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Connecting Tax Time to Financial Security: Designing Public Policy with Evidence from the Field

February 24, 2014

The ability to accumulate and access savings is a fundamental determinant of economic security for many families, especially those with low incomes and limited resources. Since every family's circumstance is different, so too are their savings needs, which can range both in time horizon and flexibility of purpose. Current federal policy favors longer-term, targeted purposes, such as savings for retirement, leaving a void in policy supports for households whose savings needs are more immediate. This impedes a household's ability to build up a stock of flexible use savings that are accessible to buffer against financial shocks or to invest in ways that may improve their future, roles that serve as the underpinning for economic mobility. Policy solutions to fill this gap need to address both the lack of resources that lower-income households can dedicate to saving and the lack of products that facilitate saving for flexible purposes. In response, the Asset Building Program at the New America Foundation has developed a proposal, The Financial Security Credit, which offers lower- and middle-income households the option to open an account and an incentive to save in that account at a moment when they are receiving an influx of resources -- tax time.

The Case for Strengthening Personal Networks in CA Local Government

April 1, 2013

The term "innovation" is often applied to products emerging from the private sector. When innovation is discussed in the context of government, commentators generally concentrate on achievements at the federal level. The popular press rarely devotes attention to innovation in local government, or examines innovation as a process, rather than an output. Yet cities and counties have the capacity to engage and impact wide sectors of the public through innovative policies, practices and programs; many are already doing just that. In order to encourage the spread of new approaches to address existing community need, local government staffers, elected officials, third parties that serve them, and researchers must have a deeper understanding of how innovation is perceived and pursued in cities and counties.Drawing on original survey and interview data, this report examines why and how city and county administrators in California adopt new approaches, and the processes through which they learn about potential solutions for problems in their communities. The report highlights the important role of knowledge sharing in the diffusion of innovations from one locale to another, and identifies personal connections as a significant source of information when it comes to innovation. In addition, it shows the obstacles faced by local government leaders who hope to pursue new approaches.

Congress' Wicked Problem: Seeking Knowledge Inside the Information Tsunami

December 1, 2012

The lack of shared expert knowledge capacity in the U.S. Congress has created a critical weakness in our democratic process. Along with bipartisan cooperation, many contemporary and urgent questions before our legislators require nuance, genuine deliberation and expert judgment. Congress, however, is missing adequate means for this purpose and depends on outdated and in some cases antiquated systems of information referral, sorting, communicating, and convening. Congress is held in record low esteem by the public today. Its failings have been widely analyzed and a multitude of root causes have been identified. This paper does not put forward a simple recipe to fix these ailments, but argues that the absence of basic knowledge management in our legislature is a critical weakness. Congress struggles to make policy on complex issues while it equally lacks the wherewithal to effectively compete on substance in today's 24 hour news cycle.This paper points out that Congress is not so much venal and corrupt as it is incapacitated and obsolete. And, in its present state, it cannot serve the needs of American democracy in the 21st Century.The audience for this paper is those who are working in the open government, civic technology and transparency movements as well as other foundations, think tanks and academic entities. It is also for individuals inside and outside of government who desire background about Congress' current institutional dilemmas, including lack of expertise.

Misinformation and Fact-checking: Research Findings from Social Science

February 1, 2012

Citizens and journalists are concerned about the prevalence of misinformation in contemporary politics, which may pollute democratic discourse and undermine citizens' ability to cast informed votes and participate meaningfully in public debate. Academic research in this area paints a pessimistic picture -- the most salient misperceptions are widely held, easily spread, and difficult to correct. Corrections can fail due to factors including motivated reasoning, limitations of memory and cognition, and identity factors such as race and ethnicity. Nonetheless, there is reason to be optimistic about the potential for effectively correcting misperceptions, particularly among people who are genuinely open to the facts. In this report, we offer a series of practical recommendations for journalists, civic educators, and others who hope to reduce misperceptions.

The Fact-Checking Universe in Spring 2012: An Overview

February 1, 2012

By almost any measure, the 2012 presidential race is shaping up to be the most fact-checked electoral contest in American history. Every new debate and campaign ad yields a blizzard of fact-checking from the new full-time fact-checkers, from traditional news outlets in print and broadcast, and from partisan political organizations of various stripes. And though fact-checking still peaks before elections it is now a year-round enterprise that challenges political claims beyond the campaign trail.This increasingly crowded and contentious landscape raises at least two fundamental questions. First, who counts as a legitimate fact-checker? The various kinds of fact-checking at work both inside and outside of journalism must be considered in light of their methods, their audiences, and their goals. And second, how effective are fact-checkers -- or how effective could they be -- in countering widespread misinformation in American political life? The success of the fact-checkers must be assessed in three related areas: changing people's minds, changing journalism, and changing the political conversation. Can fact-checking really stop a lie in its tracks? Can public figures be shamed into being more honest? Or has the damage been done by the time the fact-checkers intervene?This report reviews the shape of the fact-checking landscape today. It pays special attention to the divide between partisan and nonpartisan fact-checkers, and between fact-checking and conventional reporting. It then examines what we know and what we don't about the effectiveness of fact-checking, using the media footprint of various kinds of fact-checkers as an initial indicator of the influence these groups wield. Media analysis shows how political orientation limits fact-checkers' impact in public discourse.

The Rise of Political Fact-checking How Reagan Inspired a Journalistic Movement: A Reporter's Eye View

February 1, 2012

This report uses the Washington Post as a case study to trace the rise of modern political fact-checking. It considers fact-checking as a symptom of the larger, centuries-old struggle between the political establishment and the Fourth Estate to shape the narrative that will be presented to the voters. Through devices such as "Pinocchios" and "Pants-on-Fire" verdicts, journalists have formally asserted their right to adjudicate the truth or falsehood of the carefully-constructed campaign narratives of political candidates. This represents a shift of power back to the media following a low point during the run-up to the war in Iraq when The Post and other leading newspapers failed to seriously challenge the White House line on "weapons of mass destruction."The modern-day fact checking movement can be dated back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who attracted widespread ridicule for his claim that trees cause four times more pollution than automobiles. The ascent of political bloggers during the 2004 campaign put additional pressure on The Post and other mainstream news outlets to upgrade their fact checking operations. The Internet has democratized the fact-checking process by making information that was previously available only through expensive news databases such as Lexis-Nexis easily accessible to bloggers without any research budget.

Shaping 21st Century Journalism: Leveraging a "Teaching Hospital Model" in Journalism Education

October 28, 2011

Calls on journalism programs to become "anchor institutions" in the digitally networked age by pursuing a broader, community-oriented mission, testing new journalism models, exploring how journalistic ecosystems evolve, and shaping policymaking processes.

Getting in Sync: Revamping Licensure and Preparation for Teachers in Pre-K, Kindergarten and the Early Grades

March 7, 2011

Outlines the challenges in teacher preparation and licensure, with a focus on pre-K through third grade; promising practices such as increased classroom experience and selectivity; and suggestions for improving teacher preparation programs and policies.

The Future of Colorado Health Care

December 15, 2009

A preview to the forthcoming report on an analysis of health care reform and the impact on Colorado's economy. The study is being conducted by Len Nichols, PhD, of the New America Foundation and Henry Sobanet on behalf of the University of Denver's Center for Colorado's Economic Future.