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Supporting America’s lower-middle-class families

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

More than half of American families earn $60,000 or less a year — outside of poverty but with limited economic security. Indeed, 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 at Brookings hosted a forum to highlight two new proposals for aiding America’s lower-middle class.

The forum kicked off with introductory remarks by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin.

Joel Berg, Executive Director of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger; James Ziliak, Director of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky; and Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, joined a panel with Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach of Northwestern University to discuss her proposal to strengthen the food stamp (SNAP) program. Roger Altman, Founder and Executive Chairman of Evercore moderated the panel.

In a second panel, Kevin Hassett, Senior Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Studies at AEI, and Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management & Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, joined Melissa Kearney and Lesley Turner of the University of Maryland to discuss their proposal for a secondary earner tax deduction to help “make work pay” for both spouses in low income families. Glenn Hutchins, Co-Founder of Silver Lake, moderated the panel.

The forum concluded with a discussion between Jason Furman, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and David Leonhardt, Washington Bureau Chief for the New York Times, on the challenges facing America’s lower-middle-class families.


9:00 a.m. Welcome and Introductions

Robert E. Rubin
Co-Chair, Council on Foreign Relations;
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary

9:15 a.m. Making Work Pay for Secondary Earners

Author: Melissa Kearney
Associate Professor of Economics, University of Maryland; Director, The Hamilton Project

Author: Lesley Turner
Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Maryland

Discussant: Kevin Hassett
John G. Searle Senior Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute

Discussant: Peter Orszag
Vice Chairman of Global Banking, Citigroup, Inc.

Facilitator: Glenn Hutchins
Co-Founder, Silver Lake

10:15 a.m. Break

10:30 a.m. Strengthening SNAP to Fight Food Insecurity

Author: Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
Associate Professor, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Discussant: Joel Berg
Executive Director, NYC Coalition Against Hunger; Former USDA Coordinator of Community Food Security

Discussant: Robert Greenstein
President, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities

Discussant: James Ziliak
Director, Center for Poverty Research; Carol Martin Gatton Endowed Chair in Microeconomics, University of Kentucky

Facilitator: Roger C. Altman
Founder & Executive Chairman, Evercore

11:30 a.m. Building Ladders of Opportunity for America’s Lower-Income Families

Discussant: Jason Furman
Chairman, President’s Council of Economic Advisers

Facilitator: David Leonhardt
Washington Bureau Chief, The New York Times