ON-Lion Letter

"We Americans have always prided ourselves on the extraordinary degree of mobility this country has long made possible for our citizens -- the idea that, with hard work and a little luck, an immigrant or a child of poor parents can start out with nothing and end up successful and rich," begins Bradley Prize recipient Yuval Levin's cover article in the March 2015 issue of Commentary.  "We still believe this about ourselves:  International comparisons of public opinion find that Americans express far greater confidence than citizens of other developed nations that hard work is rewarded and that everyone has a real chance to rise out of poverty.  But in fact, by many measures, the United States actually does not stand out among advanced economies in terms of economic mobility, and it has not for decades."

Levin is editor of National Affairs and the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) in Washington, D.C.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports Commentary, National Affairs, and EPPC.

"It may be helpful to think in terms of five categories of steps that policymakers could take, at least for a start," Levin writes in "The Mobility Crisis."

"The first is the most general and the easiest for Republicans to embrace:  growth," he continues.  "The second category of needed reforms would seek to address persistently low mobility among poor and lower-middle-class Americans.

"The third facet of a mobility agenda would involve lifting burdens imposed on the middle class and the poor by some perverse incentives and distortions in today's welfare state," according to Levin.  "The fourth element of a mobility agenda would go beyond lifting burdens and focus on the most difficult and important part of the mobility puzzle:  the curse of entrenched poverty.

"Finally, the fifth element of a conservative mobility agenda should involve drawing a clear distinction between welfare assistance and disability benefits."

We must "work to ensure that the rhetorical turn toward mobility in our national politics is followed up with substance and action," he concludes.

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