Interacting with the criminal justice system is an expensive proposition. Its reliance on bail to encourage return after pretrial release, on fines to punish and provide restitution, and on fees to fund the system implies that an individual’s economic means may determine how burdensome any interaction is. These nine economic facts characterize the current use of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system, highlighting the economic and social costs that they pose to defendants and society.
In this paper Michael Makowsky of Clemson University describes how the reliance of local governments on fees, fines, and asset forfeiture for revenue generation shapes law enforcement activities. Makowsky proposes a set of reforms that would decouple the revenue collection from the public safety objectives of law enforcement. Breaking this link would realign the criminal justice system with its traditional public safety goals.
There is broad agreement about the importance of transportation infrastructure, but disagreement about the goals of transportation policy and the appropriate means to achieve these goals. In this paper, Matthew Turner of Brown University examines the current state of U.S. infrastructure and discusses different reforms that focus on improving both access to opportunity and the efficiency of the highway and bus transit systems.
The $700 billion U.S. intergovernmental grant system is often poorly targeted to areas that are struggling. Tracy Gordon proposes reforms to Medicaid and other programs that would make federal aid to states more targeted toward struggling areas and more responsive to economic shocks.
For a century, the progress our nation made toward realizing broadly shared economic growth gave our economy much of its unparalleled strength. However, for the last several decades, that progress has seemed to stall. On critical measures such as household income, poverty, employment rates, and life expectancy, there exist yawning persistent gaps between the best- and worst-performing communities. These conditions demand a reconsideration of place-based policies. The evidence-based proposals contained in this volume can help restore the conditions of inclusive growth that make it possible for individuals from any part of the country to benefit from economic opportunity.
Over the past few decades there have been troubling indications that dynamism and competition in the U.S. economy have declined. Markets are more concentrated than they were a few decades ago, and entrepreneurship is less common, with both the number and employment share of new firms well below the levels of previous decades. Carefully assessing these trends as they relate to public policy is necessary to achieving a more competitive, productive economy that generates broadly shared growth.