Every American can agree that too many government social programs fail citizens they are intended to serve. However, efforts to improve delivery of social services regularly degenerate into partisan arguments about funding levels.
The right accuses the left of spending inefficiently, while the left shoots back that the right doesn’t care enough to spend more. For generations, politicians of every political stripe have measured compassion by inputs into our social safety net, rather than gauging the outcomes of those Americans who have become trapped in it.
Washington’s lack of focus on results, as much as anything, explains why our nation’s social programs have not made further progress in addressing perennial challenges that face low-income and at-risk Americans — challenges such as chronic homelessness, recidivism, reintegrating the long-term unemployed into the work force, and myriad public health issues. Today, we have an opportunity to recalibrate our focus on successful outcomes, while simultaneously driving more resources to these challenges and saving taxpayer money.
It might sound far-fetched, even a bit contradictory — how do you spend more and save more at the same time? Through the development of a new policy innovation called a social-impact bond, it’s possible.