California Launches Improved Reverse Income Tax Scheme

work and smile

California’s welfare system (EITC) includes subsidies sent annually for people living without income and that’s about to change. Under new rules the money given to people who earn less than minimum wage will be sent monthly. This is really good since it provides a stable, reliable, and regular sum every month; in theory this will reduce stress for the recipients.

The plan is more like reverse income tax than it is universal basic income. Regardless, it’s good to see one the world’s largest economies delivering financial care in a more efficient manner.

“The typical pattern with the EITC is that you get deeper and deeper into debt over the course of a year,” Ruben says, “and then you use the big payment at tax time to try to pay everything off and break even.” Giving people the option to receive the credit on a monthly basis will help people plan their budgets on a more immediate basis. Benefits like food stamps are delivered monthly, so families receiving both will have a more accurate sense of their financial landscape. And in months when a household finds itself on more stable financial footing, they might be able to put some of the tax credit money aside in savings. “What we’re seeing is the idea of the importance of a steady drumbeat of financial security throughout the year,” Ruben says.

Newsom’s budget proposal aims to tackle these challenges. It will raise the household income threshold to over $30,000 (or what someone would take home working full-time at the projected $15 per hour minimum wage) to include more families. And the expanded funding will grant parents with children under six an additional $500 per year. That may not seem like a lot, Ruben says, but in focus groups run by the ESP over the past year, one woman said anyone who looks at that money and responds in that way “has never had to choose between paying rent and buying food.”



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To Change Politics for the Better we Need to Change Suburbia

the suburbs

The Canadian province of Ontario just elected a new government that’s focussed on making Ontario worse. In a few short months they’ve done a lot of damage including messing with municipal elections (making them harder to participate in), removing a carbon plan at a cost of $3 billion, and defunded governmental roles that monitor effectiveness. In short, they are behaving like anarchists. Clearly, none of these things are good.

This led to University of Waterloo urban planner Pierre Filion wondering what happened. His conclusion is that the suburbs did it. The actual physical environment of the suburbs is a source of support for this destructive party to gain power. So if we want to build a better world step one might be to dismantle the current infrastructure supporting suburban lifestyles.

“When the planning solutions are put forward, they need to be put foward in a way that is adapted to the suburban lifestyle, to the people who are living in suburbs, and that really takes into consideration what is going to help them,” said Filion.

“I don’t mean to say that suburbs are totally negative to work with — this is certainly not the case — but it needs to be shown that what is going to be put in place is going to help them,” he said.

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In Singapore Housing Crises are a Thing of the Past

Singapore lacks land and this causes interesting land use problems. In the city state they ran into issues around housing their citizens ranging from land to cost. Instead of letting “market forces” dictate their housing plan (like in Toronto) the politicians of Singapore decided to act. They built housing and funded even more to ensure that in Singapore everyone will be able to afford a home.

Singapore had a severe housing shortage decades ago. But it developed one of the world’s best public housing programs, which has also allowed a huge number of its citizens to buy their own homes.

How Good Policy Alongside Good Design Improves Lives

subway transit

Tishaura Jones, the first female treasurer of St. Louis, set out to improve her city through good design. Through her own struggles dealing with the city’s bureaucracy she identified many problems with how information is presented, she noted she wasn’t the only one running into bad design. Jones decided to do something about it; the policies were there but nobody knew how to understand them since the information was presented in a Byzantine way. She has led St. Louis to alter how information gets communicated to its citizens.

As treasurer of St. Louis, she used two key design techniques to improve policy delivery and outcomes. First, she reached out to other cities that had prototyped and tested new, human-centered policies. Building on what other cities had learned allowed St. Louis to springboard forward instead of getting stuck reinventing wheels. Second, she brought together policy and processes, applying people-centered design to the rules that governed services and the delivery of them. By building connective tissue between policy, process, and people, Jones was able to built new trust in old institutions to deliver real change impacting residents’ lives.


Justin King, policy director of the family-centered social policy program at New America, where I did research, has spent his career working on issues at the intersection of children’s lives and government policies. “Tishaura and Jose before her are reinventing what’s possible inside government,” he says. “People see the state and municipal government, in a lot of cases, as a predator on them and their communities . . . [Their work] is against the tide. It is really positive and really innovative and really worth talking about.”

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How Nations Worked Together to Address the Ozone Hole

Way back in 1987 nations of the world signed the Montreal Protocol to address some environmental problems. The biggest environmental issue discussed at the time was the hole in the ozone layer and thanks to everyone confronting it the hole in the ozone layer is basically gone. It’s proof that if the political will is there then we can solve any global environmental problem by working together!

We don’t hear much about the hole in the ozone layer anymore. That’s because we’ve all but fixed it, thanks to consumer choices and a massive international agreement called the Montreal Protocol. Can we learn anything from this environmental success story that will help us fix climate change?

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