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The Inclusive Economy

What the Election Means for Asset-Building Work

By Margaret Miley, Guest Contributor on 11/14/2012 @ 12:00 PM

Tags: Federal Policy

Last week, the CFED and the Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee co-hosted a national conference call on the outcome of the election and what it means for the asset-building field.

National pollster Guy Molyneux from Hart Research Associates gave us an overview, answered questions, and described the polling data collected before and during the election. They show interesting national trends and opportunities. Here what is “in” and “out” from the polling.

  1. IN: Tax reform. The nation’s 35-year-long “tax revolt” has ended, as evidenced by national exit polling and the passage of Proposition 30 in California. Focused tax increases can be passed, and polling shows support for tax increases on the wealthy.
  2. OUT: Debt. One lesson taken from the economic crash is the danger of debt. This refers to both personal debt that threatens individual financial stability, as well public deficits and debts. The flip side is the value of having a financial cushion – an asset of some kind.
  3. IN: Financial education. A lesson from the housing crash pointed to the importance of financial sophistication. Financial skills and knowledge are increasingly valued.
  4. IN: Efficiency. Programs that show the net benefit of the programs is very high relative to the seed money of public investment. This is good news for those of us who use a data-driven approach to program design, but we do need to support the infrastructure of public incentives that our savers rely on to save and invest in assets. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) expressed this at Midas’ recent Assets & Opportunity Breakfast in Boston. “There are public programs that are not self-executing; they can be very complicated,” Frank said. “Your work makes the public programs more important, and the public programs make your work more important.” Financial stability and asset-building programs augment – but do not replace – the essential social safety net provided by the public sector.
  5. IN: Republican realignment. There are some Republicans who may find asset-building work appealing, as the party may be going through a process of trying to rework its agenda. It has “crossover appeal,” and could give an opportunity for them to demonstrate compassion for the less fortunate, which has been seen as a big problem for Republicans for a number of years.
  6. OUT: Generational competition. Public investment discussions that bifurcate the population generationally are tricky. People are uncomfortable with the argument that we should put more investments toward children than elders. We need to take care that any promotion of child savings incentives does not get swept into this frame.
  7. IN: Better consumer protections could be in, but they need a lift, and this is our challenge. Consumers don’t know what is meant by “financial regulation,” yet they are suspicious of large financial institutions and reactive in specific instances, such as the recent backlash on overdraft fees. This work needs rebranding in order to make it accessible and engaging.


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