Your Messaging Playbook for Reversing False Narratives About Who Deserves to Thrive

You may have heard that the tone of our Prosperity Now Scorecard main findings report is a little bolder than what you might be used to hearing from us. This is more than just a new approach to tone and voice; it’s a shift in strategy. For years, the Scorecard has been your one-stop shop for data on household financial well-being. But the publication of the 2018 report—Whose Bad Choices? How Policy Precludes Prosperity and What We Can Do About It—marks the Scorecard’s expanded purpose: to be your messaging guide for combating the dangerous (and prejudiced) narratives that fuel policy decisions that prevent all but the wealthy from getting ahead. 

As we discussed during the national launch event a week agoWhose Bad Choices? confronts myths about people with limited income and their financial decisions by pairing data with messages that convey the reality of what it means to be poor. 

For example, one of the most prominent narratives we see asserts that poor people are irresponsible and mismanage their money. Whether you’re told to give someone experiencing homelessness food instead of money, or you’re hearing national lawmakers insist that poor people spend their money on “women, booze and movies,” these narratives assume both that low-income people can’t handle their finances, and that government should punish them as a result. 

The Scorecard paints a very different picture. The data on low-wage jobs, access to employer-sponsored retirement accounts and emergency savings, just to name a few, reveal that households are walking the financial tightrope, working hard and saving what they can. However, stagnant wages, rising costs of living and disproportionate access to good benefits keep them from transforming income into wealth, and wealth into prosperity. The Scorecard has always offered this kind of data, but Whose Bad Choices? leverages it to even more clearly articulate how the choices of public policy, and not of individual workers, are at the root of these troubling outcomes. 

Similarly, Whose Bad Choices? can help you more persuasively advocate for the policies that pull families back from the brink of financial catastrophe. For example, we know that state-level Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) can build on the success of the federal EITC, which is widely cited as one of the most effective tools we have for lifting families out of poverty. For advocates—especially those in deeply red states—it can feel like passing policies like a state EITC is nothing but a pipe dream. But as we discuss in Whose Bad Choices?, South Carolina (yes, deep red South Carolina!) passed a state EITC in 2017 by tapping into what makes it appealing to people on both sides of the ideological aisle: it puts money back into the pockets of low-income workers, and does so while encouraging people to work. 

South Carolina’s EITC victory is just one example among many of how our Community is advancing state policies that clear pathways to financial health and well-being—especially when federal policy is doing just the opposite. 

In other words, the publication of Whose Bad Choices? and the launch of the 2018 Scorecard marks our deepened commitment to helping you make the case for what you know is right: public policy that invests in the capacity of all people—not just the ultra-wealthy—to contribute to and thrive in our national economy. If you’d like help crafting these messages or using the Scorecard to make your case, please let us know

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