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Making Ends Meet: Is There a Way to Help Working Americans?

As with all of the NIF issues guides, three or more approaches are offered for discussion, each of which represents a different point of view.

Problem statement: Today, millions of Americans are struggling to stay economically afloat. Many of them are working fulltime, but they cannot make their paychecks stretch to pay the bills for basic necessities. What has come of the American Dream that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will prosper? This issue book presents three perspectives on the question of what can be done to ease the financial problems that plague both the working poor and many middle class families.

Approach 1:  Stress Personal Responsibility. The root of the problem lies in the fact that many people make bad personal decisions. Too many young people drop out of school, failing to acquire usable skills or good work habits. Or families give in to the siren song of easy credit and buy more than they can afford. This approach maintains that individuals can and must take responsibility for improving their own lives.

Approach 2: Improve Employment Opportunities. The U.S. economy is growing, but millions of working Americans are falling farther behind. Wages have not risen nearly as fast as costs for such major items as health care, housing, and education. Government policies should be revised to ensure livable wages and adequate benefits. Employers should reconsider such practices as outsourcing to protect the jobs of American workers.

Approach 3. Rethink the Safety Net. A combination of private and government programs has served as a safety net for people in economic difficulty for many years. But recent changes in America’s economy have rendered this safety net inadequate to meet the needs of today’s workers. This approach supports the development and expansion of assistance from both private and public sources to help unemployed and working Americans who cannot make ends meet.

Resources for the Forum:

Forum Agenda (Microsoft Word document)

Issue Book - Making Ends Meet: Is There a Way to Help Working Americans? Available from NIF.

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