What problem are we trying to solve?

Dramatic changes in our economy have increased economic instability for many Americans, hitting middle-income and low-income families especially hard.

For nearly four decades, working people in America have weathered a steady decline in both their wages and quality of life. From stagnant wages for middle- and low-income workers to rising inequality between those on the lower end of the economic spectrum and the richest Americans, working families have witnessed a downward spiral in good-paying jobs that can support a family, fewer and fewer health and workplace benefits, and the disappearing dream of a retirement with dignity. It’s little wonder that the national poverty rate has hovered around 13.5 percent, with millions living in “deep poverty” with a household income below 50 percent of the federal poverty threshold. 

53% of Americans do not have on hand enough savings to cover an $400 emergency.

Extensive documentation by sociologists shows that when the rug is yanked out from underneath families, they find it difficult, if not impossible, to find financial security. The negative consequences of economic instability are putting an untenable strain on the education system, health care, and community lives. As work continues to fragment and wages continue to stagnate, the prognosis will only get worse. Many Americans are in uncharted territory.

It is in this context that the average American sees headlines dominated by stories on self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. For those with an eye to the future, the potential for technological advancements to transform the way we live, work, and thrive is an extraordinary opportunity. For the manufacturing worker in Ohio, it is a threat to their family and livelihood.

This is one of the main reasons the country is anxious and in no mood for incrementalism.

72% of Americans believe that the government’s policies since the recession have done little to nothing to help middle-class people (65% for the poor). If future generations are to thrive as citizens, entrepreneurs, and leaders, no matter their zip code, we cannot afford to wait.

We do not believe unconditional cash can solve all of these problems: we need to dramatically improve our education system, create affordable housing, and tackle environmental injustice head-on. But too often we’ve seen how the dehumanizing realities of poverty and declining wages undercut strong families, vibrant communities, and promising policy programs and interventions. We can do better.