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Olivia Golden: What will the future hold for low-income people?

November 17, 2017 1:11:10
Kaltura Video

Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, to discuss work support strategies and what the future may hold for low-income in America. November, 2017.


0:00:01: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to today's Policy Talk sponsored by the Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. I'm Sandra Danziger, I'm a Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Social Work, and I'm pleased and honored to introduce once again to the U of M campus, Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the almost 50-year old Center for Law and Social Policy, one of the leading non-partisan, anti-poverty organizations in Washington DC. CLASP advocates for practical and bold policy solutions for low-income people, including solutions that aim to tear down systemic barriers affecting people of color and immigrants. Dr Golden regularly testifies before Congress and is often, in print and public media such as... And I'll just give all the initials, just tryin'... MPR, C-SPAN, WAPO, MIT, USA TODAY and more.

0:01:05: Olivia was formerly an assistant secretary for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services and she also led the District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency for a critical three-year period after which she wrote one of her books, Reforming Child Welfare. So we have assigned that work in our Social Work classes, I might add, and it offers great administrative and managerial insight into all the issues that plague states, CPS, Child Protective Service Systems, and how to improve them to better the lives of children and their families. She has held several other leadership positions in social policy throughout her career, including in the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Urban Institute, the Children's Defense Fund, and at the Kennedy School of Government and the Massachusetts Office of Human Services. I've probably missed something there. She has an MPP, a PhD and a BA from Harvard.

0:02:07: Following her remarks on what will 2018 hold for low-income people, a view from Washington, Olivia Golden will take questions from the audience. Beginning around 5:10 the staff will start collecting question cards. Poverty Solutions Assistant, Julia Weinert and students Leila Malo and Sarah Khan, I hope I pronounced that right, will facilitate the question-and-answer session. And for those people watching online, please post your questions via Twitter using the #povertypolicytalk. With that please join me in welcoming Olivia Golden to Michigan and the Ford School.


0:02:56: Thank you so much. Well, good afternoon. It's wonderful to be here. Thank you for that introduction and for the welcome news that you're assigning my book in Social Welfare classes which is exciting. When I got this invitation to come and speak here at the Ford School and I thought about what would be involved in being away for a day from Washington right now, I realized there were a bunch of reasons that I really wanted to do it. I wanted to be here because there are so many friends and colleagues, and people I've admired over the years, and people I've learned from, and people that have worked with with my colleagues at CLASP on issues in the State of Michigan and in your research more broadly. I also wanted to do it because the chance to think about what lies ahead after a year that's been this crazy was actually an opportunity I wanted. So having the chance to think about these remarks was really useful. But the biggest reason, you heard that I have a public policy degree from a rival institution. And so I really like being in a place where people are passionate about public policy and I really wanted to deliver the message that, at a time when many people who like to think carefully about policy issues and look at data and they research, are sometimes despairing that there's no place for facts or information in today's debates. I actually think that's not true. And I'm gonna make the case that there's a really important place for you.

0:04:31: Let's see if I can make this work, great. So what I wanna do today is make our way to 2018 by way of a very quick look back at the biggest threats from 2017. Stepping back a bit to talk in the big picture about who's poor in the United States and what are the policy issues we should think about. Learn from, particularly one big success in 2017, and then at the end, turn to 2018 and say where we're going. So what I wanna start with in talking about 2017 is I wanna tell you about a child and the impact that these last months have already had.

0:05:11: One of the things we're doing at my organization, at CLASP, the Center for Law and Social Policy, is that a number of my colleagues are working on documenting the effect on young children in immigrant families of the policy, and practice, and enforcement, and just the climate of fear that's been going on for this year. We've been hearing a lot of rumors. Children were being pulled out of health insurance, of nutrition programs, not going even if they had a good early childhood program because of their parents' fear. And we wanted to find out more. And so we've been going all over the country to do interviews with staff, focus groups with parents, looking at administrative data.

0:05:54: And the very first of those site visits was in a small city in the South and two of my colleagues were there and they were in an elementary school that had an early childhood program. They were interviewing teachers in the early childhood program. So they were sitting there doing these interviews, and a little boy, nine or 10 years old, from the third grade class, marched into the room, past all the adults, came up to them and said, "I know why you're here, and I need to talk to you." They were a little bit taken aback. They hadn't gotten parent permission slips, they hadn't thought about talking to children, but when a child feels so strongly that he needs to talk to you, that he's courageous enough to go through a room with all these adults, you wanna honor that.

0:06:43: And so they rearranged their plans, they got the parent permission slips and the next day they talked to him and to several of his friends who were all from immigrant families. And they heard really devastating stories of the level of fear and the level of stress, fear about themselves, their siblings, their parents, that these children were living with. And the story that has stayed with me ever since I heard it, was one little boy who said, "Well I'm really working on getting good at making peanut butter sandwiches, because when my parents are taken away, I wanna be able to feed my little brother and sister." If you just think about what children are experiencing, in a lot of ways for us, that's both the damage, the threat, but in some ways also the inspiration, right, that level of courage and commitment to try to make it better.

0:07:39: So, our framing of this year, sort of the way we thought it would play out back a year ago, when we started to think about it, is kinda captured here. Before I plunge into what it is, I just wanna say two more words about who CLASP is, 'cause that will help you understand how we think about these issues. We are as Sandy said, a non-partisan, non-profit with the mission of anti-poverty advocacy, both reducing poverty, improving the lives of low-income people, enabling people to have opportunity, economic mobility, stabilize their lives. And we've also in the past several years gotten much more focused on the racial equity part of that mission. That is, you can't be about ending or reducing poverty if you're not thinking about the barriers people face because of race, because of ethnicity, because of immigration status and thinking about how to tear those down. We work at the local, state and federal level, so we're interested in all level and we advocate both inside, that is we give good ideas to public officials who wanna do things that are good. And outside, we work with legislative officials, we work with advocates, and we try to call out and explain the consequences of actions publicly as with that report. So we're bringing a low-income lens to this.

0:08:56: What we said at the beginning of the year, looking at the President and the Congressional leadership, was that we expected that the threats to low-income people in 2017, would be greater than at any time in our 50-year history. And that's because of the intersection of three different kinds of threats. The threats to the whole structure of the core federal programs that help low-income and modest-income Americans, starting of course with Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act, but threats to food assistance, threats to Pell Grants that help low-income students go to school, to the whole range of federal supports, and also to basic federal enforcement activities, like basic labor standards enforcement. So that's threat number one.

0:09:44: Threat number two, is the threats to immigrants and their families that we've seen and that are so vivid in that story. And number three, threats to the safety and economic security of people of color. And there's obviously a big range of those. The area where CLASP has been most involved has been around access to employment and higher education, and to... And threats that come out of the attorney general's reversal of what was a bipartisan movement towards reforming the criminal justice system. So those are kind of the big areas of threats.

0:10:18: So when you look at this year, were we right in what we predicted? Well our take is, we were totally right about the threats. They have been, every bit as dangerous as we expected. And they continue, I'll come to that in a moment, as you know the House just voted a couple of hours ago, in favor of a tax-cut proposal that would direct dollars to the rich and create an enormous hole in the federal budget producing likely major damage for low-income families and moderate-income families.

0:10:51: But there was a crucial success this year, that virtually nobody predicted. If you remember, if you were reading people's comments back in November and December they said, "A repeal of the Affordable Care Act will be on the President's desk Inauguration Day or maybe in the spring" And in fact, it failed. There are still efforts going on but it did fail. And Medicaid which is the component that affects low-income people and that is central to our work, is in many ways stronger than it ever was as a result of that fight back. However, that ability to prevent damage has not been true, on the threats to immigrant families as in that story. And much of the rest of the agenda, we still don't know. We don't know what will be the result of the tax battle. We don't know what the federal budget will be, the Congress has kept punting that, and hasn't acted though the proposals are about very deep cuts. We expect upcoming attacks on food assistance and so forth.

0:11:56: So that's a very quick summary of where we've been and I'm gonna come back to draw more about that hopeful lesson but first, I wanna take you to some data and perspectives on who's poor in the United States and what that means for what our gender should look like, so we can work from that to where we might be able to go. And I wanna start in September, just a couple months ago the US Census Bureau released its annual data on who's on poverty in the United States. This time the data were for 2016, which, as you know, was the last year of the prior administration, and so the very good news in the report was that poverty for all adults, for everybody, all Americans, and for children, had gone down to the lowest level since before the recession. And the data also showed a couple of reasons, both the effectiveness of public safety net programs, and improvements in the economy. But the bad news is that those are the very things that are currently under attack, raising big risks of going backwards. I'm gonna come back to the other points, but just the few points on the evidence in that report about the public safety net. On the left you have the effectiveness of a couple of key programs, SNAP is the acronym for the Nutrition Assistance Program that used to be called Food Stamps, EITC is Earned Income Tax Credits, CTC is Child Tax Credit.

0:13:33: Census Bureau doesn't include the effects of those programs on helping families balance their budgets, get by, in its regular poverty numbers, but it does a special calculation, which shows the millions of people, who are helped across the poverty line. And in addition there's a lot of research, we were talking about this earlier, increasing research from universities like this one and other sources, showing the long-term positive effects of income, nutrition assistance on in, for example, children's early years for long run economic security.

0:14:09: The other column shows what that report says about health insurance, which is that it's had... We've had an extraordinary success in the past few years, we've reduced un-insurance to the lowest it's ever been. And we've done best in states, like Michigan, and I think 31 others, that have made the choice to expand Medicaid, that's the program that covers low-income people with health insurance. And again, what we know about health insurance, the reason I'm highlighting it in a conversation about poverty and economic security, is that we now know a lot about long-term effects, so when children and their parents have health insurance in children's early years, that helps contribute to longer run success in school, and economically. We know about its immediate effects, it helps families if they have healthcare costs, they aren't bankrupted, they don't have to trade it off, against pain, the heat, or the mortgage, or for food. And it also helps, and there is new evidence on this, or increasing evidence, in enabling parents to work more steadily, which is, of course, a common sense point, right? You would expect that if you get treatment for health and mental health issues, that you can increase your hours of work, and states that have expanded Medicaid, have seen that effect.

0:15:29: But those are exactly the programs that are currently under threat, raising the possibility of really dangerous, movement backwards in how we're doing on poverty issues. So now we wanna talk a little bit about the WHO, and the headline I think about who's poor, is that even in this somewhat better year, children, and you'll see in a moment, young adults, are the poorest Americans. And so if you think about what we know from the research about the impact of child poverty, it's a frightening thing that children, and in particular children of color, you see, that even in this good year, the share of black children experiencing poverty is almost the third, it's been as high as 40%.

0:16:13: And I think the key fact to know, which I'm gonna come back to, is that the large majority of those children, two-thirds, 70%, depending on the year, live in families with a worker. So it's really important to understand that poverty today, is not about primarily people who never work, it's about people where workers' wages are too low, hours are too low, work in the low wage labour market is intermittent, they can't work steadily enough, they have health or childcare needs or other caregiving needs, that prevents steady work.

0:16:49: So this is just young adults, who are, as you see, about one in six young adults 18 to 24 is poor. The number there for young parents is young adult parents, that's not teens, that's 18 to 24, even if you go up to 29, you'll still get a number of something like 22%, that's if all, all people of that age were parents, and so what's frightening about that for me, is it says that we're in an economy, where for many young adults, even waiting to have children 'till the time that traditionally would be extremely prudent, is not enough to enable you to have a secure life economically and raise your child. This is just a visual for the point I made earlier about how states that did expand Medicaid, including Michigan, in the way they have a very low un insurance rate compared to states that did not.

0:17:42: So it's about state policy choices, as well as federal making a difference. And finally, I said to you a moment ago, that the important thing to remember, when you think about poverty today, is the role of low wage work, and that's an issue we find ourselves talking about a lot, whether the members of congress or journalists, or the public, or people in states. Because there are such deep stereotypes going the other way. And so, one of the things we try to explain to people a lot is what low wage work is like. In this census report, one of the facts people find really helpful is how many people are working "involuntary part-time". What that means is, you'd like to be working more hours than you're given. So a big issue in retail, in restaurants, in many industries, is people who would like to be able to work more hours than the shift they're allowed to work. And that's particularly an issue for people of color, for young, and for young workers.

0:18:43: So... Actually, I'm gonna go back for one more thing. So, if you think about all of this, about who's poor, one of the things that we think about at CLASP, we're proud of being a no silver bullet organization. Meaning, we don't actually believe there's a single solution that would end poverty or sharply reduce poverty. Because we think that if you look at who's poor and why, you come up with a number of strategies that are really important. It's really important for people to be able to eat and have healthcare, and live stable lives, and raise their children. So the basic core safety net programs protecting those and filling the gaps really matters. Good jobs really matter. So strategies that improve the quality of jobs so they're more stable and pay better and that increase the availability of those jobs; those really matter. So do strategies that help people move up. Right now, to move up, most people are gonna need some kind of post-secondary credential. And so we do a lot on what does it take to make that affordable to low-income students, often adult students, and how do you enable people to move up.

0:19:56: Childcare, clearly central. 'Cause you're talking about parents who are trying to work and nurture children. And finally, also we think, and that's what I wanna come to in the next slide, that you have to take aim directly at some of the issues that are facing families of immigrants, people of color. Because if you don't take aim at those, at the accumulated effect of discrimination over the years and institutional biases, then you never actually accomplish your goal of reducing poverty. So in the last slide, I wanna talk about a second reason why we think it's really important to focus in on people of color and immigrant families. It's not only about reducing poverty and low income, it's also about the future of the United States. Because if you think about who the generation, and this is all, this is not low-income. Who the generation of children and young adults is right now, look at the figures for the US as a whole. We're very close to half of children under 18 nationally are children of color, just a few percentage points less for the generation that's a little bit older, young adults 18 to 34. About a quarter of all children have an immigrant parent. So we don't have a successful future for ourselves in the United States if we don't ensure their success. Michigan is a little bit less diverse than the United States as a whole, but it still has about a third of children, about 30% of young adults, children of color, young adults of color.

0:21:33: The other fact that I just wanna note here, you may have a comment later on, is that Michigan is a state where the child population is shrinking because of an aging population. In fact, about 100,000 less, more than that, children under 18 between 2010 and 2015. So one of the questions I'd ask you is, does that make it easier to have policy that invests in children? There are fewer, it's not as expensive. Or does it make it harder? Because fewer voters have a child under 18 at home and they're not interested. So I'll be interested in hearing about those dynamics afterwards.

0:22:09: So, that's a very quick run-through what we see as the key policy framework and data. And now I wanna go back to what we learned. And in particular, what we learned from what was in fact the unexpected success, from my perspective, for low-income people, which was preventing having Medicaid go away or be destroyed. Nobody predicted it, but it happened. I'm gonna ask everybody to take 10 seconds or 15 seconds to write down your thought about why. As a consumer of the media and of press, in your own experience why do you think? Then I'll give you my answers. And in the Q&A we can talk about what you thought of that I didn't.


0:23:04: Okay. People have jotted down ideas. Okay, so here's my top five. The first one, which I'm guessing most people have some version of on your own list, is that there was extra ordinary pushback. My professional career started in the '70s, so I wasn't... I was alive but not doing this work in the 1960s for the anti-war movement. Certainly, in my professional lifetime there' never been anything like the extraordinary level of public engagement around the Medicaid and ACA battle, including disabled people, people with disabled children, people with a range of healthcare stories. But also, advocates; a wide range. And also, what I mean by organized interests is everybody in the healthcare world opposed the repeal bills, right? The insurance companies, the hospitals, the doctors, the nurses, the American Cancer Society, everybody that had a stake in the system. So that was number one.

0:24:09: Number two is my encouraging note for all of you who are worried that you're devoting your lives to accurate information and nobody cares anymore, data did matter. The Congressional Budget Office you remember did those estimates which said 25 to 30 million people depending on which proposal would lose health insurance, and that actually was very widely taken up, paired with individual stories. And I actually think by the way that, that's also a story about courage, about professionals, experts at the CBO like their... Work for the congressional branch but essentially civil servants who are under great pressure but who did their work the way they knew what was right to do it and had a big effect. Governors mattered and I wanna know particularly Republican governors in states that expanded Medicaid of which you have one here but one of the, but the person who was most on our screen nationally was next door in Ohio where both Governor Kasich spoke out but also research and data compiled by the State of Ohio provided information that was quite credible about the effects of the Affordable Care Act of the Medicaid expansion in particular, that it enabled people to get treatment for health and mental health conditions that they were able to work more because of that treatment and so forth, and that was really important.

0:25:34: Finally... Or two more the fact that Medicaid expansion had been in effect for a couple years, so you were talking about taking away something that people had and that had changed their lives, I think was also important. I'm an optimist I've always believed in the power of policy to change politics, not just the other way around, that is if you do a really good policy and it works people don't want it to go away. But I believe that effect would have taken route a couple years earlier, it didn't, it was still part... People were still campaigning against ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act. But once it was real, that's number five, the dynamics turned out to be really different when there really was a realistic threat. There wasn't gonna be a President who would veto it. So that would be my list, we can talk about it afterwards.

0:26:26: And here's what I think those lessons mean for the future. The first is that sometimes... And somebody, we were talking about this at lunch I had earlier, sometimes we, meaning advocates, meaning researchers, meaning journalists, meaning elected officials, have been shy about speaking out about the importance of programs like Medicaid that help low-income people get healthcare or nutrition or income. But it turned out that talking about it in the midst of a big fight really got a much broader understanding than ever. And the most recent piece of evidence just a week ago as you know there were elections, the voters of Maine by 60/40 margin passed a referendum calling on their state to expand Medicaid over the refusal of their governor. And Virginia, which is right next door to where I live in the district, in addition to voting on the governor and coming close at least to overturning control of the legislature, voters at exit polls said that health was their single most important issue. Health... Virginia is a state that has not expanded Medicaid because of the opposition of the legislature, so identifying that issue and voting against a large number of incumbents sent a really interesting message about its importance.

0:27:48: Number two is the huge lesson of the year for all of us who advocate, which was that nobody can do it alone and you have to build coalitions. What that meant for my organization, for CLASP, so we're not on anybody's list of the 10 biggest health powerhouses in Washington. That's not what we do, we're about low-income people, we know something about Medicaid but we're not above all a health organization. But it turned out there was a really important role for us in bringing other people into the battle, so we did a lot of work with children's advocates to say, "It matters to children if their parents have health insurance." We did joint op-eds with children's organizations that got coverage in state media, in states where it was important for senators to be reading their home state papers. We also work a lot with higher education because we care so much about access for low-income people to higher education. So we did facts, data again it matters to help stake... Higher education stakeholders nationally and in 10 or 12 states understand how big a hit their state government budgets would take if Medicaid were to be cut deeply by the federal government. And that in turn we showed them what that could potentially mean for higher education budgets in the states. And that really got people into the fight in a highly effective way. So that's really the next one if you're going to build coalitions part of what you have to do is explain the connections.

0:29:25: And finally my message that I keep coming back to, "Don't despair. The work you're devoting your lives to in this room about facts does matter." Collecting descriptive information and analyzing and modelling as the Congressional Budget Office did, synthesizing, explaining what researchers already know, and in some cases where terrible things happen, documenting the consequences, so you can fix them and fight back as we're doing in that immigrant piece really have been important. We had a lively conversation at lunch about how to think about the connection between this work fighting back and actually moving a positive vision. We've thought a lot at CLASP about the first one of those, about how to fight back at the federal level while moving a positive agenda, in those states that are interested, and that's been a very energetic part of our work in 2017. I'll talk about 2018. But I also am hopeful that these broad coalitions that have been fighting back are a way of nurturing new ideas and new relationships that lead you to great ideas and partnerships for the positive vision in the future. But I've left that as a question 'cause I think that's right now, an unanswered question.

0:30:45: Okay, so with that, let me turn to 2018. And I know that many people in this room would be happy if I said, "The fights are over, it's now time to get the grand ideas on to the screen." And I'm not gonna say that. I don't think that would be true. But I do think there are openings for the grand ideas. But I wanna start with the fact that fighting back does continue to be central. And most of the fights as I said are not over. The safety debt remains in grave danger. The tax bill that, as you saw today the house voted for, there's lots of... The senate we'll deal with it next. Conference committee, we don't know what will happen. But should a tax bill like either the House or the Senate proposal pass, they create big, big holes. Their official number is one-and-a-half trillion dollars. It's hard to know. In federal revenues and that, in addition to the harm that the bills already do in their provisions to low-income families, that hole creates deep federal budget cuts that hurt support for low-income people and they destabilize state budgets. So those are very dangerous and we expect also attacks on particular safety net programs, particularly food assistance and potentially, again Medicaid.

0:32:11: And then of course, the on the front of thinking about immigrant families and families, many individuals, dreamers, people whose protection under DACA has been ended. Just to note that the deadline, the point at which the DACA protections will start to end for large groups of people is in early March. So that's a 2018... That's a battle that perhaps could be solved this year but may go into next year. And I just wanna note that I have that in an economic security presentation because those young people who are Americans of, in many cases, 10, 15 years. Almost their whole lives, who are working and going to school and contributing to the economy are also contributing to the economic security of their families. About a quarter or parents of citizen children generally, so they're providing economic security in that way and to their broader, to their broader families.

0:33:12: We also see 2018 as a time when we're gonna continue a lot of work moving the vision ahead in the states. And, in 2017 we actually had far more interest from states than we expected. We thought with all the uncertainty and the potential federal budget cuts, we wouldn't get as much interest. But in part, because Medicaid wasn't cut in the course of 2017, people weren't dealing with enormous holes in their state budget. There was a lot of interest in moving the agenda forward. And I've highlighted a few areas in that broad agenda that I talked to you about. Where I think there are particularly exciting things going on in the states. I'll be interested in your thoughts about Michigan. Low age jobs, so there's been a very big movement associated with the fight for 15 on the minimum wage front. But going broader than that, to change the conditions of low wage work in states and actually counties and cities. So paid family and medical leave, three states have headed over a longer period that just got doubled. Three more are implementing now and another three have it on the screen for 2018. Paid sick days, there's been quite something like 40 jurisdictions nationally of which most were in the past two or three years.

0:34:39: Many of them are cities. But the State of Arizona, an example of the state that's not... That's a complicated state politically passed the paid sick days referendum in 2016. And then fair scheduling, we talked about some of the issues there about people getting enough hours. Post secondary education and training, figuring out how to finance that for low-income students. Providing aid that goes beyond what the federal government does under Pell Grants is of real interest in a lot of states. Sometimes motivated by understanding that they really... The students, they have all low income and really, the state needs people who have a post secondary credential. We have also been working a lot with states on how to build employment and education pathways into criminal justice reform strategies. So both on the front end, to help divert people from the criminal justice system, while people are incarcerated, make the education serious and seriously able to lead to higher education credentials and work afterwards. And again, the states that are interested in that are quite diverse. We've just done policy briefs on California and your neighbor Ohio. And I don't know, Indiana, Ohio is the one coming up next. So for a number of states, budget reasons are a motivation for trying to prevent recidivism and ensure that people get jobs.

0:36:06: Health and mental health treatment. I wanna highlight this because now that Medicaid is secure, that means that in those states that have expanded to reach everybody who's low income, they now have health insurance that can cover treatment in all these areas. And so, some things that we all think about is intractable, how are we ever going to reach mothers with depression, who're low income, who're raising young kids, it's bad for them and for their kids. Now we actually have a mechanism. We have money. We just have to make the systems work. So we're doing a lot on that. This is the moment to strengthen how states actually deliver their services, and Dina and I have worked together on that at the Urban Institute and now there's more chance to do it. We're also doing a lot with states on delivering Medicaid in a way that's effective, that doesn't put people through hassles and it gives them smooth health insurance.

0:37:04: Finally, I put childcare on the list after putting it on, taking it off. The reason not to is that making really big progress towards a vision in childcare is gonna require lots and lots of money. So it's gonna require a big change at the federal level. We've gone down nationally in how many kids we're helping with subsidies for affordable childcare, we're the lowest point in something like 15 years because of federal budget crunches. But there's a lot of interest at the state level, even if there aren't dollars. California did a big piece of legislation and did put in some money to make childcare more affordable and accessible. And Michigan can be very proud of its STEP. It was just a step from being in a pretty bad place. The state had been leaving federal money on the table by not appropriating state match. And in partnership with state advocates, we tried to provide information and support, but state advocates here turned that around and as a result have been able to make an investment in the rate, so childcare providers are... What is it? Instead of being the last in the nation, the third from last, or...

0:38:15: Yeah, it's still down there quite a bit.

0:38:17: Quite a bit. But, it really is a reversal after a lot of years of getting worse and worse. So I think there's a lot of interest in this one. It's just financially difficult. Okay, so now big ideas 'cause I know that, that's something that is really important to keep an eye on. I think we don't know the answer to, where will be the opportunities for big ideas in 2018. We do think that as Members of Congress of both parties, and Governors, and potential gubernatorial candidates think about the 2018 elections, they'll be thinking about what ideas they might wanna flesh out, even if they're not gonna happen for a couple of more years. We also think that all the organizing and the energy that people are putting into fighting back can lead to ideas. These are some of the areas where we think there might be a rightness for developing those ideas more fully. But I think we don't know the answer to that yet.

0:39:12: Finally, I wanna close by talking to everybody about you and what you can do. I sort of thought that I would focus on the fairly large group of you who're part of this academic community as students, researchers, some of you people with a particular interest in the State of Michigan and so I have two slides of what I think are important roles for you. The first two are as researchers, I do think that one of the ways research is important right now, is not even so much new research, but synthesizing and bringing together what we already know. I was saying at lunch, we don't need new research to know that, everything we know about child development suggests that deporting parents, putting families in a state of constant stress, eliminating economic supports is gonna be damaging for the young children in immigrant families and therefore, in turn for our future. So that's an example of an area where synthesis matters and that's true of many of these other areas as well.

0:40:16: And then, documenting. Many of the skills that people here have to an extraordinary degree for qualitative research and analysis of administrative data can be used for more complex long term studies, but they can also be used for a quick snapshot of what's happening now that really matters in order to help people understand, what the consequences and implications are, and figure out how to fight back. My next two are about the higher education community, and I do think that universities already are playing an important role in speaking out particularly about students with DACA status and how important they are to the academic community. I do think that leading in that area is really consequential and then I also think that leading on making the case for investment in low-income students. Understanding that the barriers, first of all just fighting for the [0:41:15] ____ to stay at they level they are, at the federal level. But we really need much more investment as students are more frequently independent, raising kids and working at the same time, in need not only of money to pay tuition, but to pay for food, housing and as the academic costs get greater.

0:41:36: The next one is about your knowledge of the state, which some of you have through your research, others through your work. This is also a moment when translating back and forth between the federal government and state governments matters more than ever. The implications of federal actions, not just for families, but for state budgets is part of what builds coalitions 'cause otherwise, people say, "Oh, I work on K through 12 education, it doesn't matter to me if X goes away." But actually it does, not only because a child in school, it will matter to them if they can't get healthcare, but also because if you destabilize state budgets by taking away the federal investment, you endanger the state's ability to make those investments.

0:42:23: Last one there is the idea that this is a moment, as I said, I do think it's the most threatening moment of my lifetime and of CLASP's lifetime which is a little bit longer, a little bit longer than my professional lifetime. So it is a time when many people are feeling an urge to get personally involved either politically... CLASP is a non-partisan organization but certainly we talk a lot to people who in their private time are choosing to get involved. But there's also lots of policy organizing, that's not around partisan issues. And I will say from personal experience that when I was getting my PhD living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was when I first discovered political organizing, 'cause it was a great balance for the isolation of writing a PhD dissertation during the day, just me and then a typewriter, now a computer. So actually it was the great time to spend my evenings organizing volunteers in the chaos of a campaign office. So I recommend that to any of you who are looking for a cure to feeling isolated while you write.

0:43:31: But I guess I wanna close, whatever you decide, however you think about it, I wanna close sort of where I began with a family. And this is with somebody who I got to know several years ago and who I've worried about a lot in this past year. Her name was Diana, she was the lead home care worker for my father-in-law during his last illness. And to me, she's an example of who we should be thinking about as the face of poverty in America. She had a four-year-old, she had taken in her brothers and his girlfriend's baby 'cause she was more established than they were. She was working very hard but very erratically. She did not benefits for the structure of her home care work meant that she would work all the time when somebody needed her.

0:44:26: But sadly, doing the kind of work she did, people would die and there would be this period, when she might have no work for a period of time. When I knew her, she was benefiting from the fact that her state provided a lot of helpless childcare, so she was able to have her four-year-old in a pre-K program, that mattered a lot to her. I don't know if she was getting help with nutrition assistance but my guess would be that she must have been. And she was desperate, well not desperate 'cause she loved what she did. But she really wanted to move up. She was extraordinarily talented, and so she was trying to figure out a way to get the next kind of credentials and higher education that she needed to move up. And she was always writing away for some internet program and I would sit there worrying, "Is this real, is that legitimate, is it gonna get her where she needs to go?" But she was constantly busy.

0:45:20: So I've thought a lot about her this past year. I've thought about her because each of the threats, when your life is that much on the edge, something went away from the package of what's keeping her going, that would have been desperately destabilizing. I've thought about her because she was both black and an immigrant, so I've wondered about fear and how she's doing and how her family's doing. But most of all, I've thought about her because to me she represents the fact that making a difference to people right now who are poor, who are low income, is not just about their well-being. And it's not even just about fairness and decency, it's also about what's good for all the rest of us and our country. She had these extraordinary skills that already made an enormous difference to my father-in-law's last year of life, and she and her children had the potential to contribute incredibly more. And so if we as a country, go backwards, fail to go forwards on our ability to make a secure future for people like Diana, we're really not only doing them damage and being... Acting in a way that's cruel but also doing deep, deep damage to our own future as Americans. Let's stop there.


0:47:02: So we wanna thank you, Olivia, for inspiring and even somewhat encouraging remarks. Not all gloom and doom which is what we mostly feel by watching the news and trying to figure out what to do next, so overwhelming. We're gonna shift to the Q & A portion of... And I have the honor of jumping the queue and maybe asking the first question. And it's hard to know for me where to dive in to all of this 'cause I'm very excited about so many of the things that you've said, but I wonder if you could just take a moment and one thing that's not on your agenda and maybe you could give us some ideas about why and where it might be going, is affordable housing, which is such a big issue it doesn't seem like it's on the federal agenda right now but that was that if I had to add one thing to your list, that seems like that's getting really, really difficult for people.

0:48:12: So I agree with you. And the reason housing isn't on the list is kind of a parochial one which is that it's an area where we partner and support other people but we don't have our own expertise. And so I think of it in the big picture as somewhat like childcare in that it's an incredible burden for families. It's a burden for families that don't have help. So those that do have that burden it's enormous. And this is maybe a little bit technical but the federal dollars are [0:48:44] ____ kept. So in childcare we reach... It's actually now worse than one in six, one in seven or so eligible kids. In housing it's maybe slightly better than that, but it's similar, we reach a very small share of people who can't afford housing to live in. So I do think that it requires... In the big picture, it requires shifting, understanding federal investments and does require dollars. I also... And I am not expert on this but I also think that some of the recent work like 'Evicted,' the terrific book, that again shows the power of researchers making a point, also suggests other strategies which may not solve some of the underlying dollar issues, but help you think about what creates crisis in turnover in low-income families' lives. And so those seem to me to be powerful strategies as well.

0:49:53: Hi, I'm Leila Malo, I'm a first year MPP student at the Ford School. And my interests are in anti-poverty policy and state legislative politics. So I've been... I'm excited to hear about CLASP work, state level work. And I have the first question from the audience. Threats to vulnerable communities seem to be inter-connected and also increasing. How do you as a leader of an advocacy organization think about prioritizing threats to focus your advocacy efforts?

0:50:26: That's a great question. How do we prioritize threats? We're right in the middle of doing that for next year, we're right in the middle of thinking about our 2018 planning. And I would say there are several pieces to that. One piece, we always do start from what are we really good at, because our credibility at CLASP is about our expertise or knowledge informed by values and passion. People know that they're getting a particular set of values and commitments but they also know they are getting credible expertise that they can really rely on. So for example we are probably one of just a couple of organizations people would go to for help thinking about affordable childcare. Or some of the work force in post-secondary for low-income people, or some of the particular areas that go beyond that, the immigrant families, the connection. So that's one area we look at, is where do we have something to offer. Second we look at just where are the huge threats and where are the opportunities? But this year in 2017, really above all it was where is the damage? What would take us back 20 years, 30 years if the damage happened.

0:51:48: And so we actually got more bold this year in going to the edges of where we're expert and saying, "This isn't right in the middle of where we are expert, but if we don't do this who will?" So two examples, one is as I say, we ended up far more active on the fight against repealing the health law and Medicaid than we might have expected at the beginning, 'cause our colleagues who are health experts kept saying to us, "Please write this, please reach out to these groups. You have networks that are valuable and we need you." We also, on the immigrant families front, created a co-chaired coalition with the National Immigration Laws Center, who are our colleagues we work with a lot. We sort of said to each other, "The groups that work on nutrition and health and anti-poverty agendas, don't necessarily know the immigrant rights organizations, so we need to be working together to counter these threats."

0:52:45: And just one other example quickly, we had been working, for the last two or three years we've been really thinking about how does our expertise help in criminal justice reform? Our ratio equity values had gotten us to thinking we really can't tear down the barriers to stable to economic success unless we think about how the criminal justice system has affected people of color. But we thought there's a lot of groups that have been doing this for 20 years, where do we contribute? We went and asked them and it turned out they really wanted the employment and educational expertise. So we've pushed ourselves because of the scope of demand this year, but we're always balancing where the opportunities, where the risks and where do we have expertise.

0:53:40: Okay. So my name is Sarah. I am a senior in Setting Public Policy at Ford. My interests are in employment policy and policies that reduce poverty. So our next question is: Given there is a sense to expanding social safety net programs, what is your view on using the tax system as a vehicle for reducing poverty, for example expanding the EITC and CTC?

0:54:06: So I guess a couple of answers to that. This minute the important thing is that the... What's being talked about on the tax side is so damaging that little improvements in those programs wouldn't balance how damaging the overall bill is, in fact it doesn't have improvements that affect low-income people, it has damaged the low-income people about a Million children in immigrant families would be taken off the child tax credit for example by the proposal. But in the long run, we've always thought that improving the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, you saw my slide about how much they do have an impact on reducing poverty, that that's a positive step, it's not the only step but it could be really important. So proposals to... The earned income tax credit I don't know how many people here know what it is but it essentially helps people who are in low wage jobs, it really increases the value of their wages. And it's available primarily to people with dependents, so expanding that to single adults is one strategy that would have an important effect on policy. I think the big challenge in the tax system, or one of the challenges, is that we need, given who the next generation of Americans is, we need to make sure that those strategies don't leave out immigrant and mixed status families and that's kind of, in the past sometimes been a challenge of those discussions.

0:55:42: There's another policy proposal question. Do you foresee a return to programs like the WPA of the '30s, something where late teens can have a stable job working for public good like, national parks, or maybe construction?

0:55:58: That's a great question. So that one question was about large scale public job creation and the question was framed as particularly about young adults, right? Teens and young adults. We actually think that that's a really interesting area to keep pushing on. Had there been an interest in a bipartisan infrastracture bill that was one of the ways people were thinking, "Maybe that could have been used as a way to try to build out major investments in jobs?" But that issue of "Can we really push investment in work for young people, perhaps at a saturation level, so that in a community that has very, very high young adult unemployment, you're providing jobs that really reach very large numbers and connecting it to learning and to moving up?" We do think that that's an appealing one of those ideas, I think I had a version of it up here. The ideas to get on the radar screen... Big jobs agenda? So I think we think that's intriguing, we're actually thinking about doing some convenings, we've been part of some, to sort of get people thinking much more seriously, not thinking just in little small increments. I don't think any of us knows when it could happen but I do think that it has some appeal.

0:57:26: Okay so, with greater technological change having an advance degree has become necessary for students to find jobs. However, college may provide job skills but doesn't guarantee a job especially to pay for school loans. How can federal policy support students who enter the workforce already in debt, and particularly for those who don't graduate after having incurred debt?

0:57:51: Let me start with where... Our focus is particularly on lower income students and... Including adults who go back to school, as well as young people. We focused a lot on the chunk of people who don't have a college credential, they may have some courses but they haven't gotten a community college credential, that would be useful to them in getting a job. So there's a huge issue before you even get to people who finish a four-year school, there's an enormous issue for people who aren't able for affordability reasons to finish a post-secondary credential of some kind. And I just wanna say that for most of them the issue isn't debt, the issue is that even if community college tuition isn't much, you are trying to pay for your own food and housing, you may be raising kids, you're probably contributing to your parents and your extended family. And so being able... So what people do is they work too many hours and therefore don't complete, and that's an enormous issue that we are trying a lot to focus on.

0:59:00: I think what you've highlighted is that even for people who are able to complete a four-year program, there's affordability issues there too. Clearly, I think the challenge that we think about is how do you take some of the solutions that have been proposed for that problem, for example, a free college tuition program, and they could actually work also for low-income students. So we've been trying to think about how do you both. 'Cause some states that have tried to go to free college with a major tuition promise, that's essentially meant they've invested a lot in middle income students, but have not addressed this other issue. So I think our overall perspective would be, it makes sense to think about both of them together and see if the energy that surrounds some of the college [0:59:51] ____ issues could also leverage improvements that would help lower-income students as well.

1:00:00: In light of the rest that you mentioned to low-income people at the federal level. How have states and localities responded? What about the philanthropic community foundations, have they been doing a good job in filling in the gaps?

1:00:17: So, the question was about how states and localities have responded, as well as community foundations?

1:00:23: Correct.

1:00:23: Great, I wonder if there's somebody from a community foundation in the room who asked that question. I'm not allowed to ask that, right? You're all supposed to be anonymous. 'Cause, I have lots of ideas about what philanthropy can do. My last section on what you can do originally had a whole list on what philanthropy can do. So, we can talk afterwards. I would say in terms of what states are doing, it's really been an interesting year. I would say that states are in very different places, right? It's a big country. There're 32 states have expanded Medicaid with virtually no cost to themselves. You'd think that would be an obvious thing to do, but 19, I guess the 32 includes the district, have not. So, there are both state financial constraints, state philosophical perspectives, state political dynamics at play. But, I would say a few things. I would say that this past year, we were really struck by how much more demand there was from states for our advice and expertise, and that of other advocates, in moving forward in many of these areas. So, I think there's a lot of interest. I think there are some states, California the most obvious example, but also some others, that have really defined themselves in opposition to the federal administrations.

1:01:48: In California, you talk to legislators, to local officials, to state government people, to the advocates, to the Attorney General's Office, and they think of themselves as fighting back to protect not only Californians, but they hope the whole country through their litigation, from what they see as dangerous. You see other states, and they're not interested in being politically visible, but they're very interested in moving practical steps that will be helpful. And other states where I think they're somewhat paralyzed. They don't really know what's gonna happen, and are nervous about financial implications. And then, there are some states where we're worried that they're being encouraged by the administration, to do things that would be bad for low-income people. So I think there's a wide range.

1:02:38: On the question of community foundations, I would say that for philanthropy broadly, there are incredible opportunities right now, both to support advocacy... And many philanthropies won't support something that feels too close to lobbying, they're not allowed to. But it's an incredibly important time to support telling the story, lifting up both the good ideas, and the consequences of bad things, 'cause, it really is an important time for public education. And then, I do think that convening is another role that community foundations can play very powerfully. For example, if issues about immigrants and their families are enormous in a community, and the early childhood world is dealing with them and feels desperately alone, bringing people together for expertise and resources. And then, obviously in some cases, philanthropy makes really crucial direct services investments, and it can be an important time for that. But, I would put some of the others higher up on the list in this moment.

1:03:42: Can you speak to some of the concrete steps universities can take to protect immigrant students?

1:03:49: That's a great question. And, I think what I'm gonna ask is that whoever asked the question about concrete university steps, should go to our website, or let me know, and I'll have our expert in that area talk to you more, because... I think the broad answer is a number of universities have been speaking out, and that's been really important, telling the story of the contributions that DACA students are making. Universities have also been educating themselves a lot about what they can do to make their university settings safe spaces, and that's the area where I don't know enough. I don't know, Peter, if you do, or if others here do. So, there's a set of questions about what can you do that makes sure that you're not... That you're making it not easy for raids to happen on campus, or on your campus. There are confidentiality issues. So, because I don't wanna give any wrong advice, those are some of the categories of things, and we have a couple of experts, and I can connect whoever asked that question to them.

1:05:03: How will federal policy impact food security? For example, can you tell us a little bit more about the changes to SNAP that might be on the table?

1:05:14: I think that's a great question. And, I think we don't know yet what changes to SNAP will be on the table. SNAP is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the former food stamps, the big national nutrition assistance program. And, it could be very deep cuts, particularly if the tax package passes, and makes a hole in revenue. It could be smaller things, but still really central in creating barriers to family's ability to get access. One of the worrying directions is putting up barriers that are framed as if they're around work, but which essentially are about creating procedural steps for people. So remember I said lots of people in low wage jobs work intermittently, work fewer hours than they want to. It actually doesn't help them solve those problems if they're also hungry. So provisions that say, "You have to be doing all these things and working 40 hours before you get assistance." Or that [1:06:26] ____ add rules are a challenge. There may be provisions that would give states more flexibility to try to reduce the number of people receiving food assistance. So I think there are a lot of possibilities and they may be driven by the question of how much pressure there is to cut dollars out of the programme.

1:06:47: On the other side, we were talking about this at lunch, I think there are lots of reasons to believe that there are many powerful voices who can tell the story of how important nutrition assistance is. I was saying that I was at a large meeting, a gala actually, where a woman who actually is in an editorial role at Fox News talked about the importance of her family's receipt of food stamps when she was a teenager, and I think her mother was a single parent. And she talked about what it meant to her success at school, her ability to concentrate, that she wasn't hungry, and she wasn't worrying all day long about whether there would be food when she got home that night. I think that's a powerful story. There are many powerful stories like that. And then there are institutional interests in agriculture and in the grocery world that also care a lot about not making it impossible for people to buy food. So I do think there are a lot of threats and I would urge everybody to be thinking about documenting, telling stories, collecting information, but I also think there are lots of opportunities to fight back.

1:08:06: Do you predict any bipartisan antipoverty programmes or initiatives for the future?

1:08:14: So the question was about bipartisan antipoverty initiatives. So I do think that many initiatives are bipartisan if you're thinking about governors of both parties or state legislators in some states. Washington State's paid family and medical leave programme that they just enacted was bipartisan in their state legislature. The Medicaid expansion which I think has been central to low-income people has been embraced by a number of governors of both parties. I think at the national level, it's very hard to say. There were bipartisan directions in particular in criminal justice reform, but the attorney general sessions and this administration are deeply opposed to those. So they're not at this point moving forward as bipartisan initiatives.

1:09:07: CLASP is non-partisan, and what that means is that we're about policy ideas and not about promoting a party or an elected official. It doesn't require us to be bipartisan. We don't have to say we're gonna take this idea and water it down to we think in today's climate. It could get members of Congress from both parties. So I think the question of when could there be something is sort of unanswered right now. But I guess my question or my reflection would be that defeating really terrible ideas can have pay off down the road as both Republicans and Democrats start thinking about first the 2018 elections then once after that and start thinking about if the really terrible ideas now have not worked, what could we try to do in the future? So I think my answer would be not immediately at the federal level. I think there are immediate in some states, but possibly in the future.

1:10:08: And we have one last question and this is a more visionary question. If you were to set a proactive agenda setting aside the current threats from Congress and the administration, what would be your top priority to help low-income children and families?

1:10:25: So the question was my top priority expressed as a singular, and of course I said to you that CLASP is a no silver bullet kind of place, so we actually don't think there's one thing. I really think that you have to focus on low wage work and making it both higher wage and more consistent with being a parent and that means both things like paid family leave. It probably also means jobs programmes like the ones you asked about and it probably also means helping people move up and one more. And I would also think very hard about a major investment in childcare and in young children. At the same time, I've left things out there. I've left out a housing agenda, although it would clearly be helped a lot if people's incomes were higher and I've left out a bunch of other things. But I think those thinking about what you can do that helps people work, that helps them raise their kids, and helps kids thrive and they create security and the ability to move up over the long haul, to me those are the kind of the pieces you need to put together.

1:11:37: Okay.

1:11:38: Thank you.