The Solution Economy: Problem Solving Everyone Can Agree On

Oct 29, 2013Azi Hussain

The public-private partnerships of the solution economy could allow conservatives and liberals to agree on solutions to social problems, for once.

The public-private partnerships of the solution economy could allow conservatives and liberals to agree on solutions to social problems, for once.

There is a quiet transformation of our society going on that is redefining how we solve our most entrenched problems. A recently published book, The Solution Revolution by William Eggers and Paul Macmillan, tracks this transformation, the rise of the “solution economy.” The solution economy is a paradigm in which societal problems are addressed not only by the government, but also through multi-sector approaches. The public, social, and private sectors are all involved.

One fascinating example of the solution economy at work is Recyclebank. Recyclebank is a company founded in 2004 by two young people with a simple, but important environmental goal: increasing recycling rates. Instead of operating through government, they created a viable business model by partnering with recycling bin makers, waste hauling companies, and businesses to incentivize recycling. Households in neighborhoods in which Recyclebank operates have recycling bins that are equipped with a chip that weighs the goods in the bin. When the waste hauling companies come pick up the recycling, they take the data from the chip and send it to Recyclebank. Recyclebank then credits that households account with points that can be spent on discounts offered by the network of business that Recyclebank has partnered with. Recyclebank’s model has proven to be devastatingly effective, raising recycling rates in some neighborhoods from under 10% to over 90%. Governments have rightly supported Recyclebank by helping expansion and enrollment. Recyclebank exemplifies how a social mission can be achieved through the private sector and with government support. You can see some more examples of the solution economy at work here.

In the solution economy, markets are created around the very problems considered to be market failures. Participants leverage technology, use innovative business models, and trade in novel currencies such as reputation and social impact to create these markets. Traditionally, government’s role has been to address these market failures, but the solution economy shifts this burden to society-at-large.

So we are at a point where problems traditionally left to the government are increasingly being shouldered by the private and social sectors. It may seem that the solution economy is making government less and less relevant. On the contrary, government policy and partnerships are essential to fostering the solution economy. The question becomes: why should we support the solution economy?

Broadly speaking, the case for the solution economy is a progressive one. The solution economy is the next step in social organization. We are moving from institutions such as governments operating in silos, to creating entire ecosystems to solve problems. The problem-solving capacity of the solution economy is far greater than that of government’s alone. With governments, social organizations, businesses, and individuals all working toward a solution, the results are far more impressive. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to tackle some of our most complex challenges, such as human trafficking, without a multi-sector approach. We need to take the next step forward and fully embrace the solution economy if we want to resolve our deep-seated societal problems.

The case for the solution economy also fits both liberal and conservative ideologies. For liberals, the solution economy can address many of the social issues they care about, such as poverty and opportunity for immigrants, at a much lower cost. This can free up money for governments to concentrate on issues that need greater resources. Plus, when smaller or local programs funded by the solution economy are shown to be effective, governments can incorporate them into various levels of public policy to bring them to scale, introducing a whole new source for government innovation.

Conservatives can also applaud the cost savings introduced by the solution economy, as well as the market mechanisms at play. Not only does the solution economy solve problems, but it also generates tremendous economic value. But most importantly, the solution economy reduces the need for heavy-handed government policy by creating lightweight solutions. Let’s take a look again at Recyclebank. Governments could also impose penalties and slap fines on households with low recycling rates to try to incentivize recycling. The administrative costs would be huge and political support for such policies would be dismal. Recyclebank achieves the same outcome but without burdensome government intervention and much more efficiently. The solution economy can at times be a substitute for the big government policies that conservatives oppose. Supporting the solution economy might be the one thing that both of our political parties can agree on.

Azi Hussain is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Economic Development. He is a junior in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University majoring in International Political Economy.

 

Business people with jigsaw banner image via Shutterstock.com

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What Are Three Steps to Solve the Jobs Emergency?

Oct 24, 2013

In a new installment of the Roosevelt Institute's "What's the Deal?" series, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick explains three steps the government could take to address the jobs emergency.

In a new installment of the Roosevelt Institute's "What's the Deal?" series, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative Jeff Madrick explains three steps the government could take to address the jobs emergency.

For more about the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, visit rediscoveringgovernment.org.

Learn more about "What's the Deal?" by watching our teaser:

rooseveltinstitute.org/videos/sneak-peek-whats-deal

Send us topic ideas, suggestions, and questions by using #RIExplains.

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The Larger Issue at Stake in the Shutdown: The Role of Government

Oct 14, 2013David B. Woolner

By choosing not to position himself as a defender of government, President Obama may have made his opposition stronger.

By choosing not to position himself as a defender of government, President Obama may have made his opposition stronger.

The recent news that there has been a shift in tone in the debate between congressional Republicans and the White House over the government shutdown has been greeted as a welcome development in much of the press and on Wall Street, where, in response to rumors of an impending deal, the DOW Jones Industrial Average shot up more than 300 points.

But there is a larger issue at stake in this debacle that President Obama has to a large extent ignored: the role of government in shaping a just and economically sustainable liberal capitalist democracy.

Today’s free-market fundamentalists continue to denounce any attempt by the federal government to regulate capitalism. They insist that the forces of the market could easily solve all of our nation’s woes if only government would get out of the way. Their faith stems from their unshakable belief that the free market system cannot fail, and the apostate in their vision is government.

The history of the free market system in the years between the October 1929 crash of the stock market and the steady deflationary slide into the Great Depression three years later teaches us something quite different. Capitalist economies can collapse; the free market system can fail; millions of people can be thrown out into the street, wondering not just where they might find work, but where they might get their next meal.

It was at the height of this crisis of capitalism that the American people elected Franklin D. Roosevelt as the 32nd President of the United States. FDR was no ideologue, he harbored no extreme views on the right or on the left, but he understood that capitalism was in deep trouble, that the transition of the United States from a largely agrarian state to a modern industrial society had left millions of Americans vulnerable to the fickle twists of the unregulated marketplace, and that the only institution strong enough to take on the forces of wealth and privilege that largely controlled the marketplace—those whose unbridled greed was chiefly responsible for its collapse—was government.

It was this message and this philosophy that led the American people to support the many measures FDR put in place under the banner of the New Deal. Measures like the separation of commercial and investment banking, the establishment of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the passage of the all-important Social Security Act, which gave us old-age pensions and unemployment insurance. At the time, critics of the New Deal charged that FDR was leading the country down the path to a dictatorship; that he was subverting the Constitution. The American Liberty League even went so far as to claim that the passage of the Social Security Act meant “the end of democracy.”

But Roosevelt scoffed at these “prophets of calamity,” and unlike President Obama, was willing on behalf of the American people both to acknowledge and attack the forces arrayed against them. Consider, for example, FDR’s repeated assaults on the “economic royalists” whose vast concentrations of wealth distorted the free-market system to such an extent that they made it virtually impossible for “small businessmen and merchants to make worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit.” In the face of such vast inequality, “the hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor… had all passed beyond the control of the people,” he warned. “Private enterprise,” he said, “became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.” 

As a result, “the political equality we once had won” had become “meaningless in the face of economic inequality,” leading to the inescapable conclusion that “against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could only appeal to the organized power of government.”

Throughout his tenure as president, Barack Obama has been reluctant to present himself as the voice of the average working American, to position himself and his administration as leading a government effort to attack the immense inequality that has re-emerged in our society over the past 30 years, and to seek the people’s support for this effort. Instead, he has engaged in a somewhat admirable attempt to find solutions to such problems as health care reform through compromise with his conservative opposition, often by the establishment of programs—such as the Affordable Care Act—designed to appeal more to those who harbor a greater faith in the free market than they do in government.

But as recent events make clear, the president’s decision to seek market-friendly solutions to our most pressing problems has not won him any credit among the archconservatives who have hijacked the Republican Party. Their overriding focus is to discredit government, not work with it; to destroy the social safety net, not save it; and it would appear that they are quite willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve their ideological goals, including the possibility of driving the U.S. Government into default.

One can certainly understand the political calculations behind President Obama’s oft-repeated willingness to meet his opposition halfway, but it now appears that his past readiness to compromise and acknowledge his other points of view has won him few converts and may have only strengthened the hand of those who seek to destroy his agenda.

A far better tack may be to steal a page or two from FDR, who called upon the American people to recognize “the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization,” and above all else, to never forget that “government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.”

David Woolner is a Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian for the Roosevelt Institute. 

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How Will Millennials Reform Government?

Oct 8, 2013

In the first installment of the Roosevelt Institute's new "What's the Deal?" series, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist Joelle Gamble explains how young people are creating change in their local communities through the Campus Network and are designing a more effective government.

Learn more about the Campus Network by visiting:

http://www.rooseveltcampusnetwork.org

Read about the Campus Network's vision for 21st century government:

http://www.rooseveltcampusnetwork.org/govbyandfor

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The Government Shutdown Could Be the Last Gasp of the Reagan-Friedman Agenda

Oct 2, 2013Jeff Madrick

This latest outrage is just another symptom of an extreme anti-government ideology with roots dating back to the 1970s.

The shutdown of the U.S. government is an outrageous act of ignorance, foolishness, and vindictiveness. History suggests that choosing destruction is usually tragic, but it’s hard to believe the Republican hardliners have any sense of history.

This latest outrage is just another symptom of an extreme anti-government ideology with roots dating back to the 1970s.

The shutdown of the U.S. government is an outrageous act of ignorance, foolishness, and vindictiveness. History suggests that choosing destruction is usually tragic, but it’s hard to believe the Republican hardliners have any sense of history.

The anti-government agenda in the U.S. has had many contributors. The end of the progressive uses of government more or less began in the 1970s, and was given impetus by Ronald Reagan’s scapegoating of government. It was also given impetus by Chicago-style economics, led by Milton Friedman. His book Capitalism and Freedom is basically a political pamphlet calling for governance to be reduced to a function of the Invisible Hand. Many Democratic economists came under his sway. 

Shutting down the government now is just a variation on Reagan and Friedman's "starve the beast" strategy of undermining government by denying it funding.

Friedman and Reagan have now reached the height of their influence, but many joined this march of foolishness. President Obama has consistently paid deference to the party line that reducing the federal deficit is the main economic priority. The Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission captured the self-destructive America temperament of the time by insisting federal revenues not rise above 21 percent of GDP. When Reinhart-Rogoff’s 90 percent bright line of debt-to-GDP was shown to be an artifact of poor research and arithmetic, Erskine Bowles said it was still just common sense.

Lots of moderate Republicans have made budget-cutting their main domestic priority, as have many Democrats. Sequestration is undermining what could have been a strong recovery by now.

The media, in their embrace of the safe middle-way, have done their share to promote general antagonism against government as well. It’s an American journalistic tragedy.

And so here we are. Just enough people feel government is meaningless to allow this crazy betrayal of a democratic nation to occur. How else can you so despise Obamacare that you would go to such destructive lengths? It is a useful program designed to help some 32 million Americans who suffer—yes, suffer—without health insurance.

If the old pre-Obamacare system was better, it would have worked. It didn’t. Health care delivery in America is appalling by any modern standard, and without reform, our society will become not just less prosperous but far less decent. Have these people no shame?

Democrats had also better rethink government. It’s not just a matter of plugging holes due to market failures, a misleading over-simplification of mainstream economic theory.

Government’s duty is to be a vibrant protector of rights and contributor to full lives. The myths about government are endless. Ask the proverbial man or woman on the street who does the most technological, economically vital R&D in the U.S. and they, under the influence of the misled media and economic orthodoxy, will almost always say the private sector and the venture capitalists. But it just ain’t so. Yes, venture capital is important, but government R&D is even more so. Government is the main contributor, even to Silicon Valley, but under sequestration, non-defense R&D is being cut back sharply. This is but one example of the effects of anti-government thinking.

The hope is that this is the last gasp of the Reaganite-Friedmanite brigade. The hope is that the U.S. will awaken to the uses of government and the beauty of a functioning democracy. We started the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative for this reason. We are going to keep at it, telling everyone we can what government can do well, what its purposes are, and how it can be reformed. Ideology, someone said, is a short cut for thinking. When it comes to Reaganite-Friedmanite extremism, that’s an understatement.

Jeff Madrick is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, and author of Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present.

 

Shutdown banner image via Shutterstock.com

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Inequality Broke the Economy. How Can We Fix It in New York City?

Sep 26, 2013Nell Abernathy

The Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute recently convened a panel of local policy experts to discuss inequality in New York and how the next mayor can address it. Watch the video below.

The Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute recently convened a panel of local policy experts to discuss inequality in New York and how the next mayor can address it. Watch the video below.

“The economy is broken and inequality broke it,” James Parrott, Chief Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute, said Tuesday night at the Roosevelt Institute’s forum on Inequality in New York.

The divide between the rich and the poor in New York and across the nation is not an inevitable consequence of technology, globalization, or even human capital, each of the panelists reiterated. “This is the result of policy choices,” Parrott continued. Learn more about what the next mayor should do to tackle inequality and how he can pay for it by watching the video of the event below:

Maya Wiley, Founder and President of the Center for Social Inclusion, emphasized the role of government in creating opportunity. “Fundamentally what we’ve had is a narrative that government gets in the way, rather than recognizing that we created a middle class in this country beginning with the New Deal, continuing with the Fair Deal, based on a series of policies that brought it into being in the mid-20th century. By and large, the middle class as we know it today didn’t even exist until the middle of the 20th century. And we forget that. It wasn’t some natural occurrence.”

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Staff Attorney at the National Employment Law Project, said a key driver of inequality in New York City has been the stagnation of wages for the working and middle class. New York’s current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour equates to an annual income of $15,000 a year. Our next mayor, she argued, should work with Albany and the City Council to increase the city’s minimum wage, following the example of other high-cost cities like San Francisco, which has a floor of $10.55 an hour.

“Depending on how high you raise that wage, you could impact nearly a million workers living in the city,” said Gebreselassie. “It’s a tremendous policy in terms of boosting the wage floor across the low-wage labor market and putting money in the hands of people who will spend it immediately at local business, giving a stimulative effect to our economy as a whole.”

Lawrence Aber, a professor of psychology and public policy at NYU, said the next mayor should focus public investment on poor children ages 0-5. “We now know that poverty literally gets under the skin and into the mind.” Under-nourishment during the first few years reduces human development and puts children at a lifelong disadvantage. Every dollar invested to beef up New York’s existing child health programs, he explained, goes much further than public money spent to correct developmental challenges further down the road.

When an audience member questioned panelists about how they planned to pay for their proposed programs, answers varied.

The next mayor could use budget policy to reshuffle priorities. For example, tax breaks for real estate development in New York grew 180 percent under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, to a total of $3 billion a year, Wiley said. Given the booming nature of New York’s real estate market, that public money could be better spent. Aber said the next mayor could use the bully pulpit to advocate for a shift in national budget priorities.

While an increase in local revenue cannot fund all the panelists’ priorities, there is room to raise taxes on the city’s top income bracket, Parrott said. Critics of progressive policy often cite income tax data to emphasize the percentage of city taxes paid by the rich, but Parrott showed that when property taxes and sales taxes are included, the rich, in fact, pay only 25.2 percent of the city’s tax burden while taking home 33.8 percent of total income.

The breadth of the challenge can be daunting, but panel moderator David Jones, President and CEO of Community Service Society, sounded a message of optimism. "I don't know if a decade ago we could gather this many people together to talk about this as a critical issue," he told an audience that had filled both auditorium and overflow room. "This is obviously a pivotal moment where people are taking this seriously."

Join Jeff Madrick, Director of Rediscovering Government, at the Frances Perkins Center in Portland, ME on October 4 for "Rediscovering Government: Making People Matter." The Frances Perkins Center will present Ai-jen Poo with its Intelligence and Courage Award and Sally Greenberg with its Steadfast Award, and Madrick will moderate a panel discussion. More information here.

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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The Digital Divide is Holding Young New Yorkers Back

Sep 18, 2013Nell Abernathy

New York City public school students in lower-income neighborhoods suffer from very slow Internet speeds. Our next mayor can help.

It's clear that the Internet is a vitally important resource for education, innovation, and opportunity. And we know that 21st century kids need it to write papers, apply to colleges, and find jobs (not just to watch videos of kittens playing with string).

New York City public school students in lower-income neighborhoods suffer from very slow Internet speeds. Our next mayor can help.

It's clear that the Internet is a vitally important resource for education, innovation, and opportunity. And we know that 21st century kids need it to write papers, apply to colleges, and find jobs (not just to watch videos of kittens playing with string).

Sadly, young New Yorkers have unequal access to the Internet. 75 percent of the city's public schools have Internet speeds of 10 Mbps or slower. When shared with a large number of users, these speeds preclude heavy research downloads, e-reader usage, and educational video-streaming resources. They are also 100 times slower than the target President Obama set for 2020 in the National Broadband Plan.

The red dots in the following graph show that about 18 percent of New York City public schools have networks even slower than 10 Mbps (218 with Internet speeds of 1.5 Mbps or less, and three with 5 Mbps speed). The graph is courtesy of an August report commissioned by Manhattan Bourough President and Comptroller Candidate Scott Stringer.

Unsurprisingly, the public schools with the slowest Internet speeds tend to be in the lowest-income neighborhoods, like the South Bronx and Northeastern Brooklyn, and those with faster speeds tend to be in median- and high-income neighborhoods in Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford was quoted in the Stringer report, reminding us that "[t]ruly high speed wired Internet access is as basic to innovation, economic growth, social communication, and the country’s competitiveness as electricity was a century ago.”

For a city at the center of our country's innovation, economic growth, and social communication, inferior Internet speeds at New York's low-income public schools are a clear example of the inequality problem. Luckily, we have clear models for solving this particular public policy challenge. D.C., for example, has invested in delivering an affordable broadband network to 250 public institutions, like libraries, schools, and community centers. Kansas City, in partnership with Google, is offering every household access to 1 GB (1,000 Mbps) fiber networks at subsized rates. What will our next mayor do?

Nell Abernathy is the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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To Restore the New Deal, Government Must Earn Young Americans’ Trust

Aug 29, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

The Greater Boston network of Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline hosted a discussion on the State of the New Deal, and what needs to change for Millennials to support similar programs today.

The Greater Boston network of Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline hosted a discussion on the State of the New Deal, and what needs to change for Millennials to support similar programs today.

On Tuesday night, the Greater Boston network of Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline gathered for a panel discussion on “The State of the New Deal,” reflecting on President Roosevelt's historic achievements and considering what could come next. Pipeline, a national network of young people in their 20s and 30s collectively organizing to engineer innovative policies and promote effective civic leadership in their communities, convened a multigenerational panel to discuss what’s become of the New Deal safety net, and what would be needed to create similar programs today.

The program opened with David Woolner, a Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Resident Hyde Park Historian, providing some historical context: FDR's legacy, the political environment of the day, and how the New Deal was perceived when it was happening. One of the most important thing he noted was that FDR worked in a far less politically divided era: some of the strongest supporters of New Deal programs were moderate Republicans. It’s much harder to pass any legislation in today’s Congress.

Following his keynote, Woolner joined Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz and Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist Joelle Gamble for a panel moderated by Roosevelt Institute President Felicia Wong, where they expanded the discussion to today's issues: health care, student debt, Occupy, low-wage work, and more. They probed at the relationship between Americans and their government today, which is often one of distrust and skepticism. As Woolner explained, with the dismantling of much of the New Deal in the Reagan era, government was no longer a creator of economic opportunity.

Aronowitz focused on the question of economic security, posing the question of why Millennials should trust government to work for them. “They're craving … this baseline of economic security,” and aren't seeing any way to get it, she said. Were government to help create that baseline, it would be easier to see the potential for other New Deal-style programs. She was also skeptical of the Occupy movement, noting that while the Tea Party and Occupy are frequently compared as political extremes, the anti-establishment and anti-leadership nature of Occupy means that they have limited political power. Meanwhile, Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz work against more moderate policymakers to prevent legislation and control the right's agenda.

Gamble presented the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's “Government By and For Millennial America” project as proof that it is possible to create a government that would speak to Millennial ideas and needs. This government would be an innovator, a lawmaker, and a steward of the common good, and would truly engage all citizens. Unfortunately, she noted, for most Millennials their first real encounter with government systems is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and federal student loans. FAFSA is often seen as a frustrating system, and student loan servicers as even worse. Woolner noted in his introduction that “what Roosevelt accomplished was a complete transformation of the relationship between the federal government and the American people,” and it's hard to imagine a similarly positive relationship today – especially if the student loan system is how people form their impression of government.

The question and answer session demonstrated the insight and engagement of the audience. The Affordable Care Act was a topic of serious discussion, and Aronowitz pointed out that for many middle-class Millennials, it doesn't seem to help much. Woolner passed the mic to James Roosevelt Jr., Franklin and Eleanor’s grandson and an attorney who works on health care, who argued that “if Obamacare succeeds, it will be the New Deal success of our lifetime.” His comment echoed one of the common themes that threaded through the discussion: Millennials need some proof that these programs will help before they will buy in fully. If the Affordable Care Act does lower costs and make insurance more accessible, it could lead to broader support of other programs, like infrastructure-based jobs programs.

After the event, I spoke with some attendees who are involved in Boston-area politics. They seemed to mostly agree: buy-in is tough. Creating change is tough. But the people I spoke to and those posing questions seemed determined to work together and create something new. They want to trust in government to create the safety net needed for that baseline of economic security that Aronowitz brought up early on. They want government to demonstrate that it’s ready to be an equal partner in decreasing economic inequality. It’s just a matter of figuring out the next steps toward that goal.

For more information on Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, visit their website. The Pipeline | New York network will be hosting a screening of the documentary “My Brooklyn” on September 16th at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Rachel Goldfarb is the Roosevelt Institute Communications Associate.

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New Orleans's Youth Unemployment Problem Demands a Government Solution

Aug 22, 2013Jeff MadrickNell Abernathy

The federal government has let New Orleans down in the past, but it can still provide equal opportunity for the city's next generation.

The federal government has let New Orleans down in the past, but it can still provide equal opportunity for the city's next generation.

Our federal government has failed New Orleans more dramatically than any other U.S. city, and the growing number of unemployed and undereducated young adults is one more example of our failure to deliver on the promise of equal opportunity for all. With 23 percent of 18-24 year olds neither working nor in school, New Orleans’s rate of youth disconnection from social institutions far exceeds the national average. Nevertheless, cynicism is not a solution. Creating new opportunities for young Americans will require us to use every tool at our disposal, and that includes active and effective government.

These “opportunity youth," ages 16-24, are more likely than their peers to be poor and unemployed as adults. Neglecting these young people costs New Orleans taxpayers hundreds of millions in lost income annually and billions over a lifetime.

Maybe more important, these young people are deprived of the fundamental dignity of work and education. Still, most remain motivated to succeed. 85 percent say that it is extremely important to have a good job or career in order to live the life they want,and most opportunity youth are willing to work toward their goals, with 77 percent agreeing that getting a good job or good education is their personal responsibility, according to a 2011 survey conducted by Civic Enterprises.

With government missing in action, a network of effective non-profit organizations is leading the effort to equip these young people with the skills and support they need. In just seven years, New Orleans’s Youth Empowerment Project has grown from a small program serving 25 children to a locally renowned organization helping close to 1,000 at-risk youth a year. The Urban League of Greater New Orleans is expanding mentoring and training programs designed to connect teens with trade or college education. And Partnership for Youth Development, which coordinates over 180 local programs to better serve these opportunity youth, was selected by the Aspen Institute in June to pilot strategies that could be employed nationwide.

By contrast, consider how derelict the federal government has been. Funding cuts from sequestration have cut education by $3 billion and decimated early education and after-school programs. Congress has dithered over reducing interest rates for student loans and cut eligibility for critical Pell grants, specifically barring around 65,000 of the most at-risk students. The government has failed to fund its 2009 commitment to expand the successful AmeriCorps programs from 75,000 to 250,000 by 2017, resulting in 85 percent of the 2012 applicants being turned away. 

Tonight, the Roosevelt Institute is hosting a public panel with local organizations in New Orleans to help formulate a policy that will serve young people nationwide. Because as effective as private funders, local non-profits, and national organizations are, the scale and breadth of the challenge demands public solutions.

Disappointment with our government’s past failures is understandable, but the anti-government movement too often blinds Americans to our shared goals and responsibilities. We forget our history of achieving great works together. As a nation, we decided way back in the 1800s to support our young people by outlawing child labor and establishing free primary school. We tackled youth unemployment during the Great Depression with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a government program that directly employed nearly 3 million young men over nine years. We sent 2.2 million veterans to college on the G.I. Bill and gave our young people opportunities through national service programs like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and the Job Corps. These are but a few examples.

We must now, once again, use our government as a tool to restore the promise of equal opportunity to our youth. Join us as we seek solutions to one of our nation’s most pressing challenges.

In New Orleans? Join the Roosevelt Institute tonight at 6 p.m. at the Contemporary Arts Center for "Tackling Youth Unemployment: Strategies That Work in New Orleans." The event is free and open to the public.

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick is the Director of the Roosevelt Institute’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government initiative and author of Age of Greed.

Nell Abernathy is a Research Initiative Associate for the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

 

New Orleans at sunset banner image via Shutterstock.com

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The Jobs Emergency Continues. Here’s How the Experts Think We Can Solve It.

Aug 22, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

The Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative's conference, "A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency," which now has transcripts and video online, was just the first step.

The Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative's conference, "A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency," which now has transcripts and video online, was just the first step.

When the Roosevelt Institute’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick, started planning a conference on the jobs emergency, we knew a problem so complex demanded a wide range of perspectives and potential solutions. “A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency: Setting the Political Agenda for 2014 and 2016,” which was held in Washington, D.C. on June 4, touched on everything from the roles of government and Wall Street in job creation to education to what good jobs really look like. Economist Alan Blinder said that we need to stop worrying about the deficit, and Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin shared her concerns about low quality jobs after a visit to a local job fair. If you missed out the first time, we’ve now uploaded proceedings from the conference along with full transcripts and video.

As the summer draws to a close and the fall budget debates approach, we’ve continued to see difficult news relating to jobs. North Carolina may join the ranks of states that ban cities and counties from enacting local paid sick leave requirements. We’ve seen just how few jobs in big cities pay the wages needed to actually live in that city. Formerly good jobs are turning into part-time and contract work without benefits or stability. The policies that were suggested at the conference aren’t being implemented yet, but they are sorely needed.

Rediscovering Government’s work on jobs continues. If you missed the conference, I encourage you to check out the panel summaries and transcripts. There’s so much to learn from our speakers and panelists. Jeff Madrick will be joining Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline in New Orleans tonight to discuss youth unemployment, and more events are coming!

Rachel Goldfarb is the Roosevelt Institute Communications Associate.

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