John Schwarz

Recent Articles

Social Support for Self-Reliance: The Politics of Making Work Pay

Millions of the working poor earn less than the minimum needed for self-sufficiency. Enabling these families to achieve security is good policy—and smart politics.

The philosophy of the work ethic, deeply engrained in the American soul, presumes that hard work will produce self-sufficiency. But for millions of working Americans that premise is a lie. The hardship of these workers and their families results from the growing scarcity of jobs that pay a living wage. There are eminently feasible strategies that could make work pay. But these remedies require public policies, which in turn depend on a working electoral majority. Hence, making work pay requires not just a program, but a politics. Imagine the following election-year TV spots: The viewer sees a woman in a white uniform and a name badge that reads "Mary." She is helping a frail elderly man in a nursing home. A voice-over declares: "Mary works in the health care system, helping others, but she can't afford dental care for her six-year-old child." The commercial cuts to a man toiling over a car in a gas station. The announcer: "Bill can't buy Christmas presents for his three kids this year...