Archive for October 30, 2014

Lowman Henry Column on PA’s Anti-Poverty Efforts

Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research Inc.: GOP launches a new ‘war on poverty.’

By Lowman S. Henry

In his 1964 State of the Union Address President Lyndon Johnson launched what became known as the “war on poverty” saying: “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it, and above all to prevent it.”

The “war on poverty” has been lost because the central theme of Johnson’s address got subverted to the cause of big government. Anti-poverty programs sought not to “relieve the symptom of poverty,” but rather to entrap poverty stricken families in a web of government dependency. At that the “war” has been successful as, for example, a record 47 million U.S. households today receive food stamps.

Although President Johnson’s anti-poverty initiative failed in its stated goal, it has been a resounding political success for his party. Under the guise of compassion, Democrats have been successful in creating an entire class of voters dependent on government. As a result entitlement programs now make up an unsustainable percentage of the federal budget and are driving trillion dollar budget deficits.

Conversely, Republicans have been portrayed as modern day Scrooges who care more about the bottom line than about the needs of poor Americans. While the negative fiscal impact of deficit spending is real, the GOP has enhanced this reputation by failing to provide realistic solutions to fighting poverty through the provision of human services.

That, however, is changing.

In what is shaping up as a major change in how Republican policy-makers deal with poverty and the confusing and inefficient labyrinth of human service programs designed to combat it, major initiatives are underway at both the state and national level to develop a new – and hopefully more effective – anti-poverty paradigm.

At the national level Congressman Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 Vice Presidential nominee, has spent years researching and developing his Expanding Opportunities in America program. Ryan proposes reforms to the nation’s educational and social safety net programs. He also wants a review and streamlining of the thousands of federal regulations that frequently are a roadblock to providing effective services.

State Representative David Reed, who serves as Majority Policy Chairman, last year launched his Empowering Opportunities: Gateways out of Poverty Initiative. Reed returns to Lyndon Johnson’s original promise saying: “With more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians struggling in poverty today, our responsibility is to begin the discussion anew on the most effective and successful means of transitioning our citizens from a life of poverty to self-sustainability.”

Congressman Ryan and Representative Reed have thus laid the groundwork for a major change in the way our nation and state address dealing with persistent poverty. But, bringing about such systemic change will not be easy. Defenders of the status quo will predictably claim the proposals lack compassion, and some conservatives will balk at a continued major role for government in combating poverty.

After fifty years of failure it is crystal clear that what we have been doing simply hasn’t worked. Ryan and Reed are proposing a way forward that could begin the process of actually addressing the root causes of poverty in a way designed to lift people out of government dependency. At this point we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying.


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Team Leader Rep. Rosemary Brown’s Prized Linked Savings Highlighted on National Front

Prize-linked savings at CUs part of Pa. poverty policy

The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) is supporting a new state policy initiative to combat poverty by using tools such as prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts.

Earlier this month, State Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe) introduced HB 2543, which would allow certain financial institutions, including credit unions, to offer saving rewards programs.

“Credit unions have played an integral role in developing PLS programs as part of their ongoing effort to help members enhance financial literacy, save money, and improve spending and debt management habits,” Conway wrote.

In the Oct. 28 issue of Life is a Highway, Conway also commended the work of Brown and Pennsylvania House Majority Policy Committee Chair Dave Reed (R-Indiana) to promote solutions to build wealth.

“Studies indicate that consumers are not saving for their futures and programs to promote saving is a win for all consumers,” Conway added. “Credit unions work daily to better the lives of members, and this initiative is another avenue to assist them.”

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Prize-Linked Savings: A New Financial Savings Tool, By Patrick Conway President & CEO, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association

In March 2014 the aggregate personal savings rate, defined as the ratio of total savings to after tax income, was only 3.8%. A 2013 survey found that 27% of all Americans had no emergency savings, while another 23% had some but could not cover three months of living expenses. Low-income families struggle the most to accrue savings. (Source)

Pat Conway - Original

Prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts, an idea invented and incubated by credit unions, continue to gather steam nationally. The concept is to transition non-regular savers into regular savers. With as little as $25, a credit union member can open an account and enter a drawing for monthly and annual cash prizes. Some will win prize money, but those who do not will still benefit from having started an interest-generating savings account. Credit unions fund the program, thereby achieving the public policy goal of increasing savings with no cost to the state.

Across the country, states are passing legislation allowing credit unions to offer PLS accounts. In Pennsylvania, Representative Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe) introduced House Bill 2543, which will allow certain financial institutions to operate PLS programs. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) supports this pro-consumer, pro-savings legislation.

Credit unions have played an integral role in developing PLS programs as part of their ongoing effort to help members enhance financial literacy, save money, and improve spending and debt management habits. We commend Representative Rosemary Brown for her efforts to be innovative in improving the financial well-being of Pennsylvania consumers.

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Team Leader Rep. Stephens Discusses Social Impact Bonds with Pre-K Providers, Law Enforcement and Legislators

Montgomery County law enforcement leaders endorse Pre-K programs

By Marian Dennis, The Mercury News

One of the many discussions that went on at the meeting involved funding for childhood programs.

Rep. Stephens explained that Goldman Sachs did a $17 million program in Chicago that will put 2,600 more children in Pre-K programs near Chicago using private investor dollars. Stephens explained that he is determined to bring that to Pennsylvania. The financial institutions he has spokePre-K Press Conference Photon with have loved the idea of social impact financing when it comes to paying for early childhood education.

Stephens explained, “We know we’re going to save money in special-ed costs down the road when kids are in high quality pre-K programs. We know we’re going to save in corrections costs down the road. All of the savings are down the road.”

Stephens continued that social impact financing would allow the savings, which would be seen with the implementation of early childhood programs, to be shared later with the private investors that supply the funding for now. He continued to explain that philanthropic dollars could be used as a backstop to minimize some of the risk for the private sector.

“We’ve got the big financial institutions and we’ve got the big philanthropic organizations and everyone loves the concept so now I’m working to get those pieces all to connect together,” Stephens said.

Access to quality pre-K can ultimately preserve tax payer dollars by decreasing dropout rates, save taxpayers money by decreasing crime and incarceration and boost the economy through increased lifetime earnings, according to Pre-K for PA.

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Team Leader Rep. Stephens and Other Legislative Leaders Visit Pre-K, Discuss Access to Early Educational Opportunities

Local legislators, law enforcement officials meet in Lower Providence to support Pre-K for PA

By Brendan Wills, The Times Herald

LOWER PROVIDENCE >> During a Pre-K for PA campaign workshop Thursday morning at the Play and Learn Collegeville early childhood education center, local law enforcements officials, legislators and education specialists unanimously voiced their support for increased funding to early childhood education.

Play and Learn Program Coordinator, Melanie Godhania; Play and Learn Collegeville Center Director, Jill Law; State Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Bruce Clash; Limerick Township Police Chief, William Albany; Upper Gwynedd Township Police Chief, David Duffy; District Attorney, Risa Ferman; State Rep. Mike Vereb (R – 150th Dist.); State Rep. Todd Stephens (R – 151st Dist.); and State Sen. John Rafferty (R – 44th Dist.), met to discuss how access to early childhood education not only helps children succeed in life, but also helps to lower the costs of incarcerating criminals who did not have adequate education to guide them through life.

“It’s a strategic time to reprioritize investments and make pre-K a priority over the next four years,” Clash said, pointing to the disparity in funds spent in Pennsylvania on incarceration and pre-K.


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