On Thursday, December 3 the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Brookings Institution held a joint meeting to release a new paper and to discuss their joint proposal on Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream.

The two-hour discussion focused on the consensus document that was crafted over a 14-month period by a number of policy experts representing a spectrum from right to center to left.  The agenda and the panel discussions featured an impressive array of speakers, some of whom had been involved in putting together the report, Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security.  A second panel reflected on some of the recommendations. The consensus report was formed around three specific areas: 1) how to strengthen families, 2) how to improve and strengthen work, and 3) how to make improvements in the education system.

In opening remarks Jonathan Haidt, New York University, discussed the current political dialogue and divisions within the country.  He reflected on some of the recent political surveys of the past two decades showing an increasing dislike by voters of the other political party.  He also cautioned about what such continued polarization would mean for the future of this democracy and offered the hope that common ground on addressing poverty might offer one consensus area.  To reinforce that thought David Brooks, the noted New York Times columnist, offered remarks about the opportunities that exist in dealing with this challenge.  He pointing out that many political issues such as tax policy may require specific and varying hard positions such as arguing over specific tax rates but that this issue might be different.  He argued it was an “and-and” issue whereas each side could offer more solutions and work together to see which might work over time.

Common goals and agreement under the report include:

Families: 1) promote a new cultural norm surrounding parenthood and marriage, 2) promote delayed, responsible childbearing, 3) increase access to the fair effective parenting education, and 4) help young men and women prosper in work and family.

Work: 1) improve skills to get well-paying jobs, 2) make work pay more for less educated, 3) raise work levels among the hard-to-employ including the poorly educated and those with criminal records, and 4) ensure that job there available.

Education: 1) increase public investment into underfunded stages of education: preschool and postsecondary, 2) educate the whole child to promote social-emotional and character development as well as academic skills, 3) modernize the organization and accountability of education, and 4) close resource gaps to reduce education gaps.

During the panel discussions there were some disagreements regarding the tone around work requirement language but the work group members responded by saying it was a consensus document.  Even with the criticism however there seemed to be general praise for the overall recommendations in the 85-page report.