Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Roundtable: Seeking Agreement on Poverty and Inequality
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 12, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Brickell North (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Roundtable Organizers:  Lawrence Mead, New York University
Moderators:  Lawrence Mead, New York University
Speakers:  J. Lawrence Aber, New York University, Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution and Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University

This roundtable would summarize an important initiative in antipoverty policy. AEI and Brookings have jointly sponsored a group of leading experts on poverty and inequality to seek an agreed agenda on these critical problems. The group numbers 17 and is about equally divided between liberals and conservatives. Several of them are APPAM members. Our concern is that progress against poverty has stalled, while inequality is growing, and yet a partisan impasse in Washington has prevented serious new initiatives. We share a common concern that inaction will render our social problems even more intractable. Despite our differences, we seek a common way forward toward a more hopeful and less divided America. The group has held two meetings, and at least two more are planned. By summer we hope to have drafted a report that will do three things. First, we will define what we mean by poverty and inequality and what we think their major causes are; no doubt we will emphasize changes in both social and economic structures and in personal life. Second, we will propose values to guide our search for solutions; these will likely stress both individual and social responsibility. Third, we will recommend the new policies and programs that seem most essential to revive progress against poverty and improve opportunity for all Americans. New offensives against poverty are nothing new in Washington. AEI/Brookings is special because of the attention it gives to the current impasse. The project was conceived by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who studies the moral bases of agreement and disagreement. Our specific proposals will be less significant than the moral bases for common action that we hope to define. One precedent was the Working Seminar of diverse experts on welfare that AEI convened in 1987, and which helped form a consensus on the need for work requirements as part of welfare reform. It is too early to predict the shape of our report. Possibly, the group will fail to overcome differences and have little to report. But even in that event, the panel should be of great interest to APPAM. Almost all APPAM members are concerned about America’s social problem and frustrated that little new is being done about it. This project—and the proposed panel—will certainly have something new to say about what our deepest differences are. At the roundtable, I will summarize the projects goals, history, and current status (Jon Haidt cannot be with us). Then Larry Aber will speak for the liberal members, Ron Haskins for the conservatives. Each will explain how the issues and differences have appeared to him, and how the two sides have—or have not—been able to reach agreement. To what extent can they share a common vision of a more united society? We also realize that there will be other experts in the audience, so we will be sure to allow ample time for discussion.
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