ON-Lion Letter
Troubling conditions in the labor market have persisted as Americans continue to feel the effects of the Great Recession. The labor-force participation rate shows little improvement -- especially for men in their prime working years -- and is cause for serious concern.  In such a time of need, poorly designed government policies have only increased the barriers to work.  This unsettling trend points to stark implications for future economic growth and standards of living for the American people.

In a new policy briefing booklet that is part of the Room to Grow Series from the Conservative Reform Network and the Conservative Reform Policy Center, Michael R. Strain offers an array of conservative reforms to combat unnecessary regulation and improve poor employment prospects.  

Strain is a resident scholar and directs economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Room to Grow Series and AEI.

First, Strain proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults.  Previous expansions of the tax credit have noticeably increased the workforce participation rate of eligible beneficiaries.

Second, he recommends expanding apprenticeship programs, which combine on-the-job training and academic coursework.  He thinks that firms, which are intricately familiar with the skills and abilities they need in their workers, should drive such programs -- not the federal government.

Third, Strain convincingly demonstrates how the social-safety net can better encourage work.  The Social Security Disability Insurance program, for example, has failed to adapt to an increasingly service-based economy, and is therefore an obstacle to improving both the labor market and opportunities for disabled adults.

He offers several other conservative solutions to provide greater employment opportunity and encourage work.  In addition to advocating cutting payroll taxes, Strain identifies three ways to reduce barriers to work:  reduce commute times for low-income workers who live farther from areas of greater opportunity, implement policies that make it easier for formerly incarcerated individuals to obtain work (e.g., "ban the box"), and reform burdensome, unnecessary occupational-licensing regulations.

Taken together, Strain says, such measures will increase employment opportunities and economic mobility.
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