It’s hard to know how asset building policy will fare in a time of financial crisis, and when major priorities like ending the war in Iraq and insuring the uninsured will likely require enormous political capital by the new president in order to be implemented. My hope is that the need to strengthen savings opportunities and incentives for low- to moderate-income families will be recognized in this environment when we have seen what over-reliance on debt has caused, and that some important asset building programs can be incorporated into broader measures addressed at restoring the fundamentals of our economy. Reid Cramer of New America Foundation has some suggestions along these lines. And the idea of expanded support for IDAs through something like the Savings for Working Families Act would certainly be a candidate.
The choice of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff means that a major advocate of asset building policy will be President Obama’s right hand for guiding executive and legislative initiatives. Perhaps that will more than make up for the loss of his voice in the House, where we will need to continue to cultivate more advocates for asset development. In the 110th congress, Emanuel was an original sponsor of the Savings for Working Families Act , the ASPIRE act, and the Retirement Savings for Working Americans act, which is quite a trifecta. None of those bills passed, but support for such measures seems to continue to grow.
Perhaps all of us in the asset building field should send notes of congratulation to Rahm Emanuel, thank him for his past support of our work, urge him to keep that enthusiasm alive in the White House, and offer our help and support with the challenges that lie ahead.