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Conclusion

We know that conscious, efficient, and equitable public policies could open up asset ownership to all Americans. This is a hard time for advancing such an agenda for public monies. We will have to do more, and better, with less. The fundamental principles presented in this chapter may guide us forward:

1. Long-standing federal assets policy and programs primarily benefit the affluent with substantial subsidies, principally administered through the tax code. Such policies and programs provide almost no help to the nonaffluent.

2. New federal and state policies that aid citizens in augmenting, acquiring, and protecting assets (e.g., unemployment insurance) can help to achieve growth and equity.

3. The keys to economic advancement in today's economy are confidence, competence, connections, and capital.

4. Much research and community practice demonstrates that poor people can and will save if offered the right combination of incentives, access, and institutional supports.

5. When parents have better jobs and building assets, they are better able to meet their children's needs and to prepare the next generation for economic success and civic involvement.

6. Asset strategies reinforce optimistic, future-oriented attitudes and create incentives to earn, save, and invest.

7. The broad-based ownership of assets is good for economic development, creating and sustaining a healthy middle class that boosts consumption.

8. Safety net programs and regulations that protect poor and working families from asset-stripping (e.g., credit card approval processes and penalties for late payments, predatory lending, exploitive insurance products) are essential.

9. New asset policies appear to reallocate ineffective and inequitable public subsidies in a way that enhances productivity without increasing inequities between the haves, the have-nots, and the struggling middle class.

10. Asset-building policies not only are compatible with job creation and income growth – they are vital parts of the development dynamic.

Asset-building strategies and policies hold great promise. They may be the key to helping low-income individuals escape from poverty and avoid a return to the bottom due to bad fortune. Asset approaches build on other antipoverty efforts. They leverage the benefits generated by programs focused on expanded employment opportunities, progressive tax reforms, and living/minimum wage hikes. Asset approaches also leverage community economic development. The input of growing financial net worth among residents creates the dynamism and resiliency that characterizes transforming communities.

Asset building and community economic development have great potential in replacing the old development paradigm of business attraction and financial incentives with a better approach – one more appropriate for today's economy built on globalization, rapid technological change, higher skill requirements, and individual initiative.

 
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