Everyone deserves the opportunity to rise

The American story is one of people rising to achieve great things. However, it’s become increasingly difficult for people to share in that experience in recent decades, the result of a two-tiered system that makes it too hard for too many to get ahead. We’re working to reverse that trend by making it easier for the least fortunate to grab hold of the economic ladder and rise. We are working toward a system in which government grants privilege to no one and everyone has access to opportunity. All people should have the ability to succeed, contribute to their communities, and live meaningful lives—regardless of their starting point.

We want an economic system that makes it easier for the least fortunate to grab hold of the economic ladder and rise.

Our vision in action

  • Americans for Prosperity united citizens in states across the country to encourage policymakers to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reducing government favoritism in the federal tax code and saving the typical family of four more than $2,000
  • Alfa Demmellash and Alex Forrester founded Rising Tide Capital to help low-income entrepreneurs. The results: average household incomes of the people they serve increase by nearly 50 percent within two years. Today, Alfa and Alex are partnering with Stand Together to make an even greater impact by scaling their model to empower more people.
  • Americans for Prosperity-Mississippi led passage of a first-in-the-nation comprehensive reform of occupational licenses—which limit access to entry-level jobs and entrepreneurship—that serves as a model for recent reforms in other states, such as Nebraska.

“Entrepreneurs are the very heart of what the American Dream is all about.” —Alfa Demmellash, founder of Rising Tide Capital.

Guiding principles and insights

Let’s close the opportunity gap and boost economic mobility

To put it bluntly, today’s economic system not only denies people the opportunity to rise, but also the very belief they can do so. Millennials are the first generation to be worse off than their parents at the same point in life. Data show those who grow up in poor families are more likely to stay poor through adulthood. Additionally, more than 40 percent of the country thinks America’s best days are behind us.

These trends are due to barriers in education, business, communities, and government that make it harder to increase economic mobility. This is an injustice, and the Stand Together community is partnering with social entrepreneurs to remove these barriers holding people back, including:

  • Volunteer activists with Americans for Prosperity who are uniting citizens to make health care more affordable by leveraging technology to expand access and increase choice; prevent future tax hikes by reforming state pension systems to be sustainable over the long term; stop overspending that’s led to an explosion in our national debt that will impose increasing burdens on Americans; and transform today’s social safety net—that, however well-intentioned, has trapped millions of people in long-term dependency—into a social safety springboard that helps the needy back onto their feet; among other public policy reforms.
  • Educators at Junior Achievement USA who, by teaching the values and skills of entrepreneurship, are preparing students to compete in a rapidly evolving economy.
  • Leaders at 30 workforce development programs that help the homeless experience earned success.

There is no silver bullet or single solution to this problem. It requires uniting educators, community and business leaders, and policymakers of all parties to fix it.

Economic opportunity is the most effective anti-poverty program in history.

Expand the Great Enrichment to all by eliminating special favors for the few

We’re fortunate to be living in the Great Enrichment, the most prosperous period in human history. Starting in the early 1800s, it was built in part on the establishment of equal rights and a recognition that people can work and do business together voluntarily to their mutual benefit.

This country has never lived up fully to this ideal, sometimes falling far short. But to the extent that we have followed these principles, our country has flourished—increasing Americans’ standard of living by as much as 3,000 percent in the last two centuries alone.

The pace of progress has stalled for many, with middle-class wages failing to keep up with a booming economy. Nearly three-in-five people have less than $1,000 in savings, and two-in-five Americans say they would have trouble covering an emergency that cost $400.

So, what’s happening? Why are so many being left behind? Part of the answer is that public policy barriers have rigged the system in favor of a few, against everyone else.

Policies like corporate welfare have created a system in which success for some comes at the expense of others. In a recent six-year period, for example, the federal government doled out $4.4 trillion to just the top 200 U.S. companies, costing roughly $35,000 per household.

Our regulatory system has become so burdensome and complex that small businesses report spending more than $80,000 on compliance in their first year of operation—providing a steep advantage to large businesses that can more easily absorb such added costs. Meanwhile, other policies like occupational licenses often stack the deck against the unemployed by requiring them to sometimes pay thousands of dollars and endure hundreds of hours of training to simply enter their chosen profession.

We want to ensure more people are able to experience the benefits from the Great Enrichment. We’re working to restore an economic system in which the only way to succeed is by benefiting others. Among other reforms, that means advancing equal rights by eliminating all special government favors—whether they be subsidies, tax credits, or anticompetitive regulations.

More examples of the work supported by the Stand Together community:

In education
  • Youth Entrepreneurs empowers students to rise by identifying their unique aptitudes, learning the principles of entrepreneurship to turn them into valued skills, and applying them in a real-world setting to help themselves by creating value for others.
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund established the Center for Advancing Opportunity, which brings new faculty and student voices into the conversation about removing barriers to opportunity in disadvantaged communities.
  • The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is one of the nation’s top authorities on economic policy, producing research to inform public policy reforms in Washington, D.C. and states across the country.
In communities
  • Workforce development programs such as Cara equip thousands of people each year with the values and skills to break the cycle of homelessness and experience earned success. Cara is one of 30 such programs across the country we are helping to scale.
  • Anti-poverty programs such as Chrysalis put homeless individuals on the path to self-sufficiency through job training, coaching, and mentoring.
In government
  • Build broad-based policy coalitions across party lines to reduce corporate welfare and cronyism in Washington, D.C., e.g., the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which gives billions of dollars to just a handful of America’s largest companies.
  • Unite citizens to oppose harmful corporate welfare in 35 states, including so-called “economic development” programs such as Enterprise Florida that are rife with cronyism.
  • Reduce occupational licensing laws and regulations in dozens of states, removing one of the biggest barriers facing entry-level workers and aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • Protect the First Amendment rights of workers, including by helping to enact five right-to-work laws since 2012, among other reforms.
  • Support policy champions at all levels of government who take principled stands against special interests, even—and especially—when it’s the hard thing to do.

Bottom line

Our community is uniting people to abolish today’s two-tiered system that makes it too hard for too many to get ahead. We are working toward a system where government grants privilege to no one and everyone has an opportunity to rise—regardless of their starting point in life.