Economic Security Study Panel Report Provides 100 Options for Assured Income
Over one hundred million Americans, or two in five households, roughly the same percentage as during the Great Depression, is economically insecure – at risk of being unable to maintain adequate income in the face of a shock. Economic insecurity incorporates two components: current income and the risk to current income. It may come from not having enough income or from not having reliable sources of income. In other words, it is not just about a dollar amount; precarity and uncertainty are major concerns.
This crisis has been quietly growing for several decades, but the pandemic exposed and exacerbated the daily precarity many face. It also provided a unique opportunity to experiment with cash payments to millions of American households, enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits, and other forms of government assistance.
A new report by the National Academy of Social Insurance delves into the many dimensions of economic insecurity and identifies a comprehensive, evidence-based portfolio of policy options to address its root causes. The report is the result of two years of deliberations by a Study Panel whose members represent diverse academic disciplines and political perspectives, along with input from a wide range of stakeholders.
One of the Study Panel’s overarching findings is the need for an integrated approach to reducing economic insecurity. That approach must include not only traditional social insurance programs (like Social Security), but also social assistance programs (like Supplemental Security Income), tax programs (like the Child Tax Credit), and labor programs (like work incentives). A successful approach must also recognize that the gaps in our current social protection infrastructure have a disparate impact on the lives of people of color and other historically excluded.
For too long, some have pointed to relatively low average poverty rates to deny this crisis, while others bemoan a lack of credible options to address it. This report exposes the reality that we created the crisis through our own policy choices. As such, only bold new policy choices – those set forth in the report – may resolve it. What is needed now is a national commitment to enact these solutions.
The policy portfolios analyzed and advanced by the Study Panel’s report are organized under four “pillars,” each an essential element that interacts with the others:
- Labor policy: Work promotion and labor market regulation. Examples: raising the minimum wage; reform Unemployment Insurance.
- Benefit policy: Transfer programs, social insurance systems, tax expenditures. Examples: expand Social Security; update the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Protection policy: Savings promotion, debt reduction, credit access, and financial regulations. Examples: Expand access to the Saver’s credit; regulate public debt practices.
- Equity policy: Reduction of severe inequities between demographic groups. Examples: Address the racial wealth gap; remove barriers to opportunity for people with criminal records.
The report also identifies feasible financing sources across these four pillars that do not burden beneficiaries or middle-income taxpayers.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1934 Committee on Economic Security set as its aspirational vision “assured income: … A program of economic security, as we vision it, must have as its primary aim the assurance of an adequate income to each human being in childhood, youth, middle age, or old age—in sickness or in health.” The fundamental answer to insecurity is assurance. So the policy options we present for consideration seek to guarantee that everyone in the U.S. always has income.
How that income is guaranteed, how much is guaranteed, and at what frequency, is up to policymakers to decide. But decide they must. The time has come.
Chief Executive Officer