Policy Shop

Policy as if people mattered

The High Probability of Being Poor

Late last month, the Associated Press ran a report about economic insecurity that managed to gain some traction in certain parts of the political internet, and since then, again and again in certain relevant debates. The statistical bomb dropped in the first sentence of the report really says it all:

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Stop Worrying about Food Stamp "Fraud"

Over at the Weekly Standard blog, Jeryl Bier raised an alarm on Friday about the rise of food stamp (aka SNAP) fraud. The howler in the piece is that although the headline says food stamp fraud is up 30 percent, you soon realize that the fraud rate only rose from 1.0 percent to 1.3 percent. Bier rightly deserves a ding for a ridiculously misleading use of statistics.

Ezra Klein's Blind Spot

(Flickr/Son of Broccoli)

On Monday, Ezra Klein argued that “conventional wisdom on Washington is that corporations win every fight and everyone else — particularly the poor — get shafted" is, wait for it, "wrong, or at least incomplete."

False Concerns for the Poor

(Flickr/Mark Sedella)

Fast food workers have been organizing across the country for months now, and last week a series of spectacular coordinated strikes generated a deluge of media coverage. As you'd expect, the right-wing media and pundit class came out swinging against the workers with their usual mix of hateful trashing and concern trolling.

How Vast Error-Prone Databases Are Trashing Our Economic Lives

Our personal information is compiled, traded, analyzed, and sold off as never before. Not only do business and government track us online, but retailers trace our cell phones through stores, and vast, little-known databases can keep us from getting jobs, qualifying for loans, and opening bank accounts. Three news reports this week highlight the growing impact of these databases on our daily lives—and the critical need for oversight to ensure that information is compiled accurately, that errors can be fixed, and that the resulting data is used fairly rather than becoming a new means of discrimination against already-disadvantaged citizens.

Is McCutcheon v. FEC the Next Citizens United?

Are we ready for the next Citizens United? Can our democracy, and Americans’ faith in government, take another body blow from the Supreme Court?

Obamacare a Boon to Entrepreneurs

(Wikimedia Commons/Pete Souza.)

The most often repeated attack on the Affordable Care Act is that the law is a "job killer"—an anti-business spool of red tape that will strangle free enterprise from coast to coast. 

In fact, one of the biggest obstacles that entrepreneurs face when starting a new business is affording health insurance. Leaving a job where you have coverage to do your own thing has been very costly—since individuals have tended to face the highest premiums in a deeply dysfunctional insurance market. 

The Social Network Behind Wendy Davis

AP Images/Eric Gay

It had to be orange. Pink is overused, green is for environmentalists, and purple isn’t a Texas kind of color. But orange is Texas, it’s the color of the UT Longhorns, and it’s gender neutral. Months before the special session of the Texas legislature was called, the main organizers of the pro-choice protests had already decided that their t-shirts were going to be orange.

Spitzer Is Dead Wrong on Public Financing

(Flickr/Timothy Krause)

Former Governor Eliot Spitzer announced his run for NYC Comptroller yesterday and this morning on the Brian Lehrer show, he attacked his opponent, Scott Stringer, for opting into public financing. Spitzer said, “He (Stringer)’ll be spending your money, I’ll be spending my own.” This characteristic of public financing is misleading and wrong. In fact, public financing is one of the only tools constituents have to combat the corrosive influence of money in our electoral system.

Why Small Fixes for High-Poverty Schools Aren't Good Enough


I recently read The Future of School Integration: Socioeconomic Diversity as an Education Reform Strategy, the latest in a long line of Century Foundation books on similar topics. The authors of the book argue that placing poor kids in lower-poverty schools substantially improves their educational outcomes. More provocatively, the authors argue that these socioeconomic composition effects improve outcomes at even higher rates than traditional strategies like introducing additional funding, training, teaching strategies, and other special programs into high-poverty schools.

Oregon Is Doing Free Higher Education the Right Way


On Monday, the Oregon Senate unanimously passed a bill already passed by the Oregon House that creates a study committee to develop a pilot program for making Oregon public higher education tuition-free (I, II). From The Wall Street Journal:

Why Did the Government Pay Edward Snowden $122,000?


Is the National Security Agency wasting tax dollars by paying Booz Allen to handle routine intelligence tasks, such as the systems administration work that 29-year old Edward Snowden was doing for $122,000 a year? It sure seems that way. 

Governor Cuomo Announces Campaign Finance Reform Package


Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his own proposal for public financing of campaigns. The governor’s proposal adds to several others currently under consideration to get money out of the electoral system in the state. After a year of high-profile corruption scandals and arrests, it’s clear that something must be done.

Confirm Cordray Already!


The Senate confirmation vote on Richard Cordray this week won’t have much to do with Richard Cordray.

As I wrote when the Senate Banking Committee considered the Cordray nomination back in March, nobody disputes the idea that the former Ohio Attorney General, who has led the CFPB since January 2012, is highly competent and supremely qualified to continue in his position. Nor is the impact of the agency itself in doubt: in 2012 alone, 6 million U.S. consumers received refunds from financial services companies as a result of CFPB enforcement actions, according to Americans for Financial Reform, and the agency has handled more than 130,000 consumer complaints since it opened its doors less than two years ago.

Whether it’s protecting consumers from the type of reckless and deceptive mortgage lending that sparked the economic downturn or beginning to oversee the massive credit reporting companies that shape the financial lives of American consumers, the CFPB has proven itself to be a critical consumer watchdog.

The Shadow Derivatives Market Lives On

Flickr/Leader Pelosi

Tomorrow, the public interest will take a loss and the largest banks will chalk up a win.