nearly 40 percent in 2006.¹ Of the 4.27 million children born in 2006, 1.64 million were born to unwed parents. In...

  11. 8 Revising Government Tax Policies
    (pp. 133-152)

    The proposals in this book are dominated by attempts to fit workers more easily into existing labor markets by enhancing their skills, improving the accuracy of employer assessments of those skills, and providing government benefits that supplement wages. For left liberals, this approach is too narrow, too limited, and too likely to reproduce class, race, and gender disparities. Rather than primarily changing workers, they reason, policies should require employers to change their structures and behavior independent of market forces.

    In labor markets, many advocates for the poor are unwilling to rely on market-driven policies. Instead, they give priority to interventionist...

  12. 9 Redirecting Immigration Policies
    (pp. 153-170)

    Over the last few decades, despite overall economic growth, there has been growing income inequality, persistently high poverty rates, and wage increases for less educated workers that have not kept pace with inflation. This book has enumerated a number of labor and tax policy initiatives to combat these problems. We also believe, however, that part of the problem stems from current immigration policies. It has been claimed that immigration has had harmful effects on the employment of less educated and teenage workers and that immigrants cause financial burdens because of the government services and benefits they receive. This chapter will...

  13. 10 Recasting Housing Subsidies
    (pp. 171-191)

    Being able to afford a safe, clean place to live has always been central to escaping poverty. President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous description of hardship in America was of one-third of a nation “ill-fed, ill-housed, and ill-clothed.” When a National Academy of Sciences panel came out with its definition of poverty, it viewed food, housing, and clothing as “essentials.”¹ Homelessness is the most severe manifestation of what happens when people cannot obtain adequate housing. Many face other hardships, such as having to live in substandard or overcrowded conditions or in crime-ridden neighborhoods or having to spend so much on housing that...

  14. 11 The Politics of Reform
    (pp. 192-212)

    Having formulated policies that are based on sound assessments is one thing; to legislate them is another. In the November 2010 election, the outcome created a divided government. In one sense, it makes the recommended centrist policies more likely. This is what happened after the Republican victory in 1994. After the Gingrich-led Congress overreached, centrist policies were enacted. One difference this time has been the increased partisanship among elected officials. Moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats have become a reduced share of Congress and are less likely to form an effective bridge for centrist legislation.

    Partisan politics often lead legislators to...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 213-240)
  16. Index
    (pp. 241-252)
  17. About the Authors
    (pp. 253-253)