Every year, the Asset Building Program analyzes the President's budget request to see how much goes to support asset building policies. More importantly, we keep tabs on how this money is spent because this is the key to understanding who the spending is benefiting. As research from our friends at the Pew Economic Mobility Project has shown, savings and assets can play a powerful role in moving low-income families up the economic ladder.
Unfortunately, this year, like every year before, The Assets Report 2012 shows that the majority of spending takes place through the tax code and, consequently, ends up primarily benefiting higher-income households. Spending billions of dollars to help the wealthy build wealth isn't effective policy or smart spending.
This year, for the first time, we've launched an infographic to tell the story of how families at different income levels benefit (or don't) from current federal spending in support of asset building policies and recommend ways that we could do better.
For example, lower income workers are least likely to work for an employer that offers a retirement plan, like a 401(k), participate in a workplace retirement plan, or benefit from federal spending in support of retirement savings. The federal budget will spend almost $73 billion to subsidize retirement savings through 401(k)s, but research shows that 80 percent of that spending will benefit only the top income quintile. A Universal 401(k) system would establish a retirement account for all workers and offer matching incentives targeting lower- and middle-income earners. That's an important but dense paragraph. See how much better it looks in the infographic!?!
Over the next few days, we'll be digging into different sections budget and infographic, starting with home ownership tomorrow. But don't wait for us to tell you the story, go and read it yourself.
We hope that this new format will help communicate the vast disparities in support recieved by higher income and lower income families and argue for sensible policy changes that can expand economic opportunity rather than drive wealth inequality. Please take a look, and let us know what you think.