Effective Government

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Government plays a vital role in providing public goods and services that private markets fail to provide, and in implementing regulations that facilitate private market activity while protecting the safety of the food we eat, the air we depend on, and the our safety and well-being. These government functions help foster economic growth and improve our quality of life, while also providing a critical safety net and insuring against risks. The Hamilton Project explores innovative proposals for enhancing public goods and services and improving our regulatory system to promote broad-based economic growth and rising living standards.


Related to Effective Government

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The Hamilton Project Policy Response to the President’s 2016 Budget Proposal

Papers • February 2015

The 2016 Budget has a number of specific features that embrace the approach that government policy should be evidence-based. The 2016 Budget offers proposals that would strengthen evidence-building capacity in specific policy areas; strengthen evidence-building capacity across government; and create new opportunities for innovative programs. In this memo The Hamilton Project provides an overview of evidenced-based policy recommendations from recent papers addressing a range of issues that are specifically mentioned in the 2016 Budget.

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Tomorrow’s Catch: A Proposal to Strengthen the Economic Sustainability of U.S. Fisheries

Papers • September 2014 • Christopher Costello

In this Hamilton Project discussion paper, Christopher Costello of the University of California, Santa Barbara proposes that certain fisheries conduct an analysis of alternative fishery management structures, including different forms of catch shares, to improve the economic value of U.S. fisheries.

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What’s the Catch? Challenges and Opportunities of the U.S. Fishing Industry

Papers • September 2014 • Melissa S. Kearney, Benjamin H. Harris, Brad Hershbein

In this policy memo, The Hamilton Project highlights the economic significance of U.S. fisheries, describes the current landscape of the industry and typical management practices, and explains the “tragedy of the commons” challenge facing this natural resource. The Project also explores possible approaches for improving the economic and ecological sustainability of U.S. fisheries by establishing better-defined property rights as an alternative to traditional management systems.

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Back to School: Hamilton Project Papers Aimed at Early Learning, K-12, and Higher Education

Papers • August 2014

At the start of a new school year, The Hamilton Project highlights an array of policy proposals, economic facts, and economic analyses articulating the importance of education for the advancement and prosperity of Americans. 

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Policies to Address Poverty in America, eBook Download

Papers • June 2014

The Hamilton Project asked academic experts to develop policy proposals confronting the various challenges of America's poorest citizens, and to introduce innovative approaches to addressing poverty. When combined, the scope and impact of these proposals has the potential to vastly improve the lives of the poor. The resulting 14 policy memos are included in The Hamilton Project's Policies to Address Poverty in America. The main areas of focus include promoting early childhood development, supporting disadvantaged youth, building worker skills, and improving safety net and work support.
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Smarter, Better, Faster: The Potential for Predictive Analytics and Rapid-Cycle Evaluation to Improve Program Development and Outcomes

Papers • June 2014 • Scott Cody, Andrew Asher

In this policy memo, Scott Cody and Andrew Asher propose that federal, state, and local agencies conduct thorough needs assessments to determine if predictive analytics and rapid-cycle evaluation can be used to improve the delivery of social services programs. This proposal aims to provide more effective services for individuals living in poverty by targeting services appropriately, and by identifying effective program improvements. This proposal is chapter fourteen of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

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Designing Thoughtful Minimum Wage Policy at the State and Local Levels

Papers • June 2014 • Arindrajit Dube

In this policy memo, Arindrajit Dube proposes that state and local governments consider median wages and local costs when setting minimum wages, index the minimum wage for inflation, and engage in regional wage setting. This proposal aims to raise the earnings of low-wage workers with minimal negative impacts on employment. This proposal is chapter thirteen of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

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Encouraging Work Sharing to Reduce Unemployment

Papers • June 2014 • Katharine Abraham, Susan Houseman

In this policy memo, Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman propose that the federal government subsidize state work-sharing payments during economic downturns, make work sharing a requirement for state unemployment insurance systems, change federal requirements to modify provisions of state work-sharing plans that may discourage employer participation, and provide states with adequate funding to administer work-sharing programs. This proposal, targeted at workers who would otherwise become unemployed during cyclical downturns, aims to reduce the number of layoffs during economic downturns. This proposal is chapter twelve of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

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Building on the Success of the Earned Income Tax Credit

Papers • June 2014 • Hilary Hoynes

In this policy memo, Hilary Hoynes proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by raising the benefits for families with one child to be on par with the benefits for families with two children. This proposal aims to strengthen work incentives for low-income, one-child families; raise 410,000 people—including 131,000 children—out of poverty; and increase after-tax income by about $1,000 for one-child EITC beneficiaries, leading to improvements in health and children’s cognitive skills. This proposal is chapter eleven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

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Providing Disadvantaged Workers with Skills to Succeed in the Labor Market

Papers • June 2014 • Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, Jillian Berk

In this policy memo, Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, and Jillian Berk offer proposals to help disadvantaged adult workers with the skills necessary to succeed in the labor market. The authors call for an increase in funding in the Workforce Investment Act Adult program. They also propose a series of four steps that state and local workforce boards can take to better assist disadvantaged adult workers in obtaining skills. This proposal is chapter nine of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.

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Evolution of the Jobs Gap and Possible Scenarios for Growth

May 8, 2015 • Charts

Each month, The Hamilton Project calculates America’s “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who newly enter the labor force each month. As of the end of April 2015, our nation faces a jobs gap of 3.9 million jobs.

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Cumulative Risk of Parent’s Imprisonment for Children by Age 14, by Race and Parent’s Education

May 1, 2014 • Charts

This chart illustrates the cumulative risk of imprisonment for parents—or the projected lifetime likelihood of having served time for a person born in a specific year—by the time their child turns fourteen, by child's race and their own educational attainment. Regardless of race, fathers are much more likely to have been imprisoned than are mothers. 

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Cumulative Risk of Imprisonment by Age 30-34 for Men Born Between 1945-49 and 1975-79, by Race and Education

May 1, 2014 • Charts

For certain demographic groups, incarceration has become a fact of life. There is nearly a 70 percent chance that an African American man without a high school diploma will have been imprisoned by his mid-thirties. 

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Incarceration Rates in OECD Countries

May 1, 2014 • Charts

The United States is an international outlier when it comes to incarceration rates. The U.S. incarceration rate—defined as the number of inmates in local jails, state prisons, federal prisons, and privately operated facilities per every 100,000 U.S. residents—is more than six times that of the typical Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) country.

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Incarceration Rate in the United States, 1960-2012

May 1, 2014 • Charts

The incarceration rate in the United States—defined as the number of inmates in local jails, state prisons, federal prisons, and privately operated facilities per every 100,000 U.S. residents—increased during the past three decades, from 220 in 1980 to 756 in 2008, before retreating slightly to 710 in 2012. 

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Minimum Wage and Share of Workers Earning Equal to or Less Than 150 Percent of the Minimum Wage in 2012, by State

January 10, 2014 • Charts

Every state in the country has a substantial share of workers who would be impacted by an increase in the minimum wage. In 2012, Montana had the highest share of workers—37.2 percent—with wages equal to or less than 150 percent of the minimum wage. Even in Alaska, which boasts higher wages compared to the rest of the country, 16.9 percent of workers had wages equal to or lower than 150 percent of the minimum. Not surprisingly, the 18 states with a higher minimum wage level than the federal benchmark tended to have higher shares of workers with wages within 150 percent of the minimum wage. However, in every state in the country, at least one in six workers had wages that were equal to 150 percent of the minimum wage or lower. This chart shows the share of workers earning equal to or less than 150 percent of the minimum wage in every state in 2012. By hovering over a state, you can also see the minimum wage in 2012 in each state.

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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Rate and Unemployment Rate, by Year

December 19, 2013 • Charts

SNAP is a key program for providing assistance to Americans when they need support the most. This can be seen in the correlation between SNAP participation and unemployment rates; SNAP participation rises during economic downturns and falls during recoveries. In 2013, the average participation rate for SNAP was 19.4 percent of the U.S. population, serving 47.7 million individuals each month, compared to a pre-recession participation rate of only 11.3 percent in 2007. As shown in the figure above, SNAP historically has tracked rates of unemployment and economic downturns closely (denoted by the teal dotted line and gray bars, respectively). SNAP participation rates (as seen in the shaded blue area) are expected to fall as the economy continues to recover, as would be expected based on the pattern observed in previous recessions. By 2020, the participation rate is projected to revert to 2009 levels—about 14.3 percent of the population.

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Household Food spending as a Fraction of the Thrifty Food Plan Minimum Spending Target for Households under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level

December 19, 2013 • Charts

SNAP is designed to supplement recipients’ purchasing power so that through a combination of SNAP benefits and their own spending out of available cash resources recipients can afford to purchase enough food to feed their families under the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). However, the TFP minimum spending target for food is based on outdated and inappropriate assumptions. In particular, the TFP implicitly assumes that households have unlimited time to prepare food, and therefore are able to cook meals primarily from scratch instead of using prepared ingredients. Over the past twenty years the majority of low-income families spent more on food than would have been suggested by the cost of a minimally adequate food budget that the benefit formula is based on. This difference in spending compared to the TFP target may indicate that some families face higher food prices than those assumed by the TFP.

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Breakdown of Family Characteristics, by Income Relative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

December 19, 2013 • Charts

Household composition of families in the struggling lower-middle class varies substantially from the household composition of families in poverty. Of families with income below the federal poverty level (FPL) (approximately 7.1 million families), 70 percent are headed by a single parent (61 percent are single female parents), 24 percent are headed by a married couple with one or two earners, and 6 percent are headed by a married couple with no earners. The composition of the struggling lower-middle class—defined here as working-age families with children under age eighteen whose income places them between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL—is markedly different from families in poverty in terms of marriage and presence of earners.

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Low-and Middle-Income Families See Little Benefit from Adding a Second Earner

December 19, 2013 • Charts

This figure displays the percentage of income generated by the addition of a secondary earner’s income that a family takes home after accounting for payroll and federal income taxes, SNAP benefits, and the cost of child care. Each set of bars represents a family of four (two adults, two children) headed by a full-time worker that earns between 100 and 250 percent of the federal minimum wage (i.e., $15,080 to $37,700 annually). The green and purple bars represent the take-home earnings generated from adding a part-time and full-time secondary earner, respectively, with the same hourly wage. In all eight scenarios represented, a family ultimately keeps less than half of the earnings generated by the secondary earner.

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The First Step to Cutting the Red Tape: Better Analysis

April 30, 2014 • Michael Greenstone

Hamilton Project Advisory Council member Michael Greenstone testified before the Joint Economic Committee. His testimony focused on how to design a regulatory structure that protects the well-being of our citizens without imposing unnecessary costs on American businesses and society as a whole.  

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Testimony of Melissa S. Kearney

January 16, 2014 • Melissa S. Kearney

The Hamilton Project Director, Melissa S. Kearney testifies before the Joint Economic Committee on income inequality in the United States.

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Testimony of Michael Greenstone

June 25, 2013 • Michael Greenstone

Hamilton Project Director Michael Greenstone testifies before the Joint Economic Committee about strategies to improve the government’s regulatory system.

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Testimony of Adam Looney

May 22, 2013 • Adam Looney

Hamilton Project Policy Director Adam Looney testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on the role of tax reform in supporting broad-based economic growth and fiscal responsibility.

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Strengthening the Safety Net

April 17, 2012 • Robert Greenstein

Hamilton Project Advisory Council member Bob Greenstein testified before the House Committee on the Budget on the social safety net.

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Improving Regulatory Performance

November 16, 2011 • Michael Greenstone

Hamilton Project Director Michael Greenstone testified before the Senate Budget Committee’s Task Force on Government Performance on how we can improve the government’s system of regulatory review.

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Preliminary Thoughts on Reforming Financial Regulation

October 21, 2008 • Alice M. Rivlin

Hamilton Project Advisory Council member Alice Rivlin testified before the House Committee on Financail Services on reforming financial regulation.

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Testimony of Lawrence H. Summers

September 9, 2008 • Lawrence H. Summers

In recent testimony before the House Budget Committee, Hamilton Project Advisory Council member Lawrence Summers makes a strong case for the prompt enactment of further timely, targeted, and temporary fiscal stimulus measures.

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Reducing the Likelihood of Financial Crisis

May 14, 2008 • Douglas W. Elmendorf

Hamilton Project Senior Scholar Doug Elmendorf testified before the Joint Economic Committee on principles to guide reform of financial markets.

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Options for Fiscal Stimulus

January 24, 2008 • Jason Furman

In a testimony, Jason Furman discusses a timely, temporary and targeted fiscal stimulus as a solution in stabilizing the economy.

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Financing 21st Century Infrastructure in the United States

May 11, 2015 • Washington, DC

On May 11, as part of Infrastructure Week, The Hamilton Project and Building America’s Future  co-hosted a public forum discussing the challenges of U.S. infrastructure financing and potential policy solutions. Policymakers and experts joined in two panel discussions, including former Governor Ed Rendell, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Congressman John Delaney, Alan Krueger of Princeton University, and Roger Altman of Evecore, among others.

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The Economic Costs of Climate Change

September 22, 2014 • Washington, DC

There is growing public debate over whether, when, and to what extent policymakers should take action to stem climate change. On September 22nd, The Hamilton Project at Brookings will host a forum to explore the economics of climate change, and the potential costs of inaction to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. U.S Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will give keynote remarks, followed by a roundtable discussion with Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Michael Greenstone, The Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. 

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management

September 10, 2014 • Washington, DC

The fishing industry contributes about $90 billion annually to the U.S. economy, and over one and a half million jobs for American workers. Many coastal communities depend on the fishing industry to sustain their local economies. On September 10th, The Hamilton Project released new papers and hosted a forum to explore opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry.
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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market

July 17, 2014 • Washington, DC

On July 17, THP hosted CEA Chairman Jason Furman to discuss a new report on opportunities & challenges in the U.S. labor market. Furman was joined by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and economist Alan Blinder of Princeton University for a roundtable discussion.
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Day Two: Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 20, 2014 • Washington, DC

On Friday, June 20, The Hamilton Project continued its two-day anti-poverty summit, Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis. Day two of the summit focused on policies to improve the safety net and work support, including the role of work-share and minimum wage policies to support American workers.

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Day One: Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 19, 2014 • Washington, DC

Day one of Addressing America's Poverty Crisis opened on Thursday, June 19, with discussions around policies to build skills, promote early childhood development, and support disadvantaged youth. The day kicked off with a CEO-level discussion on the importance of apprenticeship and skill training, followed by three roundtable discussions featuring academic scholars and experts. 

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 19, 2014 • Washington, DC

On June 19–20, The Hamilton Project hosted a summit to discuss a range of policy approaches for combating poverty in the United States.  The Hamilton Project released 14 proposals from experts around the country, each intended to tackle a specific challenge related to poverty, including new approaches to building skills, promoting early childhood development, and supporting disadvantaged youth. The authors of the new proposals were joined by public and private sector experts to discuss these ideas as part of our two-day event.

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The Economic and Social Effects of Crime and Mass Incarceration in the United States

May 1, 2014 • Washington, DC

On May 1st, The Hamilton Project at Brookings will host a forum and release three new papers focusing on crime and incarceration in the United States. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin will deliver opening remarks, and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) will join the forum to discuss the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014, which was recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with bi-partisan support.

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Wireless Spectrum and the Future of Technology Innovation

March 24, 2014 • Washington, DC

On March 24th, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum addressing key challenges with the allocation and regulation of wireless spectrum. The event featured keynote remarks by FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler.

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Supporting America’s Lower-Middle-Class Families

December 4, 2013 • Washington, DC

More than half of American families earn $60,000 or less a year -- outside of poverty but with limited economic security. Many of these families rely on government programs for support and one major setback could throw their lives into chaos. On December 4th, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum to highlight two new proposals for aiding America’s lower middle class families featuring a diverse range of experts.

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Evolution of the Jobs Gap and Possible Scenarios for Growth

May 8, 2015 • Charts

Each month, The Hamilton Project calculates America’s “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who newly enter the labor force each month. As of the end of April 2015, our nation faces a jobs gap of 3.9 million jobs.

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Expanding Employment Opportunities: Photo Gallery

March 11, 2015 • Photo Galleries

On March 11, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum at the National Press Club in Washington, DC focusing on how the U.S. economy can be strengthened by expanding labor market opportunities. United States Vice President Joe Biden delivered remarks. The forum included two panel discussions focused on three new Hamilton Project papers proposing ways to strengthen labor market opportunities for all workers. The first panel discussed a new proposal by Morris Kleiner of the University of Minnesota, suggesting four major reforms to occupational licensing policies. The second panel discussed two papers, by Adriana Kugler of Georgetown University and Michael Barr of the University of Michigan, that seek to strengthen unemployment insurance and increase the rates of minority entrepreneurship. 

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Expanding Employment Opportunities: U.S. Vice President Biden Remarks Video

March 11, 2015 • Video

On March 11, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum in Washington, DC and released three new papers focusing on how the U.S. economy can be strengthened by expanding labor market opportunities. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin opened the forum. United States Vice President Joe Biden delivered remarks.

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Expanding Employment Opportunities: Panel 2 Video

March 11, 2015 • Video

On March 11, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum and released three new papers focusing on how the U.S. economy can be strengthened by expanding labor market opportunities. The second panel discussed papers by Adriana Kugler of Georgetown University and Michael Barr of the University of Michigan that seek to strengthen unemployment insurance and increase the rates of minority entrepreneurship, respectively. The authors were joined by Chanelle Hardy of the National Urban League Washington Bureau, Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Glenn Hutchins, Co-Founder of Silver Lake, moderated the discussion.

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Expanding Employment Opportunities: U.S. Vice President Biden Remarks Audio

March 11, 2015 • Audio

On March 11, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum in Washington, DC and released three new papers focusing on how the U.S. economy can be strengthened by expanding labor market opportunities. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin opened the forum. United States Vice President Joe Biden delivered remarks.

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Expanding Employment Opportunities: Panel 1 Audio

March 11, 2015 • Audio

“[The labor market] has been on a steady pace of recovery…but there’s still work to do,” said Hamilton Project director Melissa Kearney on March 11 during our forum, Expanding Employment Opportunities. Kearney moderated the panel discussion focused on a new paper by Morris Kleiner of the University of Minnesota proposing ways to promote smarter occupational licensing practices. Kearney and Kleiner were joined by Mike Monroe of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, Barbara Kelley of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, and Justin Wolfers of The Peterson Institute for International Economics.

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New Directions for U.S. Water Policy: Featured Remarks by Governor Jerry Brown Video

October 20, 2014 • Video

The Hamilton Project and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment joined forces on October 20th to gather experts on the topic of water policy, drought and climate change in the United States. California Governor Jerry Brown gave featured remarks on the landscape of water in the West, and emphasized his comittment to making water a "key issue." 

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management - Audio

September 10, 2014 • Audio

On September 10th, The Hamilton Project released two new papers and hosted a forum to explore opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. The forum opened with remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. A roundtable discussion was held around the new proposal by Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara, and included Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts; John Mimikakis, Associate Vice President of Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund; John Pappalardo, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance; and Captain Steve Tomeny of Steve Tomeny Charters. Melissa Kearney, Director of The Hamilton Project, moderated the roundtable. 

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management - Video

September 10, 2014 • Video

On September 10th, The Hamilton Project released two new papers and hosted a forum to explore opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. The forum opened with remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. A roundtable discussion was held around the new proposal by Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara, and included Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts; John Mimikakis, Associate Vice President of Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund; John Pappalardo, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance; and Captain Steve Tomeny of Steve Tomeny Charters. Melissa Kearney, Director of The Hamilton Project, moderated the roundtable. 

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Casting the Net: A More Efficient Approach to U.S. Fisheries Management - Photo Gallery

September 10, 2014 • Photo Galleries

On September 10th, The Hamilton Project released two new papers and hosted a forum to explore opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the U.S. fishing industry. The forum opened with remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. A roundtable discussion was held around the new proposal by Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara, and included Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts; John Mimikakis, Associate Vice President of Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund; John Pappalardo, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance; and Captain Steve Tomeny of Steve Tomeny Charters. Melissa Kearney, Director of The Hamilton Project, moderated the roundtable. 

Hamilton Project Updates

A periodic newsletter of events, policy briefs, and working papers from The Hamilton Project.