Expanding Opportunity in America

Expanding Opportunity
Full Report
Remarks at AEI
Op-Ed in USA Today
Question & Answer

Section Summaries
Criminal Justice Reform
Opportunity Grant
Regressive Regulation
Results-Driven Research

Hardworking taxpayers deserve a break in this country. Too many people are working hard to get ahead, and yet they’re falling further behind. We have an obligation to expand opportunity in this country—to deliver real change and real results. In that spirit, this proposal, Expanding Opportunity in America, offers a number of commonsense ideas to help working families get ahead.

  • The Safety Net: Instead of helping people look for work, many federal programs end up discouraging people from finding work. This proposal would create a pilot program called the Opportunity Grant to coordinate aid for families in need. By allowing states and community groups to test different ways of fighting poverty, federal aid will help people not just avoid hardship—but build a successful career.

  • The Earned Income Tax Credit: One of the most effective anti-poverty programs is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which encourages people to work by increasing work’s rewards. This proposal shifts funding from programs that don’t work to one program that does. It would expand the EITC for childless workers by eliminating ineffective programs and corporate welfare.

  • Education: The federal government can expand opportunity by expanding access to education. But far too often it restricts that access, such as by stoking tuition inflation. This proposal would give states more flexibility with federal education and job-training programs in exchange for more accountability. It also would simplify the current pile of higher-education programs into one grant, one loan, and one work-study program. Finally, it would spur more innovation by opening up the accreditation process.

  • Criminal Justice: A growing body of research exposes the high costs of incarceration. To help low-risk, non-violent offenders re-enter society, rebuild their families, and pursue careers, this proposal would revise mandatory-minimum guidelines and couple expanded enrollment in rehabilitative programing with an earned-time-credit system in federal prisons.

  • Regressive Regulations: Many federal regulations, especially energy regulations, place a disproportionately large burden on low-income households. And occupational licensing—most often at the state and local level—too often protects incumbents instead of the public. This proposal would require Congress to review any proposed federal regulation that would unduly burden low-income families. It also calls for states and local governments to revise their licensing laws.

  • Results-Driven Research: This proposal calls for a commission to examine the best ways to encourage rigorous analysis of our safety-net programs. Specifically, the commission would consider the implementation of a new Clearinghouse for Program and Survey Data to enhance research capabilities and help us policymakers design more effective programs.

Poverty is a very complex problem, and Washington doesn’t have all the answers. This paper is not meant to serve as the final word, but to start a conversation all across the country. Anyone with questions or comments about this proposal can contact the committee at ExpandingOpportunity@mail.house.gov.

By opening up the debate, we hope to help the best ideas prevail and to empower our communities to expand opportunity in America.