Advancing a People-First Economy

Executive Summary

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Commission on Reimagining Our Economy

In the United States today, too many families cannot achieve the life they want, too many communities have not benefited fully from national economic growth, and too many Americans believe the economy does not work for them.

Advancing a People-First Economy is the final report of the Commission on Reimagining Our Economy, a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The interdisciplinary and crosspartisan Commission comprises scholars, journalists, artists, and leaders from the faith, labor, business, nonprofit, and philanthropic communities. The Academy convened the Commission to address the problems facing the American political economy, problems the Commission believes are inextricable from the challenges facing American democracy and American institutions more generally.

This report argues that too much attention is devoted to how the economy is doing and not enough to how Americans are doing. An economy should be judged not only on its efficiency and productivity but on its ability to improve people’s well-being. In listening sessions across the country with people from different walks of life and from across the political spectrum, the Commission heard about the challenges people are facing and how current economic arrangements often do not prioritize their needs. A lack of economic security and opportunity fosters distrust of the political and economic system, a distrust that threatens the nation’s social fabric, its institutions, and the ability of those institutions to provide security and opportunity for Americans.

Advancing a People-First Economy offers fifteen recommendations to address some of the most pressing challenges facing Americans today. These recommendations cover issue areas not typically included together, from antitrust policy to tribal governance. This range reflects the fact that the Americans we spoke with did not think in terms of any one idea that would address all of their challenges. They alerted us to a wide range of challenges requiring an even wider range of solutions.

After two years of deliberation, the Commission achieved consensus on this set of bold proposals. The recommendations are rooted in key values that sit at the center of the Commission’s work:

  • Security
  • Opportunity and Mobility
  • Democracy

The proposals in this report address some of the biggest challenges facing the American people. Bringing them to life will require action by government, the private sector, philanthropy, and others. The Commission believes that such action is necessary because economic problems affect more than just the economy. By advancing these values and recommendations, the Commission hopes to foster a sense of trust that is vital for the well-being of the nation, its institutions, and its people.

Our Recommendations


  1. Redesign safety nets to ensure stability.
  2. Adopt inclusionary zoning policies to increase the housing supply.
  3. Reform childcare and health care to lower costs and facilitate benefit portability.
  4. Expand access to low-cost banking for low-income earners.

Opportunity and Mobility

  1. Remove regulations preventing people from participating in the labor market.
  2. Bolster worker training and education pathways through private-sector upskilling and a strengthened community college system.
  3. Extend to Black World War II veterans and their descendants the housing and education benefits they were denied under the 1944 GI Bill.
  4. Expand broadband connectivity for rural, tribal, and underserved urban areas.
  5. Allow states or municipalities to sponsor immigrants to boost their economies (Community Partnership Visas).


  1. Create a training and financing program to help working-class Americans run for political office.
  2. Deconcentrate economic power.
  3. Revise the tax code to incentivize work and end tax policies that benefit the wealthy.
  4. Support tribal governmental infrastructure to advance Native American self-determination.
  5. Facilitate the creation of robust local and community media.
  6. Promote economic connectedness.