Spotlight Exclusives

New Books Promote Work, Corporate Responsibility

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

Tax policies that reward work and regulatory reform that incentivizes best practices in corporate responsibility were two of the common themes raised in an American Enterprise Institute discussion Monday of three new books about work and how best to encourage and support it.

The event, Challenges for Workers and Employers: New Books on Work, Skills, and Mobility, featured three authors of recently released or soon-to-be-released books:

Sawhill, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, said her book grew out of her desire to better understand voter support for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and a search for “marrying red state values – families, education, and work – with blue state policies.”

She said a series of focus groups she conducted in Syracuse, N.Y., Greensboro, N.C., and St. Louis, Mo., gave her a better understanding of economic concerns outside the Beltway bubble. Her key takeaways were that lower-income workers:

  • Understand the need for skills but are skeptical of the message of college for all.
  • Worry less about finding jobs than they do about wages, benefits, and job security.
  • Have a strong sense of personal responsibility.
  • Want to be self-supporting.
  • Feel underappreciated and underpaid.
  • Are cynical about government’s ability to solve problems.

The policy agenda she believes can best respond to these concerns would include a worker tax credit that would offset payroll taxes for those earning under approximately $40,000 per year, paid for by taxing wealth, specifically a major increase in the estate tax.

“In the long term, perhaps we can come together around the concept of work, a uniquely American value,” Sawhill said.

Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and former domestic policy adviser for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, raises similar themes in his book, though his policy prescriptions are different in many cases.

One of his dominant themes was that the focus of U.S. macroeconomic policy should be rebalanced to put more emphasis on production than consumption and policies that support and reward work should be at the forefront. Cass described this mindset as encouraging the attitude of “I want to make the iPhone,” rather than “I want to have the iPhone.”

His policy suggestions include: Reevaluating environmental regulations that limit economic growth; orienting the education system toward the median student; creating policies that promote balanced trade and immigration; revitalizing U.S. labor unions; and reorienting the safety net toward making work pay.

Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation, IBM’s vice president for corporate citizenship, and a professor at Columbia University and Duke University, outlined his book’s examination of the growing role corporate actors must play in an increasingly dysfunctional political system.

History is replete with examples of bad corporate behavior, but “there are an equal number of examples where the private sector has been as progressive as any other sector of society,” Litow said. He urged federal regulators and legislators to pursue policies that encourage those best practices.





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