Thursday, June 26, 2008

Social Infrastructure: Can We Measure Change?

As fiscal constraints force the federal government to make difficult choices about which programs to fund, a new MacArthur initiative is using research and benefit-cost analysis to strengthen the case for more evidence-based policy making.

The Power of Measuring Social Benefits is a $35 million policy research initiative that seeks to challenge the view that social spending is too often wasteful and ineffective. Its intention is to strengthen the case for social policy making that is more firmly grounded in evidence-of-effectiveness and complementary benefits to recipients and society.

"U.S. leadership is essential to building a better, safer world,”
said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton in a recent address May 22
to the City Club of Chicago.
“The MacArthur Foundation is hoping for a new day in America’s relations with the world: a spirit of partnership, a willingness to engage, an openness to dialogue, a determination to regain its leadership in setting norms that call forth humankind’s best values,” he said.

However, measuring social mobility was only one of the issues
discussed Thursday at the Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at an Economic Competitiveness Summit.
Presumptive Presidential Candidate (D) Sen. Barack Obama (IL), after addressing the crowd, led a lively and informative panel discussion in how to keep America competitive.
The panel touched on a five-point 21st Century plan developed by Obama that focuses on energy, education, healthcare, infrastructure and innovation.

"These challenges are real. How we deal with them will shape the prosperity of every single American and the future of America's leadership," Obama said.

Members of the panel agreed with the plan in whole, adding that investing in early education to correct the parent knowledge deficit that is often blamed for a child's slow start in kindergarten.
Life decisions made by parents negatively affect children. An education system comparable to private, upper class education is needed.

A panel member observed that intellectualizing the country could help to change the way Americans think about improving social infrastructure. Minds and behaviors have to change about education and teaching in order for the country to move forward.

However, with that, a workforce changing from a service based economy to knowledge based, needs thought and a plan. A panel member said only 8 of the country's 30 fastest growing industries require an education. The panel member did not clarify whether or not those industries are service based or knowledge based.
Obama said school curriculum should match industry needs.

Decisions in healthcare include how to insure the steel industry's workforce and keep its promises to retirees. A U.S. Steel executive said retiree healthcare costs tops $500 million and climbs higher each year, by 10 to 15 percent.
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