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Could Baby Bonds Help Reduce Wealth Inequality In America?

A mother walks with double baby stroller in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 14, 2020. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)
A mother walks with double baby stroller in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 14, 2020. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

At the birth of this nation, Thomas Paine called for government baby bonds — savings bonds for every child. The idea has been given a fresh coat of paint, and is being proposed as a low-cost government program to tackle the vast inequality in today’s America.

Guests

Darrick Hamilton,executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Professor of policy, economics and sociology at Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs. ( @DarrickHamilton)

Wendy Jones,author and playwright. Publisher of Ida Bell Publishing, LLC. Writer of “In Pursuit of Justice: A One-Woman Play about Ida B. Wells.” Fiction editor for The Raven’s Perch, an online literary magazine.

Oren Cass, executive director of the conservative think tank American Compass.

Author of “ The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America.” ( @oren_cass)

Sen. Cory Booker, Democratic U.S. senator for New Jersey. ( @CoryBooker)

From The Reading List

The Atlantic:A Cheap, Race-Neutral Way to Close the Racial Wealth Gap” — “What if a single, cheap, easy-to-administer, and race-neutral policy could help close the country’s chasmic racial wealth gap in less than a generation? Reader, it exists. It is called a baby-bond program. For something like $80 billion a year — roughly 2 percent of the annual federal budget, less than a tenth of the annual cost of Social Security — the United States could not only end its most pernicious forms of poverty, reduce wealth inequality, improve social mobility, foster self-sufficiency among poor families, and increase family net worth en masse, but also put black and white families on more equal footing.”

Urban Institute: “ How Baby Bonds Could Help Americans Start Adulthood Strong and Narrow the Racial Wealth Gap” — “US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), whose presidential campaign ended last week, introduced a bill to create American Opportunity Accounts, or ‘baby bonds,’ as a bold solution for closing the racial wealth gap. But this proposal has yet to be fully tested at a large scale. It is time to invest in a demonstration and evaluation of this idea. The racial wealth gap has become a widely-discussed issue not only by scholars, but also by the media, advocates of economic security, and 2020 presidential candidates.”

The Washington Post: “ Cory Booker wants a ‘baby bond’ for every U.S. child. Would it work?” — “Cory Booker’s plan to fight intergenerational poverty, a cornerstone of his presidential bid, includes a novel proposal: a trust fund for every American child seeded by the federal government that could eventually provide up to nearly $50,000 for college tuition, buying a home or starting a business. The ‘baby bond’ measure is among some bold and often controversial policy ideas animating the Democratic presidential primary, a reflection of how the candidates vying for the party nomination are focused on addressing historical inequities in American society.”

The Atlantic: Why Black Families Struggle to Build Wealth” — “There’s little disagreement about the fact that economic inequality is problematic. But arguments persist over its origins, solutions, and which economic gaps are ultimately the most pernicious. In his new book, Toxic Inequality: How America’s Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens Our Future, Tom Shapiro, a professor of law and sociology at Brandeis University, lays out how government policy and systemic racism has created vast gaps in wealth between white and black Americans. Shapiro and his colleagues followed 187 families from Boston, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Half of the families were black and half white. They interviewed them in 1998 and then again in 2010, to see what had changed: how were their kids faring, how had they weathered the recession — were they any better off in 2010 than they had been in 1998?”

The Atlantic:American Wealth Is Broken” — “Wealth is a number, sure, but it’s also a feeling. I grew up living with my mom and maternal grandparents, while my dad played and coached in the NBA. For a time, our family’s safety net was held together by my grandfather’s HVAC business, but in 2001, it nearly came apart. That year, the company worked on a project performing mechanical-contracting work at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The timeline did not account for delays. My grandfather estimates that the company lost $4 million on the project. Our house was put on the market shortly after. I loved that house because it felt like home, but also because it made me feel at home in a predominantly white world, where I felt as if my every move was on display. The house served as a symbol of wealth to justify belonging. When we sold it, I felt exposed, as though my family was showcasing the fragility of black wealth for all to see. I told friends that my family wanted to downsize. I’m sure they saw through the lie.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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