The Inclusive Economy
Read This If You’re Having a Bad Day
By Bob Friedman on 06/04/2015 @ 12:00 PM
As seen in the June 2015 edition of CFED's newsletter...
EDITOR'S NOTE: Last week, CFED hosted a fundraiser in San Francisco to honor the vision of Founder Bob Friedman, our Chair Emeritus. During this event, we also launched the Family Economic Opportunity Fund, a $2,000,000 campaign to raise the capital CFED needs to design, pilot and scale innovative programs and policies that significantly reduce wealth inequality in the US and ensure that all U.S. families can achieve financial success. The Family Economic Opportunity Fund was seeded by a generous donation from Morgan Stanley and has already attracted over $700,000 in gifts from companies and individuals who attended our fundraiser in San Francisco. In preparation for this event, we asked Bob to write a letter to his granddaughter, Olivia—his pride and joy. In that letter, he shared his vision of the world he wants Olivia to inherit. This vision has been the driving force behind CFED since Bob founded it in 1979. The letter was just too sweet not to share!
My colleagues (many of whom you’ve met) at CFED, the organization I started and work with, asked me to write this letter explaining to you what we do and why we do it. We have a hard time explaining that to most people. I think they wanted me to try to explain it to you so I would explain it clearly, but I think they might underestimate how smart you are.
Olivia, only one of the things I love about you is the way you seek out the stranger in the room—the one everyone knows least—and make her or him part of the group. We at CFED want to make every person in this country part of the group, able to support themselves and their families, and do what they want to do to make the world better.
You will almost certainly go to college and develop the skills to do what you want—Princess Scientist—and make enough money to raise kids of your own and help others. If you want to start a business, you will have the savings to do that. If you want to buy a house, you will have the downpayment you need to do that.
We talk a lot about what is most important—being smart and kind—the value of practice and learning and working hard. (I’m really glad that we now agree being pretty is NOT the most important.) A lot of times you will hear that if you are smart and kind and work hard that everything will work out okay.
But sometimes it doesn’t. And while a lot of the reasons are bad luck, there are a lot of bad rules that make bad luck last longer and hurt more than it should.
At CFED, we work to change the bad rules to good rules so that bad luck doesn’t last. And the good news is, the good rules help not just the people with the bad luck, but everybody.
For example, La Terra Cole, one of the first people we helped save for college. La Terra grew up in foster homes, apart from her birth parents—I do not know why they could not take care of her, but I think part of it was not being able to earn enough money to support her. Only three of 100 foster kids like La Terra get to go to college, even through college is the surest path to a good job. That is when we met. We did what most parents who can do for their own kids: we gave La Terra $1 to match every dollar she saved from the part-time jobs she worked after school. When she saved $100, we gave her another $100 she could use to pay for college. Actually, she worked so hard, she saved more than $1,000; she went on to college and then law school. She is now working and saving money to finish law school and start her business, which will help other kids in foster care follow their dreams, stay out of debt, go to college.
We work because we think every kid like La Terra—every kid and every adult in the United States—deserves a chance to go to college, start a business, buy a house, work, and save and support a family. One of the things I have learned--as I think you have learned from meeting people—is how amazing most people are if you just give them a chance. We think if everybody does better, if everyone can contribute their work and ideas of how to live better, then more—everybody—will.
There are many reasons why so many kids and adults don’t have the chances your mom has created for you. Some reasons lie in the past--the bad rules that allowed slavery and kept people with different skin color from getting the homes or jobs they deserved. And there are still bad rules today. When you are eight, we will cover the tax system in greater detail, but for today here is what you need to know: Every year, every person in our country has to pay the government some part of the money they make so that the government can do the things it needs to do to keep you safe. With that money, the government builds roads and pays teachers, makes parks and helps people that can’t help themselves. There are a lot of rules that go into how much you pay the government and right now, the rules help people who have the most, save the most. We think that it would be a better idea to have the rules help the people who need it the most save the most. That way, they can help themselves instead of having to ask for help from the government, and everybody can enjoy what they can contribute when given the chance.
Olivia, may you always brighten the world as you have this past six, almost seven years. You inspire me to do all I can to deliver a better world for you and all your generation.
With love and pride,