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The Ladder

A Blog from New America's Asset Building Program

Asset Building News Week, April 30-May 4

Published:  May 4, 2012
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include inequality, education, poverty and local asset building initiatives.

Local Asset Building Initiatives

The Bowling Green Daily News reports that "a record number of taxpayers filed returns through the Barren River Asset Building Coalition" this year. The Wall Street Journal reports on a new study finds that assisting families with the FAFSA form at tax time (since large portions of the FAFSA mirror the tax filing process) can boost college enrollment. Rachel Black hones in on the key takeaway: taking 8 minutes to help a family complete the FAFSA is a no-brainer way to help more kids get to college. The city of Austin, Texas has announced a new matched savings program for low-income residents. Meanwhile Denver, Colorado has launched a Mortgage Credit Certificate, to give eligible borrowers up to $2000 in the form of a tax credit. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock had this to say: “For many families, home ownership is a primary method of asset building and saving for the future. We’re providing a financial boost to individuals and families while increasing home ownership opportunities and the overall strength and vitality of Denver neighborhoods.” While he’s absolutely right that homeownership is a vehicle to economic stability, this credit will not offer much to renters or people who have recently experienced foreclosure.


What does poverty look like? Derek Thompson examines data on low-income workers and concludes that the “statistical epitome of American poverty” is a white fast-food worker living in Mississippi. Pennsylvania’s Public Welfare Department is moving forward with its misguided plan to reinstate asset limits for the SNAP program. Despite recent USDA reports that SNAP served as a very effective anti-poverty tool during the most intense years of the recession, Pennsylvania is bringing back an asset test for the program. Even a Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman’s attempt to justify them perfectly articulates why the policy is a mistake: The rules are "a way for us to ensure that individuals who have readily available resources will first deplete that before relying solely on public assistance." Congratulations PA for turning the safety net into a snare.


Dana Goldstein contributes to GOOD Magazine’s Campaign for Big Ideas. Her idea is universal pre-K which she envisions as a boon to children, families and the overall economy, because “a public early education system has the potential to fight poverty and joblessness.” A seventh-grader from Tennessee wrote an op-ed that examines the causes of the educational racial achievement gap. She cites systemic economic and social disadvantages and writes, "If we truly want to give each child an equal opportunity to succeed, in both school and in life, we need to acknowledge these problems that exist and eliminate them in any way possible. These problems did not happen overnight, so they will not go away in an instant. But by fixing these problems, we might actually make the American Dream a reality for everyone."


PBS looks at how the banking sector has (or hasn’t) changed since the financial crisis. Ida Rademacher from CFED has a guest post on the Center for Financial Inclusion blog about the importance of client input and perspectives when designing products. Instead of falling “into the trap of thinking about banking from the perspective of the banks,” she suggests reorienting toward the needs of the consumer.


Brad Plumer at the Washington Post interviews economist James Galbraith who has looked at global economic inequality, drawing interesting conclusions. Specifically, Galbraith notes that “there are common global patterns in economic inequality across different countries that appear to be very strongly related to major events affecting the world economy as a whole.” He goes on, “The discussion of inequality tends to be heavily dominated by a marketplace perspective that stresses individual-level characteristics like the demand for skill. Economists have always classified this as a microeconomic problem. ... But when something’s happening at the same time around the world, in different countries that are widely separated, that’s a macro issue. There was a global movement toward higher inequality as a result of the financial stresses that the world is under.”


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