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2006 May - June

Tearing Down Structural Racism and Rebuilding Communities

By Maya Wiley & john a. powell

How was race a factor in the government's delayed response to Hurricane Katrina victims? Structural racism explains how various institutions work together to cause disparate impact on low-income communities of color. For example, the impact of transportation authorities, educational systems, and housing and urban developers creates communities of concentrated poverty. Advocates will need to rethink solutions after viewing interrelated problems in low-income communities through a structural-racism lens.

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Successfully Redeveloping Public Housing

By William P. Wilen

The Henry Horner public housing project is a model of successful redevelopment. Its success may be attributed to phased-in demolition and construction alongside high levels of resident participation, reasonable tenant screening criteria, and adequate social services and legal representation for residents.

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The Federal Government--the Indispensable Player in Redressing Poverty

By James D. Weill

State resource shortfalls and disparities, the federal role in managing the economy, and fiscal, political, and symbolic factors dictate a fundamental and leading federal role in responding to poverty and economic insecurity. Despite its shortcomings, the federal government can mitigate the damage of poverty, inequality, and insecurity as no other sector can or is expected to do. The economic problems that many Americans face are beyond the ability--or willingness--of state and local governments, charity, and the private sector to fix by themselves.

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High-Quality, Combined Approaches

Illustrating the Promise of Antipoverty Programs

By Arloc Sherman

Two well-known programs—the New Hope Project and Perry Preschool—illustrate the potential of high-quality antipoverty efforts. When services for low-income parents and children are combined, the resulting effects may be much greater than the sum of the parts. The research findings from these programs—and others like them—help convey a credible, promising vision of what America might achieve if tried.

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The Need for Reconstructing the Legal Framework Governing the Credit Marketplace

By Margot Saunders & Gillian Feiner

Although abusive credit scams always have been a problem in our commercially oriented culture, the problems caused in the past fifteen years by the explosion of predatory lending are new in the history of personal credit. At the same time, federal preemption of essential state consumer credit laws, the expansion of federal banking agency powers, and congressional changes in the tax code have eroded consumer protections. Consistent federal government tax policies and tougher federal regulation of the credit relationship are needed to protect consumers and halt predatory lending.

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Redefining Public Education for the 21st Century

Toward a Federal Guarantee of Education and Training for America's Workers

By Shawn Fremstad & Andy Van Kleunen

The federal government should invest more funds in and remove regulatory barriers from workforce and education programs such as the Workforce Investment Act, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Pell Grant program, and the Hope and Lifelong Learning Credits. This would make possible a "lifelong education and training" movement to help ensure that all Americans, especially low-wage workers and jobless individuals, gain substantial employment and earnings.

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The War on Poverty and Subsequent Federal Programs

What Worked, What Didn't Work, and Why? Lessons for Future Programs

By Peter Edelman

Despite mythology to the contrary, the poverty program of the 1960s, during its brief heyday, was remarkably effective in reducing poverty in the United States. Many aspects of that program continue today, albeit with lower profiles; the best known of these is likely Head Start. The poverty program of the 1960s offers many lessons from which twenty-first-century advocates should draw in contemplating how to plan a new, and even more vigorous, "war on on poverty."

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The Federal Role in Community Economic Development

By Scott L. Cummings & Benjamin S. Beach

How should the federal government support community economic development? "Accountable development" seeks to have the community actually participate in directing where federal funds go. Community leaders can negotiate "community benefit agreements" that tie specific obligations such as local hiring and contracting, living wages, job training, affordable housing, community services, and community-based capital investments to receiving any federal tax incentives.

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Public Policy and Asset Building

Promising Account-Based Systems and the Rationale for Inclusion

By Reid Cramer

The federal government has long fostered individual asset building, but the asset-building systems in place--largely embedded in the tax code--disproportionately benefit households with greater resources. The challenge is to identify ways to make an account-based system work for those without tax liabilities, bank accounts, or assets, a most promising one being to give children a start-in-life asset account at birth.

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Attacking Poverty by Attacking Chronic Unemployment

A Proposal to Stablize and Grow the Transitional Jobs Strategy

By John Bouman & Joseph A. Antolin

The chronically unemployed haunt the edges of every American community. One way or another, they affect public expenditures and the quality of life for everyone. A solution to chronic unemployment is crucial for all people, chronically unemployed or not. The transitional jobs strategy cuts through the complex reasons for a person's chronic unemployment and starts with the desired outcome--employment.

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Deconstructing the Argument for a Small and Passive Federal Government

By Gary D. Bass, Adam Hughes & Anna Oman

The systematic dismantling of the federal government's supports for low-income people derives from a "starve the beast" philosophy that controls government spending on social welfare programs. The deleterious effect of whittling away at government was on display in frightening clarity in the federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. By making the case that government must be a key part of the solution and challenging the "starve the beast" ideology, we win the battle to improve the quality of life for all Americans.

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