Obama's Budget Includes Social Impact Bonds
By Anne Li on 03/09/2011 @ 10:30 AM
We noticed a highly innovative development called social impact bonds in the U.K. last year, and we weren’t the only ones. President Obama’s FY 2012 budget includes a similar innovation. Up to $100 million would be invested in a “pay for success” approach in seven pilot areas including, among others, job training, education, juvenile justice and care of children’s disabilities. The amount would be set aside from existing department budgets and would be spent only if the programs work.
The following article, reproduced in its entirety from the New York Times, provides more information. Please Comment to share your thoughts about this new and different way for public dollars to be spent toward addressing social needs.
For Federal Programs, a Taste of Market Discipline
by Davis Leonhardt, New York Times, February 8, 2011
Wouldn’t it be nice if taxpayers could somehow get a refund for government programs that didn’t work?
Instead, the opposite tends to happen. Programs that fail to make a difference — like many of those that train workers for new jobs — endure indefinitely. Often, policy makers don’t even know which work and which don’t, because rigorous evaluation is rare in government. And competition, which punishes laggards in the private sector, is typically absent in the public sector.
But there is some good news on this front. Lately, both American and British policy makers have been thinking about how to bring some of the competitive discipline of the market to government programs, and they have hit on an intriguing idea.
David Cameron’s Conservative government in Britain is already testing it, at a prison 75 miles north of London. The Bloomberg administration in New York is also considering the idea, as is the State of Massachusetts. Perhaps most notably, President Obama next week will propose setting aside $100 million for seven such pilot programs, according to an administration official.
The idea goes by one of two names: pay for success bonds or social impact bonds. Either way, nonprofit groups like foundations pay the initial money for a new program and also oversee it, with government approval. The government will reimburse them several years later, possibly with a bonus — but only if agreed-upon benchmarks show that the program is working.
If it falls short, taxpayers owe nothing.
The first British test is happening at Her Majesty’s Prison Peterborough, where 60 percent of the prisoners are convicted of another crime within one year of release. Depressingly enough, that recidivism rate is typical for a British prison.
To reduce the rate, a nonprofit group named Social Finance is playing a role akin to venture capitalist. It has raised about $8 million from investors, including the Rockefeller Foundation. Social Finance also oversees three social service groups helping former prisoners find work, stay healthy and the like. If any of those groups starts to miss its performance goals, it can be replaced.
For the investors to get their money back starting in 2014 — with interest — the recidivism rate must fall at least 7.5 percent, relative to a control group. If the rate falls 10 percent, the investors will receive the sort of return that the stock market historically delivers. “It’s been only a few months,” says Tracy Palandjian, who recently opened a new Social Finance office in Boston, “but the numbers are coming in O.K.”
Antony Bugg-Levine of the Rockefeller Foundation told me it had invested in the project for two main reasons. One, it expected to get its money back and then be able to reuse it. Two, if social impact bonds work, they have the potential to attract for-profit investors — and vastly expand the pool of capital that’s available for social programs.
Clearly, social impact bonds have limitations. For starters, it’s hard to see how private money could ever pay for multibillion-dollar programs like Medicaid or education.
Just as important, the execution of any bond program will be complicated. It will depend on coming up with the right performance measures, which is no small matter. Done wrong, the measures will end up rewarding programs lucky (or clever) enough to enroll participants who are more likely to succeed no matter what.
But whatever the caveats about the bonds, the potential for improving the government’s performance is obviously huge. That’s true in education, health care, criminal justice and many other areas.
A recent review found that 10 major social programs had been rigorously evaluated over the past two decades, using the scientific gold standard of random assignment. Only one of the 10 — Early Head Start, for infants, toddlers pregnant women — was a clear success. Yet all 10 still exist, and largely in their original form.
Jon Baron, the president of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy in Washington, points out that the social problems addressed by antipoverty programs have not gotten much better in years. School test scores have barely changed. College graduation rates for low-income students have stagnated. The poverty rate is as high as it was in 1981. Median household income is lower than it was in 1998.
“If we just keep funding social programs the way we have been,” Mr. Baron says, “there’s not a lot of reason to think we’ll have much success.”
The Obama administration’s seven pilot programs would create bonds for, among other areas, job training, education, juvenile justice and care of children’s disabilities. Nonprofit groups like Social Finance could apply. So could for-profit companies, said the White House official, who asked not to be named because the president had not yet released next year’s budget. The $100 million for the bonds would come out of the budgets of other programs, to stay consistent with Mr. Obama’s announced freeze on non-security spending.
Officials in Massachusetts and New York are looking at similar ideas but have not yet decided whether they will issue bonds.
Beyond the impact of any single program, the bonds have the potential to nudge all government agencies to pay more attention to results. Mr. Obama, after all, campaigned as a reformer who wanted to create a sleek, efficient “iPod government.” He has had some success, like the expansion of a program — backed by years of solid evidence — in which nurses go to the homes of new at-risk parents to counsel them.
Over all, though, the administration has not done enough to improve government efficiency. Put it this way: If someone asked you how Mr. Obama had made government work better, would you have an answer?
Making government work better will be all the more important in the years ahead. The free market is not going to solve many of our biggest problems, be it stagnant pay or spotty medical care. And government — in Washington and locally — is going to be financially squeezed for a long time.
There never was a good excuse for wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that didn’t work. But now, especially, there’s no excuse.
Reporting On-Time Payments Low Cost and Easy Way to Improve Credit Access
By Carol Wayman on 03/08/2011 @ 09:50 AM
The Huffington Post column, "Alternative Credit Reporting: Is Experian Really Going to Help You Rebuild Your Credit?", inaccurately describes the extensive research and proven impact of full-file reporting of utility and telecom data. The authors conflate utility and telecom payment data -- which has extensive research and practice demonstrating positive benefits -- with rental payments that is new data and lacks the same analysis and demonstration.
Limited access to mainstream credit is a national problem. An estimated 70 million Americans are financially excluded not because of a bad credit history, but owing to a lack of sufficient credit history to generate a credit score. They spend more than $4 billion in fees on credit from high priced lenders.
Current reporting by utilities creates a late list. Nearly everyone’s 30-day late payments of utility and telecom data are reported to the National Consumer Telecom and Utility Exchange operated by Equifax. Additionally, many companies report late payments to the big three credit bureaus at various points, 30, 60, 90 days and again when turned over to a collections agency.
The question is how to reward the on-time payers who pay their credit-like bills (water, electric, gas, phone)?
Extensive research of eight million payment files demonstrates that reporting utility and telecom payments help families access appropriate and affordable credit. Reporting on-time payments along with the already reported late payments helps low-income households achieve a credit score and greater access to credit. This dramatically increases access to affordable sources of mainstream credit according to research by the Political and Economic Research Council (PERC):
- Twenty two percent of Hispanics and 21% of African Americans who otherwise would have been rejected, were accepted for mainstream offers of credit.
- Twenty one percent of those who earn $20,000 or less annually who otherwise would have been rejected, were accepted for mainstream offers of credit.
- Fourteen percent of those 25 or younger and 14% of those 66 or older, who would have otherwise been rejected, were accepted for mainstream offers of credit -- showing benefits for both younger and older generations.
In addition, both experience and rigorous empirical research has shown that fully reporting non-financial payment obligations like a telephone or utility bill to a national credit bureau does not result in those who are new to credit becoming overextended. In fact, those who receive mainstream credit because of alternative data reporting have been shown to be more credit responsible than the general population over time.
The column further misstates two key points:
- Credit scores should be accurate not pristine. If a family can afford groceries or their electric bill, but not both, then they shouldn’t be able to secure a mortgage loan, auto loan or any other form of credit that they cannot afford. Not everyone can afford credit at all times. Thus, reporting late payments actually serves to protect consumers from accessing credit they cannot afford and suffering subsequent adverse consequences such as collections, liens and bankruptcy.
The flip side is that when families do find solid footing, and can afford both groceries and electric bills, then their credit file reflects that fact and they will then be able to access mainstream credit they can afford.
Having only negative data, as is the case for most furnishers, is far less beneficial to lower income consumers and the credit underserved as it effectively prevents them from entering the credit mainstream.
- Strong support for utility and telecom payment full-file reporting. The PERC, CFED and the Center for Financial Services Innovation recruited nearly 70 local and national organizations to the Alternative Data Coalition. Our goal is to provide affirmative regulatory permission to greatly increase credit access for millions of Americans, ensuring that creditworthy individuals have access to affordable mainstream credit. Privacy organizations are supportive as they realize it enables individuals to catch and prevent identity theft sooner.
Only the National Consumer Law Center and one of its affiliated organizations has publicly raised concerns about the effect of full-file reporting on late-paying utility customers only. They have not shown any data linking late payment to any consumer harm.
Rather than reverting to fear tactics—such as suggesting that people will starve if their utility payment data is fully reported to a credit bureau—those few opponents of this initiative would do well to consider the facts. Indeed, at the Credit and Collections Annual Conference in Orlando, FL on March 2nd, 2011, Jed Nosal of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office—who had been opposed to full file reporting of energy utility payment data before being exposed to the PERC research findings—afterward remarked that advocates opposing this should do their homework better and that he wanted to learn more about this issue for his state’s citizens.
At this time of limited access to credit and budget deficits, implementing affirmative permission for full-file reporting of non-financial telecom and utility payment data to national Fair Credit Reporting Act-regulated credit bureaus costs the government nothing and increases accuracy of credit scores. It is a consumer-friendly approach that empowers consumers with control of access of information, gives them recourse in the event of an adverse action, and represents the apex of data privacy and security.
Carol Wayman, CFED
Michael Turner, PERC
D2D Announces New Tax-Time Contests
Posted on 03/07/2011 @ 10:00 AM
$1,000 in U.S. Savings Bonds, An iPad and a Healthy Financial New Year
Tax Day comes around far more quickly than expected year after year. And much like we do during New Years, we are forced to think about our actions and decisions throughout the past year, often making a list of empty resolutions - it’s not until we take that first step that we really commit to healthy change. To celebrate the new financial year, D2D Fund is offering two contests to get tax filers excited about this important first step: the BondsMakeitEasy #WhenIGrowUp contest and the Refund Rush highest score prize.
D2D Fund’s newest financial entertainment game, Refund Rush, challenges the player (whether tax filer or tax preparer) to make the best decisions about how to split their refunds. Clients in the game often face common challenges to savings, like having outstanding debt items or not having a bank account. This fun, fast-paced game comes with important financial lessons, but the real fun is that the highest scoring player between now and April 15 will win an Apple iPad. To see if you can cut it as a winning tax preparer, click here.
One of Refund Rush’s main lessons is that Savings Bonds are an easy and safe way to save during Tax Time. In order to remind tax filers that Savings Bonds can be the key to their loved ones’ dreams, the Bonds Make it Easy contest encourages families to think about their own dreams. One lucky winner, chosen from submissions of a one-minute or less video of your (or your neighbor’s, or sister’s, or child’s) child discussing his or her dreams for the future, will receive $1,000 in U.S. Savings Bonds. For more on the contest and the Tax Time Savings Bonds Campaign, visit the BondsMakeItEasy site here.
Whether saving for oneself, gifting dreams or managing debt, Tax Time Savings can be the impetus to year-round savings, creating a new way for tax filers to think about their finances. Here's to starting out the financial new year with only wins!
Filling the Job Gap
By Bill Schweke on 03/04/2011 @ 12:30 PM
At this juncture of a painfully slow recovery from a major recession, there remains a massive job gap in the U.S. The Upjohn Institute for Employment Research argues that if the country is to restore the employment to population ratio to the level it was in December, 2007, the American economy must create 320,000 net new jobs per month for five years.
What might this mean on the state level? What is the challenge facing North Carolina, for example? During 2010, according to the NC Justice Center, the state netted just 10,400 jobs. In order to get to pre-recession employment numbers by 2015, it must create slightly more than 14,000 net jobs per month. That’s approximately 168,000 annually.
These are big hurdles to leap over. Especially given the worries caused by the drag on the economy caused by the budget deficits in America’s states, along with Republican intentions to make large federal budget cuts in the spring and rapidly-increasing oil costs, another recession or a bout of stagflation is not unimaginable.
Given the larger fiscal and political context, any viable series of options must be grounded in recognizing certain facts that largely eliminate some courses to take, such as another infusion of stimulus money, a more cautious and slower route to budget balancing and large-scale public employment programs.
Consequently, alternatives must be relatively inexpensive (and public monies will very likely need to be shifted from ineffective programs to more promising ones). They must minimize the use of cash and, instead, pursue, in many cases, the sound design and implementation of appropriate tax expenditures. All direct spending must leverage other money, along with professional resources. Furthermore, the jobs agenda must include ways to save jobs, modernize firms and encourage the expansion of existing enterprises. They must also employ methods of aiding small businesses for political and practical reasons (foremost among these is the fact that nearly all net job creation since 1980 has occurred in small business startups less than five years old). Because of the depth and length of this recession, some of the approaches must address the problem of permanent job loss, the likelihood of substantial drops in lifetime earnings, the growth in the long term unemployed and discouraged workers. Finally, they must deliver significant results in the short-term, while dealing with the massive job gap that the country now faces.
During the past few years, I have been working on three ideas that mostly conform to these guidelines.
- A new Job Growth Tax Credit, which would provide a 30 percent tax credit on the first $14,700 of wages paid to each additional employee over and above 102 percent of the baseline employment. This incentive would be offered statewide to all sizes of business only in years of high unemployment and would play a countercyclical function. It would, moreover, mean that lower-wage jobs are subsidized at a higher rate and more such jobs will be generated. Lastly, the concept could be set up rapidly and would be attractive to a fairly wide spectrum of firms.
- A Targeted Job Creation Program, which offers small existing private employers direct wage and benefit subsidies in its most economically disadvantaged counties for hiring unemployed job seekers (ideally, ones that have exhausted their UI). Although more complicated to administer than the Growth Tax Credit, it is structured to reach those more deeply in need.
- Use the Federal Tax System to drive American job growth by leveraging tax time to reach out and support (especially) low-income start-up businesses. The federal tax system is the interface with 22 million self-employed individuals who file Schedule C each year, as well as 2 million new entrants to the system. VITA sites are now allowed to prepare Schedule C, and they should be encouraged to. It turns out that the tax system can be the entry to badly needed new benefits, like claiming EITC, the Make Work Pay Credit, and the Child Tax Credit, as well as a variety of other benefits which cost states nothing, but make a huge difference to struggling entrepreneurs and families. It is also the ideal venue for encouraging the fledgling business owner to access other managerial, educational and technical assistance resources and move out of the gray economy. The program would even be a positive incentive for doing so. Given the numbers of such firms - in the millions - encouraging and enabling only a small percentage to hire an employee or two would still amount to a big number and impact.**
This is a good place to start a major effort to bridge the job gap.
**My peers at CFED have developed this body of work. I have been comparatively a second or third violin, regarding this third idea. Thanks to Nancy, Gene, Bob and many others.
AFI is now accepting new applications for funding!
By Carol Wayman on 03/03/2011 @ 09:15 AM
The Assets for Independence (AFI) program is now accepting new applications for funding AFI projects. While applicants may submit materials at any time throughout the year, the Office of Community Services (OCS) will review and fund new grants in two cycles for the calendar year of 2011 and three cycles in the calendar years 2012 and 2013.
Spring Cycle – March 31, 2011
Summer Cycle – May 25, 2011
Winter Cycle – January 25, 2012
Spring Cycle – March 26, 2012
Summer Cycle – May 25, 2012
Winter Cycle – January 25, 2013
Spring Cycle – March 25, 2013
Summer Cycle – May 24, 2013
The full funding announcement can be found here. OCS must receive the applications no later than 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time of the due date.
Ask Your Legislators to Reauthorize AFI
The Assets for Independence Program is the largest federal grant program for Individual Development Accounts in the country. According to AFI's tenth report to Congress, it has provided funding for more than 600 projects and has helped tens of thousands of low-income households to leverage nearly $100 million dollars for their economic security through homeownership, higher education and/or microenterprise.
Reauthorization presents an important opportunity to make critical modifications to increase AFIA's utilization, ensure the success of your matched savings program and others around the country and continue to provide a crucial funding source for the IDA field and the thousands of working-poor families who are saving and building assets for their future.
Ask your legislators to support the reauthorization of the Assets for Independence Program! Click the TAKE ACTION link at the top right corner on this page and send a letter to your legislator asking them to reauthorize the program.
Eva Margolis Makes Exciting Move
Posted on 03/03/2011 @ 09:00 AM
Innovative Idea Champion Eva Margolis was one of the many stars of the Innovation Marketplace at the 2010 Assets Learning Conference. She was also one of the inspirational innovators who shared their “assets moment” visions in the Opening Plenary. She recently let us know about her move to a new position in the following letter:
I hope this finds you all well! I may have had the chance to speak with you informally about my departure from AccountAbility Minnesota (AAM), but I wanted to write to formally express my gratitude, share my excitement for this new opportunity, and reassure you that AAM’s financial services initiatives will not be affected by this transition. I will greatly miss working for AAM, which has always been an organization I deeply believe in and have enjoyed working for. I am thankful for the opportunities to grow personally and professionally during my 5 years with the agency, and I am especially grateful to have worked with such inspiring, insightful minds –especially regarding asset development and financial empowerment! Please know that I have deep respect for your work and the services you provide to communities.
I regret leaving AAM at the height of tax season and in the middle of the exciting work we are doing around asset building and increasing access to financial services. However, the opportunity to continue similar work through the Eastside Financial Center, which is a program of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, was rare and one that I could not pass up. I am looking forward to continuing the work towards economic justice and expanding access to underserved communities in this new capacity. My last day of employment with AAM will be March 4, 2011. During this transition time, I will be working closely with Tracy Fischman, our Executive Director, to ensure our programmatic and operational requirements continue to be met after my departure.
It truly has been a pleasure working with you through AAM and I look forward to keeping in contact with you through my new role.
With great respect,
We wish Eva the best and look forward to staying connected with her in her new role. We also will continue to feature the innovative work of AccountAbility Minnesota, especially with respect to connecting low-income households with asset-building opportunities at tax time.
A Green Foundation for Community Development
By Anne Li on 03/01/2011 @ 01:20 PM
‘Green’ development and ‘green’ jobs present exciting opportunities for innovation that will benefit lower-income people. Several ideas in CFED’s Innovation Portfolio explore the green economy. For example, check out Leonard McCollum’s and Chuck Shannon’s work with Green Business and Prisoner Re-entry and Ted Howard’s efforts with the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative in Cleveland, OH.
Coming up on March 10 – 11 in New Orleans is an interesting conference called Strengthening the Green Foundation: Research & Policy Directions for Development & Finance. It is co-sponsored by Tulane University's new Master of Sustainable Real Estate Development Program and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Center for Real Estate Analytics. The two sponsors invite researchers, industry practitioners, and policymakers to participate in a conference to advance the understanding and improve the practice of green development and finance.
The conference aims to influence the national dialogue on green building and will bring together top scholars and practitioners to investigate core issues surrounding green development and assess the tools, costs, benefits, and opportunities in financing green development. Discussions will focus on underwriting and valuation of green development projects, the role that real estate industry organizational structure plays in supporting green development, the application of green standards to real estate portfolio management, and green measurement criteria and certification issues.
Climate change is not the only concern driving the ‘green’ focus today. Rising energy costs, and the need to find long-term operational cost savings by consumers large and small – state and local governments who are feeling acute budget squeezes, companies and individual households like yours and mine – are another reason to explore and implement ‘green’ development approaches.
This conference looks like it should produce some interesting ideas and information. For more information, go to the conference website.
Mercado Global Links Guatemalan Women to U.S. Consumers
By Anne Li on 02/18/2011 @ 09:11 AM
Some of the excitement at the Innovation Marketplace of the 2010 Assets Learning Conference came from the fact that visitors could exercise their market skills by buying unique products and services. Mercado Global was one of the Marketplace’s featured International Innovations. Founded by Ruth DeGolia when she was a student at Yale, Mercado Global is a cutting-edge nonprofit, Fair Trade organization with an innovative approach to fighting poverty and empowering indigenous women in Guatemala’s highlands by connecting their artisan cooperatives to sales opportunities in the U.S. on an unprecedented scale.
I was not the only visitor who was drawn to Mercado Global’s Innovation Station by beautiful glass necklaces and bracelets, handcrafted by women’s cooperatives in Guatemala. Thanks to generous support from the Levi Strauss Foundation, Mercado Global also supplied all 1,100 attendees with hand-woven conference bags. Ruth reports that Mercado Global has recently started advanced technical trainings with their weaving cooperatives, which will enable more women to participate in current and future orders of woven goods. Over the next few months, these artisans will be learning a new technique on the foot-loom called the “panalito” technique. This complicated technique will help them build their skills of weaving with finer threads to create more complex scarves, which is perfect for new fall styles that will be carried by Levi’s.
Barbara Quieju, Mercado Global’s training program coordinator, reported, “At first, a lot of the artisans were slightly intimidated by the complex technique but soon they were laughing and easily picking up the new skills. The days were long but the artisans were excited and grateful to be learning a new technique.”
“The fabric of this scarf is different than what we usually make, it is a good thing that we are being taught how to loom well.” - Anju Siona
“This opportunity is a gift for me because now I am going to be an expert at foot looming.” -Fabiola Mendoza
“This technique seemed difficult, but when I did it it was not so complicated. We did not loom this well before.” – Saloj Guarcax
The work of Mercado Global illustrates the interconnectedness of decisions we make in our households, communities and country, as part of a global economy. And the efforts of Ruth DeGolia and her colleagues in the U.S. and Guatemala are examples of the kind of creative energy to spark innovation that will help us all to expand economic opportunity around the corner and around the planet.
Photos, courtesy of Mercado Global.
In Times Thick and Thin: New Studies in Labor Market Research
By Bill Schweke on 02/17/2011 @ 11:10 AM
The W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research has continued doing much appreciated work in publishing leading-edge scholarly, but useful research with three new books and the findings from a recent conference. Let’s start with the books.
Timothy Bartik’s “Investing in Kids: Early Childhood Programs and Local Economic Development” builds on his earlier work on the topic by describing a unique angle – why and how localities can benefit from effective programs that aid disadvantaged toddlers and youngsters.
Rachel Connelly and Jean Kummel’s work on “The Time Use of Mothers in the United States at the Beginning of the 21st Century” provides insights on how mothers choose to spend their time – paid and unpaid work, care giving, their own further schooling, and so on. It then explores the public policy implications of this phenomenon, including reforms in taxation, education and child cares subsidies.
Andrew Feldman looks at “What Works in Work-First Welfare”, examining the issues involved in providing more successful employment services in New York City.
In the fall of 2010, the Upjohn Institute held a conference on the causes and consequences of unemployment. A number of fine papers were presented, which drew the following conclusions:
- States that have enacted programs to provide tax credits for job growth during the past 20 years have often benefited from such efforts. But whether they do or do not depends greatly on the specific design features and the degree to which they avoid rewarding the firm for what it already intended to do.
- There is a massive job gap in the US now. If the country is to restore the population to employment ratio to the level it was in December, 2007, it must create 320,000 net jobs per month for five years. The job shortfall is also harming lower-educated citizens and communities plagued by higher than average levels of joblessness.
- A direct job creation subsidy to employers – either through the tax code or grants will have a bigger bang per buck than the Administration’s earlier stimulus program. The average cost per job created was about $112,000, while other approaches would be in the $5,000 to $28,000 per job generated.
- Financial crashes that increased unemployment and lowered investment income for retirement have differential impacts, depending on the skill level and income of the household. Although harmed, more advantaged older workers fare better than less affluent peers. They put off their retirement, while the low-income older workers are forced to withdraw from the labor market and join the long term unemployed.
- The business cycle lowers contribution levels to 401 (k) accounts and encourages “herd” investing (where they invest more when markets are high, and avoid them when the stock market is low). One additional implication is that projections of the adequacy of retirement incomes in the future are way off, exaggerating the assets level that has been achieved.
- After welfare reform, single working mothers that lose their jobs are less likely to use Unemployment Insurance than expected. But UI is more likely to be used by this group for support than cash assistance (welfare).
- The percentage of UI recipients exhausting their entitlement than has increased significantly since the mid-seventies. It appears to be caused by an increase in the number of permanent terminations, rather than traditional layoffs.
- Black males and females are harmed more by plant closures than their white counterparts.
- Between 2007 and 2009, involuntary part-time employment more than doubled.
For more information, go to www.upjohninst.org. More details, regarding the conference research findings can be found in the January 2011 issue of Upjohn’s “Employment Research” newsletter. Books can be ordered there as well.
The Financial Meltdown: What caused it? How good was the reform? What should I read that’s short but sweet?
By Bill Schweke on 02/15/2011 @ 04:42 PM
If the reader has any interest in the Great Recession and reads books, not just articles, he or she would have been struck by the virtual avalanche of books on the subject. I have probably read a dozen, as well as read some refresher pieces on Keynes, macroeconomics, history of Wall Street, and so forth. There are some great journalistic articles and scholarly tomes and lots of great stories out there.
Many claim that they are done with the general reader in mind. But they deal with a tough, complicated subject for the uninitiated in High Finance.
Two recent books move to the top of the list, regarding Meltdown 101 – Howard Davies’ “The Financial Crisis: Who Is To Blame?” and David Skeel’s “The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and its (Unintended) Consequences.”
The first volume does a superlative job of summarizing 38 different causes of the Meltdown – some that were more flippant (video games) and some were large, serious and even after the reform, hard to avoid in the future (“The Rich Get Richer, the Poor Borrow”). These three dozen-plus factors and events were grouped into 7 big categories:
- The Big Picture
- The Trigger
- The Failures of Regulation
- Accountants, Auditors and Rating Agencies
- Financial Firms and Markets
- Economics and Finance Theory: Irrational Expectations
- Wild Cards
- And Finally . . . A Combustible Mixture
Howard Davies, the current Dean of the London School of Economics, sought to present the origins and key traits of the so-called “Great Recession” in a fairly objective manner, while leaving space for some opinionated judgments when the time and specifics were right.
The book is based on materials collected for readings on a course on the Meltdown at LSE. Each of the 38 chapters identifies about half of a dozen, well-selected and current readings.
Since the book is a summary, it is a bit difficult to summarize. So, I will now just note a few of the issues and trends that seemed to matter, when trying to get a handle on the root causes of the recent recession.
- Uneven global trade and savings between China, India and the US. (And, leading of course, to America’s persistent trade deficit.)
- Loose monetary policy which created a larger bubble.
- The “inherent” tendency of capitalism to still move from boom to bust. (Prior to the meltdown, many claimed that the business cycle had been tamed. Wrong!)
- The subprime collapse, due to poor underwriting and high leverage.
- Numerous regulatory failures – inappropriate pro-cyclicality “incentives”, hidden off-balance sheet vehicles, derivatives, insufficient funds allocated to liquidity concerns, confusing regulatory complexity and division of labor in US, and many more.
- Lousy oversight of Fannie Mae and others similar institutions. (Interestingly, Davies saw this as a negative factor, but did not view, on the other hand, that the federal Community Reinvestment Act as a problem.)
- Multiple conflicts of interest – accountants, auditors, rating agencies and others.
- Breakdown in financial models used to predict economic fortunes in the future, which then contradicted the Efficient Market Hypothesis, which underpinned so much of the development of new securitization products.
- Much more . . .
Especially disturbing is the fact that we are still very ignorant about the causal chain of events, the “weight” of many of the factors, the identification of the most needed and efficacious reforms.
The Skeel book provides very little reassurance to the reader, who waded through the Davies text, regarding whether the problem has been really fixed.
The author is a bankruptcy attorney and law professor, with ties to the American Enterprise Institute. “The Financial Deal” is the first book-length independent analysis of the Dodd- Frank law. On the negatives, he notes the following points:
The legislation was designed by many of the parties involved in “making” the Meltdown happen and developing the first response to the liquidity crisis.
- The auto bailouts set bad precedents for future crisis, which could either lead to corporate domination of the bankruptcy process or governmental abnegation of rule by law.
- It makes federal bailouts more likely in the future.
- It avoids taking any anti-trust actions on those banks that are too big to fail.
- The law fails to clarify cross-border challenges and ambiguities between nation states.
- It foments a shift in the direction of “corporatism.”
- So much still depends on the rules that still need to be written and debated.
- The creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with Elizabeth Warren as the first director.
- The transparency requirements for derivatives.
- The potential of the Volker Rule to separate commercial from investment banking. (Some dangers here though because of some ambiguities in wording. The rule-making might or might not help.)
- New rules for capital and liquidity requirements.
- Most of the weaknesses are relatively achievable via a number of simple changes.
The last few chapters and its conclusion outline the author’s reform recommendations. Although I do not agree with all the author’s suggestions and assessments, he is very thoughtful and the book is a judicious summary of a very big law.
Rewards and Consequences of Breaking Up
Posted on 02/15/2011 @ 07:46 AM
Guest Blogger Patricia Johnson uses popular songs and culture to teach young people about economic decision making. She is founder of Game Theory Academy in Oakland, CA and a CFED Innovative Idea Champion. Look for yourself in the vivid words of her students that she shares in this commentary.
Game Theory Academy (GTA) teaches young people ages 16-22 about the economy. Our mission is to use money to engage young people in conversations that lead them to think deeply about their best self interest when it comes to money, education, jobs and recreation.
Typically GTA teaches in out-of-school settings, but each winter I have a very special opportunity: to bring the GTA curriculum to seniors at Met West High School in Oakland, CA for credit and graduation prerequisite. It’s a great lab for me to test myself. Do my students graduate with a solid understanding of economics? Are the GTA lessons tangible and memorable? When I read their homework assignments and grade exams, I see my own successes and failures as a teacher in their answers. Then I go back and revise my methods. Met West is a great ally in GTA’s quest to make economic education more relevant for young adults.
Met West is a very special high school. Founded as part of the ‘big picture,’ small school movement, Met West has students in class Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they are in internships at businesses and nonprofits in the community, getting job skills, testing out their various career interests and applying what they learn in school in a real-world environment. Because of Met West’s experimental and innovative approach to educating urban youth, it’s a great partnership for GTA.
Last week, for homework, I asked students to listen to the lyrics of the songs they love and write an essay about how they relate to economics. “Does the song have to be about money?” they asked me. No. The way we teach at GTA, economics applies to any decision that has consequences – whether that’s sleeping in rather than getting to class on time, majoring in computer science instead of art, running up your credit card or breaking up with your girlfriend. Any decision can be boiled down to economic concepts: best self interest, willingness to pay, risk tolerance, constraints and tradeoffs.
In his essay about rapper 50 Cent’s song, “I Get Money,” Jovan writes, “Some constraints Curtis Jackson faced before becoming a successful rapper were his economic status and location.” Jovan recognizes that growing up poor, in a poor neighborhood, are factors that hold many young people back from success. In class I ask students what their own constraints are, and challenge them to develop a strategy for overcoming those constraints.
Along a similar vein, Umar shows that he understands the concept of equal access to perfect information – one of the tenets of an efficient market. He cites the song “Money on My Mind” by Lil’ Wayne, who sings, “All we know is rocks and presidents like Mount Rushmore.” Umar writes that Lil’ Wayne, “is passively saying that he does not have access to perfect information because he was not educated well…He doesn’t know much about money or work.” His options are limited because he doesn’t have a good education, and is surrounded by a drug economy, and this puts him at a disadvantage.
Doraius builds on Umar’s point, in his essay about the Birdman song “Money to Blow.” The song is about getting everything you want when you have a lot of money. Doraius warns, “This makes people desire what the artist has. Unfortunately this song is not giving people perfect information. It creates an unrealistic image of how to obtain wealth.”
Doraius also connects the song to the core concept we teach at Game Theory Academy: “It might not be in your best self interest to blow all of your money on unnecessary things, even if you are able to.” At GTA, we make a clear distinction between best self interest and preferences. When it comes to making decisions, it’s easy to decide what to do when your preference and best self interest are the same. When they differ, deciding which course to take can be very stressful.
In her essay about the song “Fireworks” by Katy Perry, Marissa reflects that “it takes time to realize what your best self interest is at a young age.” Even some of you professionals reading this blog on the CFED web site probably struggle with making decisions in your best self interest all time. When is the last time you skipped a workout, wasted time on Facebook or hit the snooze button a few times on a dark winter morning?
Marissa writes, “You just need help getting steps to help you figure out what is best for you.” That’s what Game Theory Academy is all about. We give students what every MBA student gets: basic tools to make value-driven decisions for yourself. Every high school should use the same lens to introduce young people to their role in our complex, competitive economy.
A Ticket to Work Gives a Smoother Ride
Posted on 02/09/2011 @ 04:11 PM
Guest Blogger Joyce Armstrong is Project Director for Connecticut’s Connect to Work Center Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Project, working with persons with disabilities. Joyce and her colleague, Nora Bishop, are 2010 CFED Innovative Idea Champions. You may have met Joyce at the 2010 Assets Learning Conference’s Innovation Marketplace.
Co-opportunity and the Connect to Work Center have continued to work on the IDA pilot that we presented information on at the 2010 Assets Learning Conference’s Innovation Marketplace in Washington, DC. One major step that had to be completed was for Co-opportunity to become an Employment Network (EN) under Social Security’s Ticket to Work Program. They applied, were initially asked for some additional information and finally, a few weeks ago, they were accepted as an EN. This now allows us to move forward with recruiting people who are receiving Social Security benefits due to a disability who are interested in going off of their Social Security benefits, saving in a traditional IDA and participating in Financial Literacy Training.
Co-opportunity will be paid for each month that these individuals who assign their ‘tickets’ to them have earnings above the Ticket Payment Guidelines. ‘Ticket’ payments have “no strings attached” and can be used in any way that the program chooses. In our case, the payments will be used to support future ‘alternative’ IDAs that will better meet the needs of those with disabilities. Unlike traditional IDAs, the savings will not be restricted to homeownership, education or business ownership, but can be more versatility used for such purposes as vehicle modification or computers designed for persons with a particular disability. Through ‘Ticket’ payments, over a period of two to three years, we expect to have enough money to make this IDA program self sustaining.
Co-opportunity has decided that by utilizing distance learning and individual financial coaching over the phone, they will be able to serve our whole state. That will make it easier for us to find candidates for the IDAs. It’s also good because it involves all of the Connect to Work Center’s Community Work Incentive Coordinators/Benefits Counselors. Because they can all potentially refer people, we can discuss issues involving this in staff, talks about potential candidates and collectively, we’ll have an energy to move this project forward that wouldn’t be as strong if it only involved one area of our state and one or two of our Benefits Counselors.
We are starting now to look for potential candidates for the traditional IDAs (funded through the Assets for Independence Act). There are 3 slots that have been set aside for us. This will allow us to at least get started and to start getting ‘ticket’ payments.
Our search for “seed” money to offer ‘alternative’ IDAs is still ongoing, but things are looking up. Co-opportunity recently applied for a State of Connecticut Department of Labor Grant that would provide the seed money we need. We have all the relationships established that the grant proposal was looking for. The agency I work for, State of Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) is talked about as a place to find appropriate candidates for the target population, people with disabilities. No other community IDA program approached BRS for a letter of support and/or to talk about partnering with us.
The Connecticut Dept. of Labor grant would allow for purchase of a car, which is the savings goal that we expect most people who are on Social Security Disability to want. Although Connecticut is a small state, public transportation is very limited, and some areas have none. Even in more densely populated areas, it can be impossible or very time consuming to go from one city to another. I’ve seen people take jobs less than 10 miles from home and then have to spend almost 2 hours on 3 different buses to get to work. Most people aren’t going to do this for very long. It’s tiring and people with children probably aren’t going to be able to do this at all. We also have issues with limited hours of service even where there are bus routes. Often, the bus doesn’t run as late as needed for someone to get home from work; and holidays and weekends have very limited bus service.
We will hear about our eligibility for the Dept. of Labor grant in March. They will be awarding more than one grant and we’re confident that one of those will be ours. We can’t wait for March and the announcement. Next time I bring you up to date, I expect to be able to give you good news on our funding status. Also, I hope that we will have at least one person started in a traditional IDA.
Savings Bonds are a Smart Move
Posted on 02/07/2011 @ 08:49 AM
Guest Blogger Diane Browning heads the rural retirement Project of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) from Lewisburg, West Virginia. She is a 2010 CFED Innovative Idea Champion. This post first appeared as an Op-Ed Commentaries section of the Charleston Gazette:
The parties are over, the holiday lights are coming down and the long slog to spring has begun -- made all the drearier by having to account for last year's income and file taxes.
However, there is a new bright spot in this annual ritual -- the opportunity to build savings at tax time.
The federal policy to facilitate the purchase of a savings bond via a refund was set in place last tax season and has been streamlined for 2011 filings, along with the addition of the option to buy savings bonds as gifts.
In our society, we get a barrage of offers to spend our refund, but how often do you get asked to save it? Yet savings is a key indicator of upward mobility. The Pew Charitable Trust's Economic Mobility Project found that 71 percent of children born to high saving, low-income parents advance economically.
Saving isn't easy, though, no matter what your income bracket. It doesn't seem as difficult when you have extra cash, which many people do at tax time. After paying their payroll taxes, many low-wage workers receive earned income tax credits or child tax credits. Directing some of that refund into a savings bond is smart.
And the U.S. I Bond is a smart savings product. It is purchased at face value for as little as $50, is guaranteed, has an interest rate tied to inflation, a rate competitive with bank CDs (but without the high minimums) and is portable. Most all banks and credit unions redeem them. For people who operate without a checking or bank account, you don't need one to buy a savings bond.
A national pilot program testing the sale of bonds at tax time found that the overwhelming reason people bought bonds was for their children or grandchildren. It is a simple truth that no matter what our station in life, we want our children to prosper. This year, the IRS tax form 8888 allows you to direct part of your refund to
The bonds will be mailed to you about three weeks after you file.
Our economic turmoil in these past few years has had a few upsides. One is being thrifty and saving is "cool" again. By offering a universal and safe savings product at an opportune time to save, it has also become easy. So, as you get ready to see your tax preparer or bravely do your taxes yourself, plan to buy a bond -- and tell your friends and family to buy a bond, too. In the end, it is improving our individual balance sheet with increased assets at the household level that will make our economy sustainable over the long haul.
A New Mayor and an Experienced Mayor Trade Thoughts
By Anne Li on 02/02/2011 @ 09:12 AM
Hello! My name is Anne Li and I am CFED’s program director for innovation. I will be blogging pretty regularly from now on, and also inviting you and others to be Guest Bloggers.
I’d like to share some observations from a standing-room only event on January 20th at the St. Regis Hotel. It featured a number of mayors and others who are leading cities into the forefront of asset innovation. CFED’s new report, Building Economic Security in America’s Cities: New Municipal Strategies for Asset Building and Financial Empowerment was the centerpiece of the event. Generous funders Living Cities and the Surdna Foundation were represented by Ben Hecht and Jasmine Thomas, respectively. The Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Coalition, whose members inspired and provided much of the information in the report, were represented by (among others) Jonathan Mintz of New York City and Jose Cisneros of San Francisco.
Many in the audience, including myself, were struck by the observations of a new mayor and an experienced mayor. Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence RI had been in office only 17 days! Himself raised by a single mom and attending Head Start, Mayor Taveras went on to Harvard University and Georgetown Law School before being elected mayor last fall. He said, “A child is poor because the parents are poor. Lift the parent out of poverty, and you’ve lifted out the child, and broken the cycle of poverty.”
Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul, MN has more time in grade than Mayor Tavares. He had recently been re-elected to a second term. He said, “Cities are uniquely qualified to have an impact on citizens’ financial security. Cities can use their schools, their libraries, their parks, and so many other places and ways in which they touch people where they live.”
Mayor Coleman asked Mayor Taveras: “You’ve been in office 17 days. How many calls about snow removal have you already received?” He went on to use snow removal (a touchy subject for so many of us, this winter) as an example of the way cities have unique types of interactions with residents that affect their financial security. When a city declares a snow emergency, the Mayor said, it is very often lower-income residents who don’t move their cars from the snow emergency routes. Why? Sometimes because they’re not tuned in well enough to hear about the snow emergency declaration. Sometimes their car won’t start and they can’t afford to buy a new battery.
And then what happens? The Mayor asked and answered. Their car is ticketed and towed. And the $75 for a ticket plus the $350 for towing, while a nuisance for more affluent residents, may become a financial catastrophe for a low-income household. It may be enough to push that household into crisis.
With that very graphic and compelling story, Mayor Coleman sounded the theme echoed by the other speakers and by the report: cities can leverage municipal power and politics to advance a diverse financial empowerment agenda. The report describes a variety of innovative municipal approaches – not only New York and San Francisco, but also Seattle-King County, Newark and San Antonio among many others. It’s a user-friendly catalogue of innovative strategies and policies that localities across the country can adapt to the needs of their citizens to help them build and preserve financial security.
Interested in what else was discussed during the January 20th event? Watch the recorded briefing and panel discussion here.
Slideshow: Building Financial Security in America's Cities Release
By Chris Campbell on 02/01/2011 @ 08:43 PM
CFED and the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Coalition held a release event for CFED's new groundbreaking report, Building Economic Security in America's Cities: New Municipal Strategies for Asset Building and Financial Empowerment, on January 20 in Washington, DC. Enjoy our slideshow from the event.
New SBA Advantage Programs for Capitalizing Underserved Small Businesses
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/27/2011 @ 03:43 PM
This year the Small Business Administration (SBA) is launching two new programs, Small Loan Advantage and Community Advantage, to expand access to capital for underserved small businesses. Such businesses often experience difficulty in securing loans from mainstream financial institutions which typically do not offer small loans because of their low profitability. The SBA’s Advantage Programs are designed to fuel economic growth in underserved communities by increasing access to small loans for these businesses.
The Small Loan Advantage Program encourages larger SBA lenders to offer small loans through streamlined paperwork, quick approval times (minutes for Small Advantage Loans submitted through the e-Tran system and one business day for all other loans), a $250,000 loan amount maximum and a higher guarantee for loans below $150,000 (85% compared to 75% for loans over $150,000).
The Community Advantage Program is a three-year pilot to increase the number of SBA 7(a) lenders in underserved communities. The pilot is focusing on mission-driven financial institutions (e.g., CDFIs, CDCs) that previously have not been able to offer SBA loans. As with the Small Advantage Loan Program, the required paperwork is streamlined and the maximum loan amount is $250,000 with a higher guarantee for loans under $150,000. The approval time for Community Advantage loans however is 5 – 10 business days.
Both programs are scheduled to be implemented beginning March 15, 2011. Applications from mission-driven financial institutions for the Community Advantage Program are being accepted starting on or before February 15. For more information, check out the SBA press announcement.
Fostering Green Entrepreneurship
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/26/2011 @ 03:20 PM
ACE, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, is a SBA microloan intermediary, USDA intermediary re-lender and a certified CDFI that provides loans to underserved small businesses unable to access traditional lines of credit. ACE serves small businesses in 68 counties throughout northern Georgia and since its founding in 1999, has loaned more than $5 million to disadvantaged small businesses. ACE loans range from $500 to $50,000.
In 2009, ACE established Georgia Green Loans, a program that provides loans to small businesses that produce eco-friendly products or want to “green” their operations. ACE administers the program and works with two other Georgia small business lenders – Small Business Assistance Corporation and Albany Community Together, Inc. – to provide these loans throughout the state.
With the creation of Georgia Green Loans, ACE gained national attention as a leader in developing green and sustainable entrepreneurship and subsequently received $700,000 grant from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to create Save and Sustain, a program that provides subsidized audits and low interest loans to small businesses seeking to reduce energy costs.
ACE was also awarded an SBA PRIME grant to create the Academy for Green Micro-enterprise Development, which helps other organizations with green business development programs. Already organizations in Spokane, WA, New Orleans and Detroit have been assisted through the Academy. In addition to these federal and state government awards, ACE received the 2010 Wachovia Wells Fargo NEXT award for the category of industry innovation.
For over 10 years ACE has been investing in underserved communities through small business development and is now pioneering the way to further invest in them through environmental sustainability.
Making Entrepreneurship Accessible
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/20/2011 @ 03:41 PM
People with disabilities face disproportionately high rates of unemployment. In order to address this and develop self-employment as a viable option for people with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) funded the Self-Employment Technical Assistance, Resources, & Training or START-UP USA, a partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Griffin-Hammis and Associates, LLC. START-UP USA provides technical assistance and disseminates a range of resources to people with disabilities that want to pursue self-employment. START-UP USA also provides technical assistance to three START-UP demonstration projects in New York, Alaska, and Florida.
The New York demonstration, START-UP NY, has been particularly successful in creating a model of “inclusive entrepreneurship” that can serve as a model for replication – one the overall goals of the START-UP initiative. START-UP NY, a partnership between the Syracuse University Burton Blatt Institute (BBI), the University’s Whitman School of Management (through its South Side Innovation Center) and Onondaga County, has worked with 204 individuals with disabilities since 2007 to assist them in exploring self-employment options, of which 48 have started their own businesses. The “Inclusive Entrepreneurship” model entails working with partners to leverage financial resources, access financial literacy services and train college students to work with entrepreneurs with disabilities as business development consultants, a component of a new jointly-taught Whitman School and BBI course. BBI, on behalf of the Onondaga County Department of Social Services, managed the design and implementation of the START-UP NY program. The Whitman School’s South Side Innovation Center houses the program which enables access to other related services offered by the Center. Through this model, START-UP NY provides participants with assistance in business plan development and review, benefits planning and financing as well as other resources.
The success of START-UP NY has led to efforts to replicate the program in Manhattan and is informing other similar initiatives throughout the state. Furthermore, a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, as part of the Syracuse Campus-Community Entrepreneurship Initiative referred to as Enitiative, initiated a pilot IDA program for disabled entrepreneurs through the Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union. In addition, the Gifford Foundation’s (also in Syracuse) Matched Savings Program provided matching funds for another 35 IDA accounts for disabled entrepreneurs.
For more information on START-UP/USA and other state and federal self-employment initiatives for people with disabilities, check out ODEP’s self-employment page.
10 rules for deficit reduction with fewer fears
By Bill Schweke on 01/18/2011 @ 03:00 PM
North Carolina, like most American states, faces a tough funding future. The state has a large budget shortfall, which it is legally required to close. Hard choices are on the horizon -- significant cuts in services and programs and possibly tax and fee hikes. Fortunately, state leaders can and ought to take steps to make a difference.
Gov. Beverly Perdue has made a start in identifying potential cuts. Her plan is to "remake" state government by consolidating 14 state agencies into eight and privatizing functions such as information technologies.
No figures for possible cost savings have been suggested, which is to be expected. The effort to enact a new balanced budget will take time.
However, these actions do not guarantee significant cost savings. Moreover, there exists no "natural law" that programs are made more cost-efficient and effective by being housed somewhere else.
Privatization is not even a sure strategy. Sometimes it has worked and sometimes, not. And there are many perils along the way. Big spending cuts could harm North Carolina's most economically vulnerable citizens. Disinvestment in education and infrastructure could undermine or market position in the global economy. Moreover, the administration and the General Assembly could miss an "opportunity" for transforming governance and services.
A few years ago, the state of Washington's governor and its Office of Financial Management used a process that sought to "buy" the best results for their budget dollar and closed a $2 billion budget gap.
These reforms are not easy. Liberals and conservatives will both raise objections. Here, however, are 10 steps that deserve consideration:
- Start by separating the governance ("steering") function from the service delivery ("rowing") function. Do not contract out the former but find the best public, private or nonprofit service provider for a particular job.
- Do not eschew any tool for change -- the budget process, personnel system and procurement system all are needed to make things happen.
- Be ready to abandon programs that don't work.
- Stop worrying about agencies and think about strategic opportunities. The key questions are not -- "Where do we put this agency or division?" but "How do we best tackle this policy area?" and "Given that public money is set aside for this strategy, how much funding is needed to not just do the right thing, but to make a difference?" and "What types of alliances are required?"
- Emphasize prevention, not treatment.
- North Carolina's tax system is outdated. Three commissions during the last 20-plus years have analyzed the issue and largely offered the same set of recommendations -- broader tax base with lower rates aiming to advance tax equity, neutrality and stability.
- Emphasize long-term returns on public investments.
- Change employee incentives in order to begin shifting the governmental culture from a focus on rules, red tape and inputs to one on innovation, initiative and results.
- In an effort to accomplish more with less, do not be seduced by the notion that one need only slash payrolls and then seek to raise efficiency by "flogging" the remaining public employees.
- Focus, instead, like a laser beam on meeting the customers' needs, not the organization's desire for immortality. Much innovation has to be bottom-up, led by the employees.
This is an admittedly ambitious agenda and there is not much time to act. Worse still, the standard budget process is already underway.
Fortunately, we do not need to start from scratch. North Carolina has experience with these activities and tools. With hard work, open minds and realistic expectations we can make a real difference in meeting the quality and cost concerns of our citizens.
This Thursday! Building Economic Security in America's Cities Release Event
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/18/2011 @ 02:23 PM
CFED's latest report, Building Economic Security in America’s Cities: New Municipal Strategies for Asset Building and Financial Empowerment, highlights the work cities across the country are doing to educate, empower and protect residents in the financial marketplace. This report represents a comprehensive effort to document the range of municipal policies and programs that are being used to enhance the financial security of low-income families during a time of deep recession. Join us this Thursday, January 20 from 9 - 10:30am ET for a briefing and panel discussion on the new policies cities are adopting to help their residents achieve economic security.
The discussion will be moderated by Bill Purcell, Special Advisor on Allston and former mayor of Nashville, TN, and featured speakers will include:
Andrea Levere, President, CFED
Billy Kenoi, Mayor, Hawaii County
Ben Hecht, President and CEO, Living Cities
Jasmine Thomas, Program Officer, The Surdna Foundation
Jonathan Mintz, Commissioner, New York City Department of Consumer Affairs
Jose Cisneros, Treasurer, City and County of San Francisco
Chris Coleman, Mayor, St. Paul
The event will be held in the Carlton Ballroom of the St. Regis Hotel at 16 and K Streets, NW. RSVP by emailing email@example.com.
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