Gaps and Flaws
The economic security policies that the U.S. has in place today are profoundly flawed. The nation's approach to ensuring equal opportunity in health care and education is likewise deeply flawed.
There are huge gaps. Several needed policies are simply missing.
There are also major defects. Many existing policies, while wise and effective on the whole, have serious shortcomings.
What’s Wrong With U.S. Economic Security Policy?
Current government economic security policies have failed to correct:
• Widespread and persistent unemployment: By failing to provide subsidized, wage-paying, Transitional Jobs when the number of unemployed adult job seekers exceeds the supply of job vacancies. (See sidebar)
A job shortage is the norm. Sometimes it's modest. Often, it's big. For most of 2020, it's been huge. Private industry can rarely absorb all job seekers. Read More ->
• High and enduring levels of poverty: First, by failing to close the earnings shortfall caused by (1) the job shortage (just mentioned), (2) a paltry minimum wage, and (3) a well intended but structurally deficient earnings supplement. Second, by failing to boost the meager minimum payments received by many adults with disabilities and retired seniors. (See sidebar)
• Declining incomes: By failing to counteract the 15-year drop (2000 through 2015) in median household income, and thus the decline in the standard of living, of the majority of Americans. (See sidebar)
What’s Wrong With U.S. Health Insurance Policy?
Our dysfunctional health insurance system similarly fails on multiple fronts. Despite the gains made under Obamacare, American health insurance policy still leaves 29 million Americans uninsured. It also costs far too much, with health costs rising faster than inflation.
Yet despite rising spending on health care, the current approach has made only limited progress in improving the quality of care, and gains in health outcomes are at best mixed.
What’s Wrong With U.S. Education Policy?
Finally, America’s education system fails to teach the basics—reading, writing, and even simple math— to tens of millions of children. Some schools, in both urban centers and rural areas, still tolerate high drop-out rates. The drop-out problem has abated in recent years, but U.S. schools continue to churn out graduates who are unprepared for work or college.
The financing of K12 schools is also seriously flawed. School taxes and spending are vastly unequal across the American map.
Finally, the high cost of a college education deters many qualified students from even applying. For those who do attend college, cost and debt frequently pile up to intolerable levels. Many students drop out because of the financial squeeze. And both drop-outs and graduates frequently end up with mountains of debt, forcing some into bankruptcy and crushing the ability of others to get ahead.
A cynic could say, without straying too far from the truth, that America’s economic security system is poor, our health insurance system is sick, and our education system is stupid.
The Good News: Reform Is Possible.
None of these problems need be permanent. A small number of fairly simple policy changes can fix all of the gaps and defects in America’s economic security system. Turn to ->