Archive for the ‘Center for American Progress’ Category

The Effect of Rising Inequality on Social Security

February 27, 2015 Comments off

The Effect of Rising Inequality on Social Security
Source: Center for American Progress

The nation’s Social Security system has long been a bedrock of economic security, protecting nearly all American workers and their families in case of retirement, disability, or the death of a primary breadwinner. Some 239 million workers ages 20 and older are insured under the program. In 2013, Social Security provided benefits to 58 million people, including 41 million retirees and dependents of retirees, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 11 million disabled workers and dependents of disabled workers.

Over the past three decades, however, rising inequality has increasingly threatened the notion of shared economic security. Those at the top of the income spectrum have seen tremendous gains, while most Americans have watched their wages decline or stagnate amid rising costs. In the wake of the Great Recession, the top 1 percent of households captured roughly 76 percent of inflation-adjusted income gains between 2009 and 2013.

Much of the leap made by the very rich is attributable to nonwage forms of income such as capital gains, but huge disparities also persist when looking only at wages, which form the basis for Social Security tax revenues because payroll taxes only apply to wage income. In 2013, for example, the top 1 percent of earners took home about 12.9 percent of the nation’s total wage income in 2013—nearly as much as the share received by the entire bottom half of workers, who captured approximately 13.7 percent of wage income. This growing divide in wages—combined with the fact that wages in excess of the taxable maximum are exempt from payroll taxes—means that millionaire and billionaire earners stop contributing to Social Security early in the year, while the average worker contributes all year long. In 2015, individuals with wage incomes of $1,000,000 stop contributing on February 12; those with higher incomes stop contributing sooner.

Can Public Policy Break the Glass Ceiling? Lessons from Abroad

February 17, 2015 Comments off

Can Public Policy Break the Glass Ceiling? Lessons from Abroad
Source: Center for American Progress

The problem is all too familiar: Despite women’s increased rates of employment, rising levels of educational development, and growing place as primary breadwinners, gender inequality remains pervasive. Women continue to be underrepresented in key decision-making positions in politics, business, and public life.

In the United States, the discussion of this conundrum tends to focus on personal improvement and the notion of “leaning in” popularized by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. However, a number of developed nations, particularly those in Europe, have sought to remedy gender inequality primarily through public policy.

This report aims to analyze and understand the benefits and limitations of such policies by exploring the direct and indirect roles that they play in supporting women’s progress in the workforce and, specifically, in helping boost their advancement into leadership positions. It looks at policies that tackle the leadership issue via quotas—which aim to have a direct impact on women’s representation—and also examines policies such as affordable child care, paid parental leave, and flexible work arrangements that help lay the groundwork for women’s leadership indirectly by enabling women to stay in the workforce after becoming mothers.

Advancing a Multimodal Transportation System by Eliminating Funding Restrictions

January 30, 2015 Comments off

Advancing a Multimodal Transportation System by Eliminating Funding Restrictions
Source: Center for American Progress

One of the most pervasive, durable, and detrimental myths in transportation policy is that highways pay for themselves, while public transportation does not. In reality, both modes require significant public subsidies, as user fees—such as fuel taxes and farebox revenues—cover only a portion of total costs. States and the federal government supplement these user fees with property taxes, bonding, and general revenues. On average, these nonuser fee revenues represent 26 percent of total annual highway expenditures.

Moreover, treating all highways equally obscures the fact that per-mile construction and maintenance costs, driving levels, and motor fuel tax revenues vary substantially depending on the location, size, and population around a particular road. While the overwhelming majority of driving occurs within metropolitan areas, many large urban highways and arterial roads cost substantially more money to maintain than they generate in fuel taxes. This is also true of many rural and exurban arterial roads. This means that states must cross subsidize thousands of miles of roads that generate insufficient gas tax revenues each year.

Research by the Center for American Progress shows that nearly 4 in 10 miles of interstate highway and other principal arterial roadways fail to generate enough in user fees to cover their long-term maintenance costs. For the purposes of this analysis, maintenance costs include one reconstruction and multiple resurfacings over the course of three decades while excluding the costs of land acquisition, engineering, construction, and inflation.

Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity

January 28, 2015 Comments off

Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity
Source: Center for American Progress

History tells us that societies succeed when the fruits of growth are broadly shared. Indeed, no society has ever succeeded without a large, prospering middle class* that embraced the idea of progress. Today, the ability of free-market democracies to deliver widely shared increases in prosperity is in question as never before. The primary challenge democracies face is neither military nor philosophical. Rather, for the first time since the Great Depression, many industrial democracies are failing to raise living standards and provide opportunities for social mobility to a large share of their people. Some of those countries that have produced economic growth have done so in a manner that has left most of their citizens no better off. This is an economic problem that threatens to become a problem for the political systems of these nations—and for the idea of democracy itself.

Our report is about embracing the new economic opportunities of the 21st century by finding ways to ensure they serve the vast majority of society. In previous eras, political institutions have responded to economic transformations to ensure prosperity is shared: the New Deal in the United States and the European social welfare state; the “third-way” politics of putting people first of Clinton and Blair by investing in people and reforming institutions. Just as it took the New Deal and the European social welfare state to make the Industrial Revolution work for the many and not the few during the 20th century, we need new social and political institutions to make 21st century capitalism work for the many and not the few.

Valuing All Our Families; Progressive Policies that Strengthen Family Commitments and Reduce Family Disparities

January 20, 2015 Comments off

Valuing All Our Families; Progressive Policies that Strengthen Family Commitments and Reduce Family Disparities
Source: Center for American Progress

Stable, healthy marriages and relationships can bolster the economic security and well-being of adults and children. Too often, however, national debates about the American family have been limited to arguing the merits of married versus single parenthood or “traditional” families versus “alternative” ones. An underlying assumption often seems to be that these are static types of families that children are born into and remain in until they leave home.

Reality is much more complex. Relatively few children—less than one in four—currently live in families with married parents in which only the father is employed, compared to the roughly two in three children who did in 1960. Families in the United States—including those headed by married parents—appear to be much more unstable than in most other wealthy nations. In fact, more than half of U.S. children today will spend at least part of their childhoods not living with two biological parents, even though the vast majority of children begin their lives living with both of them. A family headed by only one adult is typically not a permanent state; rather, it is more frequently a transitional situation. Moreover, grandparents, other kin, and parents living apart from their children often play major and supporting roles in their children’s upbringing.

This complex reality does not mean that policymakers should throw up their hands and conclude that public policy can do little to influence children’s or adults’ stability and well-being via family-related policies. As argued in this report, a clear-eyed approach that better aligns family policy with the lived experience of 21st century families could provide the necessary supports to improve American family life. Such an approach should eschew simple diagnoses and prescriptions, such as the idea held by some conservatives that only the decline in marriage needs to be reversed, primarily through cultural change, or the idea held by some progressives that only the economy needs to be fixed.

Rising Waters, Rising Threat: How Climate Change Endangers America’s Neglected Wastewater Infrastructure

December 22, 2014 Comments off

Rising Waters, Rising Threat: How Climate Change Endangers America’s Neglected Wastewater Infrastructure
Source: Center for American Progress

The second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy recalls the tragic loss of 117 lives across eight states, evoking images of flooded streets, power outages, and stranded communities. The storm also caused significant damage away from news cameras—underground and offshore—to wastewater infrastructure. Sandy’s powerful rainfall and record-setting storm surge overwhelmed wastewater systems throughout coastal New York and New Jersey, resulting in the overflow of almost 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into the stricken region’s streets, rivers, and coastal waters. This was enough untreated effluent to fill the Empire State Building 14 times.

Unfortunately, wastewater overflow is not unique to superstorms or to the East Coast. As climate change strains aging sewer systems around the country through increasingly severe weather and sea-level rise, the resilience of wastewater infrastructure is becoming a critical public and environmental health issue for communities and municipal and state governments.

Reforms to Help Meet the Growing Demand for Long-Term Care Services

December 18, 2014 Comments off

Reforms to Help Meet the Growing Demand for Long-Term Care Services
Source: Center for American Progress

Long-term care is a growing challenge in many countries, but this issue brief focuses specifically on Germany and the United States.

About 12 million elderly or disabled Americans rely on long-term care to help them with tasks ranging from eating and bathing to housekeeping and cooking.

The need for long-term care can arise at any age—about 40 percent of people who need this care are under age 65—but the doubling of the elderly population over the coming decades means a substantial increase in the number of people who will need long-term care. The first of the Baby Boom generation reached the traditional retirement age of 65 three years ago, and each day for the next 18 years, about 8,000 more Americans will reach that milestone. As dramatic as these numbers may seem, the U.S. population is aging at a slower pace than other industrialized nations: By 2050, 1 in 5 American residents will be ages 65 and older, as opposed to fewer than 1 in 7 today. Germany, on the other hand, is a particularly fast-aging society: Today, 1 in 5 German residents are already ages 65 and older, and almost 1 in 3 will be those ages by 2050. At the same time, the German workforce is shrinking, and its overall population is projected to decline by 13 percent by 2050.

And thanks to public health improvements and medical breakthroughs, millions of seniors in industrialized nations—including in the United States and Germany—are, on average, living longer and are healthier and more active during their retirement years. But the increased longevity of the senior population also means that millions more people are likely to need long-term care, especially as more seniors age into their 80s and beyond, when the rates of dementia and other cognitive and physical conditions increase. In addition, these conditions require more comprehensive, costly care. For instance, the rate of dementia is less than 1 percent for people under 65 years old, but it rapidly increases to more than 40 percent for those over 85 years old. By 2050, the annual number of new cases of Alzheimer’s is projected to more than double.

Together, these demographic changes have placed enormous pressure on the United States’ inadequate mechanisms for financing long-term supports and services. Policymakers should consider comprehensive changes that will enhance how we pay for these services, balancing public and private insurance with family and friend caregiving. Germany—with its even greater demographic challenges—has taken precisely this approach and therefore provides an illustrative example for the United States.


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