Implications for Housing and Education
Although housing policy and education are not an integral part of my analyses and proposals, the investments approach holds several important implications for public services in these areas. Chief among these is the principle that the public provision of basic goods and services needs to be tailored as closely as possible to the peculiarities of our nation's political culture. In many other advanced industrial nations, for instance, direct public provision of housing units is widely practiced and accepted. But in the United States such programs are generally aspects of public assistance and, with the exception of projects categorically limited to the elderly, residents often feel stigmatized.
Consistent with current trends in American policy, approaches that help recipients of public assistance participate in the regular housing market are desirable. This preference is not so strong as to mandate massive and abrupt changes in housing policy. And in specific urban areas, and perhaps other locales, expanded direct provision of accessible public housing units remains essential. But overall I would suggest that housing is best regarded as an aspect of income maintenance and that we continue to reduce the direct public provision of housing units, as feasible.
The use of housing vouchers, rather than cash payments, is an option that has achieved some support in recent years. Vouchers involve more complicated administrative services than cash, but
they may be more politically acceptable to citizens who raise suspicions about how public program recipients use their benefits. Vouchers are compatible with an approach to housing as an income-maintenance matter as long as the vouchers are legal tender for housing, and recipients are allowed some flexibility with respect to rents. For instance, households eligible for income-maintenance payments under social merging programs might be given a housing voucher worth one-half of their monthly cash benefits. Thus benefits for housing would amount to one-third of the income-maintenance total. Recipients could choose whatever housing they preferred, paying higher rent or home payments out of their pocket. This feature would be particularly helpful for families who do not want to move or sell their homes during a short-term disruption of income. And we ought also to continue giving recipients cash rebates for rents that do not consume a stipulated portion of their income-maintenance benefits.
My analyses and proposals also hold interesting implications and opportunities for expanding the public school system. First, the system could be expanded to provide more vocational education for adults. Such programs would facilitate my proposal to offer training for experienced workers and would also create good jobs in the public sector.
Second, as mentioned in my discussion of child-care, one mechanism for providing affordable child-care would be to extend the public school system to include preschool programs for younger children. This suggestion would also serve to create new jobs in the public sector.
Together these two programs would also link people's lives more thoroughly to the public school system. And public support for the schools might increase as schools expanded their service capacity and became a focus for family and community services.
Finally, the principle of using social policy to reinforce desirable activity could be applied to stem the tide of parents' transferring their children from public to private schools. A particularly troubling aspect of this trend is that many parents who have opted out of the public school system are precisely the concerned activists who, had they stayed, would have expressed their dissatisfactions to teachers and school administrators, and thereby would have instigated changes and improvements. One way to encourage par-
ents to keep their children in the public schools would be to give students who attend public schools some degree of preferential treatment with respect to public financial aid for postsecondary education.