June 29, 1998
This lecture was held at The Heritage Foundation on February 24, 1998.
Historically, cities have been centers of education and knowledge. Indeed, the very word civilization comes from the Latin word for city, civitas. But in American cities today, 57 percent of 4th graders cannot read. President Bill Clinton, to his great credit, has called attention to this outrageous and inexcusable failure of urban public education. As recently as 40 or 50 years ago, most urban neighborhoods were relatively safe. Since that time, the astronomic growth of crime has been concentrated in our cities. Today, urban families and businesses suffer four times as much violent crime as suburban families and businesses do.
Cities historically have been the great centers of opportunity and economic dynamism, too. But the incredible entrepreneurial boom of the U.S. economy in the past 20 years has mostly passed cities by. Businesses have followed people out to the suburbs, especially the small and medium-sized businesses that are the real engine of economic growth. Almost 80 percent of new jobs now are generated in the suburbs. Most large cities in the Midwest and Northeast have seen enormous population declines even as their metropolitan areas flourish. Cleveland has lost 44 percent of its people since 1960; Philadelphia, 24 percent; Chicago, 23 percent; and St. Louis, 51 percent. In our own city of Washington, D.C. , 10, 000 people a year vote with their feet by moving to the suburbs. Most of those leaving are middle-class blacks.
There are only two exceptions--two large cities in the Northeast and Midwest--that are seeing population gains. One is New York, New York, which, under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R), has enjoyed a 50-percent drop in crime. The other is Indianapolis, Indiana, under Mayor Stephen Goldsmith (R).
Stephen Goldsmith has been mayor of Indianapolis, the 12th largest city in the United States, since 1992. He's earned a reputation across the political spectrum as one of the country's most innovative urban leaders. He's a research fellow at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government; chairman of the Center for Civic Innovation at The Heritage Foundation's sister think tank, the Manhattan Institute; and author of a new book, The 21st Century: Resurrecting Urban America. Mayor Goldsmith has spoken many times at Heritage. We are delighted to have him back.
American Cities are More Innovative Than
the Federal Government
By the Honorable Stephen Goldsmith
When I first came to The Heritage Foundation, big government was still explicitly alive and well. Heritage was fighting the growth of government, and many big-government mayors still occupied major cities. Today, quite clearly, the principles Heritage champions have won. No longer is there any (at least explicit) belief that big government is going to save the day. Across the board, some pretty commonsense principles have been applied. No longer do we necessarily have an attitude by which mayors come to Washington, D.C. , and say, "Pity us. Our cities are awful places. All we need is more federal money and we will be better off. " Then mayors would take that money, of course, and they would go back to their cities and spend it. Those cities would be worse off, which earned mayors the right to come and ask for more money.
Today, many urban mayors take the view that cities again can become vibrant, exciting places to live in the 21st century. But we should have a sense of self-responsibility as we create wealth and we stop trying to redistribute wealth fast enough to buy ourselves out of poverty. I think that cities today are brighter places than they were a few years ago, and there is some hope that, in the 21st century, we will recognize that the past 30 years of failed big-government policies have been the exception and not the rule. But, of course, we still have along way to go.
I appeared with Ed Rendell (D) some years ago, and someone asked him how he'd had the courage to innovate in Philadelphia. He told that person, "Our city was on fire. When your city is on fire, you call the fire department. We had no choice but to take some strong measures. " Today, when governments appear a bit more satisfied with respect to their economic condition, the imperative for change needs to be championed even more forcefully so that small-market principles can work and people in cities can have opportunities.
As you look at these 21st century cities, the set of principles seems to be pretty clear. First, we need to break up government monopolies and open the delivery of public goods to competition in a way that provides more services for better quality and better return on the dollar. Second, regulation needs to become market-based. This does not mean federal impediments only; even local and state impediments need to be reduced and to make more sense in terms of cost-benefit analysis. Third, welfare really has not been reformed. Neighborhood-based systems that help folks are important and need to replace government bureaucracies. Fourth, competition needs to be exerted in the public school system. Parents need to have choices. Fifth, although we have seen an easing of crime, we must question whether it is permanent or temporary, and we must be certain that a strong juvenile justice system is in place. Finally, I think it is particularly important that we elected officials note that government is not going to save the world, or even our cities, and that families and religious beliefs, in fact, will have a part to play.
Let me begin with breaking up government monopolies. Indianapolis has now privatized or opened up for competition 75 public services; as a result, we have actually cut our city budget. We have quadrupled our budget surpluses. We have reduced our non-public safety work force by 45 percent. We have had the largest infrastructure investment program in our city's history as we have saved $400 million as a result of competition. We have invested that money in roads, bridges, streets, sidewalks, and sewers, and reduced the tax rate, all of which provides a better foundation for growth to occur. Recently, we were delighted when we became the only large city to receive a triple-A bond rating by all three agencies that rate the quality of debt on the part of cities. So we know the methodology of competition works, and it works in a pretty straightforward way. When we subject government monopolies to the marketplace, we save an average of 25 to 40 percent per enterprise that we bid out.
We recognize that we have a lot of good people trapped in bad systems, and we want to emphasize that monopoly and bureaucracy suffocate employees and reduce public value. As we have opened public services to competition, we have been delighted that our union workers--when given authority and when forced to compete--have done some pretty wonderful things. My first clue that life was changing in this regard came when we bid out our fleet services contract. In the middle of that process, the union president, who was also in the middle of collective-bargaining negotiations with me, asked whether I would mind if they froze their wages. I had never begun a collective bargaining negotiation like this, so I asked, "What do you mean?" He replied, "We are willing to bid for the fleet services contract, but we want half of the upside. We want gain-sharing so we can share in the results of the increases in productivity. " That union ended up winning the bid. But in the process of winning the bid, the rank-and-file doubled their productivity per mechanic, reduced their overhead by two-thirds, changed the way they were paid, changed the way they approached their customers, and addressed a whole series of other issues. The important point is that, if we create a truly competitive situation, we can unlock a lot of innovation and public value inside our enterprises.
We also bid out our wastewater treatment system, and then we were left with our sewers. I asked myself, "Why am I in the sewer business? I am not in the wastewater business. Let's bid out the main tenance of the sewers. " The union indicated it was going to bid, but that its management was not very good. The union members asked whether I would mind if they hired private management instead. So when we bid out the sewers, we had the public employee management on the one side bidding against the unions with their new, private-sector employers on the other. The union won; the activity went outside; and Indianapolis saved another $13 million. We have been able to unlock a lot of value on the part of the public employees.
This is all fairly straightforward, and there is a lot of it going on around the country. Engaging public employees is a very effective way to reduce the size of government. It is just a piece, though. The object here is not merely to reduce the size of government; it is to enhance the opportunities of the people who live in our cities so that cities again are great, vibrant commercial centers. This means there are other activities that need to be looked at as well. Regulation is one of them--not just federal regulation and how difficult it is to develop a Brownfield site. Cities, too, can over-regulate investment, home building, and a whole range of other activities.
We are very proud of the fact that Indianapolis has eliminated thousands of regulations and licenses--even the smallest, least significant one of all: After six years of trying, we finally eliminated dog licenses, which turned out to be one of the most difficult regulations to eliminate. If we look carefully at what we are trying to accomplish, we can resolve these issues in ways that really make government smaller and easier to live with.
I have been working on welfare reform for 15 years now. I was a prosecutor, and in Indiana prosecutors collect child support. My child-support collections went from $900,000 a year to $38 million, so I got to know the welfare moms really well. They all were my clients, and they all were pretty rational folks who understood what was best for themselves and their children. At that time, the financial incentives were such that it was best for them to be on welfare.
As we think about welfare reform, let me just note that the current debate is irrelevant in Indianapolis. In a city of just under 1 million people, we have 7,500 people on welfare. Most of these folks have some sort of disability and deserve some sort of continuing government response. We also have 20,000 to 50,000 open jobs--Indianapolis has a severe labor shortage--and we have probably 20,000 people not working who should be working right now. As we look at welfare reform, we have done a great job of forcing people off welfare as a result of a good economy and a change in the laws. But it never was very difficult to reduce welfare. All you had to do was stop paying people. As a managerial issue, it was not very difficult at all; it was a political question.
Now what we have are people who are ignored completely as a result of welfare reform. We have people who have no marketable skills. Some do not have marketable character. Some lack any interest in working. The big, clumsy, government bureaucratic systems that require a government employee to be the one who gets that person to find a job need to be replaced. One of the great problems and unfortunate results of President Clinton's veto of the Texas privatization model is that it leaves a government bureaucrat trying to help this person find a job.
In a complex environment in which a lot of people have multiple problems, a neighborhood-based, pay-for-performance job training and placement system with multiple entry sites is necessary. If we really want to get to the next stage, changing this labor shortage into connecting people who are not working or are not looking for work with jobs will be important. I do not think the government is inherently able to do that.
For a mayor, the public school monopoly is probably the one thing holding our cities back the most. It is absolutely unfair, if not immoral, to trap urban kids in poorly performing school systems. We have a post-welfare reform economy in which the path to the future is a good job, yet we are banishing tens of thousands of young men and women in our urban communities into situations in which they have very little hope for the future. If you look at graduation rates or test scores, it is all quite bleak. I am very proud of the fact that I am on the board of our Choice Charitable Trust private voucher program. In order to try to drive the point home that parents should have choices about where their children go to school even if the parents are poor, I am chairman of the Indianapolis Archdiocese's fundraising drive. I think I am the only guy named Goldsmith--certainly, the only mayor named Goldsmith--who has that distinction.
Catholic schools are the public schools of choice in our community. If it were not for their presence in some of these neighborhoods, the neighborhoods would be in even more difficult shape than they are. One of the messages in our small-government model is that customers, parents, taxpayers, and citizens should have choices for themselves, not patronizing big-government responses.
I went to one of our urban high schools recently and met with some of the teachers. Teachers, as a rule, do not like me very much; at least, the union leaders in these schools do not like me very much. We were sitting around the room, and I asked the reason that a person has to earn enough money and then leave our city in order to get a good education. Why are we forcing people out of our city? I proposed giving parents choices about where their children should go to school. One of the teachers responded, "Well, Mayor, where do your kids go to school?" I told him that I have some kids in private school and some in public school; then I turned to the room of 25 teachers and asked, "How many of you have children in this school system?" None. Not one had children in that school system. Yet we are in this knock-down, all-out battle in the Indiana General Assembly about whether poor parents should have choices about where their kids go to school.
As we look at the results of school choice, as evaluated by the Hudson Institute, accommodating for family structure, demographics, and wealth, we see that children whose parents have the opportunity to select the school are doing better, compared with similarly situated kids in urban school systems.
We can go on and on about schools, but I feel quite strongly that this idea of market-based competition applies to welfare, too; it applies to filling streets; and it also applies to educating children. Parents know more about what is in their children's best interests than bureaucrats do. Yet, the more we argue about it, the more bureaucrats try to protect their own fiefdoms. In fact, three years ago, when we were arguing about public education reform in the Indiana General Assembly, a representative from the Indiana State Teachers Association told me that education was too important an issue to trust parents to decide where their children go to school. Instead, he said, you can trust only professional educators. I say we need charter schools and vouchers--and organizational change in the public school system, as well.
Juvenile justice is also a serious issue. There certainly is a bubble of kids who could fit John DiIulio's description of superpredators. The juvenile justice system is still broken. There still are no meaningful consequences for young adult offenders, and meaningful consequences are important.
Having said all that, a few years ago, Heritage put out a wonderful summary of the effect of religion on a whole range of institutions, from families and marriages to cities. As much as I would like to tell you that Indianapolis is a great place because we have great government, that seems curiously inconsistent. To have vibrant, exciting, 21st century cities, we need to understand where values come from. Values come from families and from religion. Government has been hostile to these institutions--not neutral, but hostile.
Four years ago, we decided to take our summer job training money, which mayors often do not use wisely, and spend it through neighborhood-based and faith-based organizations. Many of our churches had organizations that reached out to neighborhood kids, and they made use of this summer job training money from the federal government. At the end of the summer, the state regulator came to me and said, "You violated the terms of the summer job training money. " I responded that no one had even stolen the money this summer (this was quite unusual). He responded, "No, you allowed--not required; allowed--the young men and women in the program to participate in a voluntary prayer before lunch. You are in violation of the terms of the contract. "
Over and over again, as government dollars flow down to local communities, they erode benefits produced from these value-enhancing organizations. We have put together what we hope is a way to move this pendulum back the other way: We call it the Front Porch Alliance. We have neighborhood-based brokers aggressively identifying neighborhood-based assets--generally faith-based because, in our urban neighborhoods, the primary asset almost invariably is the church. We are knocking on each one of their doors and asking how can we help with their outreach programs. We have 20 or so churches that now maintain our neighborhood parks, for example.
We talk a lot about privatization. Indianapolis has privatized wastewater management. We have privatized an airport, a jail, and even a military base. But the privatizations I am proudest of are those 20 urban churches that have small contracts to maintain their neighborhood parks. The children in those neighborhoods often form relationships with the church.
We are delighted that Reverend Kenneth Ward, who is pastor of a church on a tough street with crack cocaine all around him, came to us and said, "If you just help me get title to that crack house next door, I will remodel it. I will move in elderly parishioners. I will resolve the situation. Just give me some help. " Now we have brokers with a menu of ways we can help going up and down the streets, telling active residents what can we do together in order to enhance their authority and strengthen outreach programs in their neighborhoods.
Government tends to huff and puff about how good it is. I think we all are very sensitive to the fact that, if the number of young men and women having babies went up, or if the number of teen moms without dads went up, there would be no amount of effective government, privatization, crime control, or number of Clinton's police officers in our cities that could make a difference. We are trying to concentrate on rebuilding families, and to look at the issue of faith and families and at how faith- based organizations can adopt the young moms.
Still, the fact of the matter is that, if you are a 16- or 17-year-old father who chooses to ignore your baby and the mother, you are more able to evade the responsibilities of fatherhood in urban communities, despite the enforcement of child support and other government activities. Indianapolis has started a program that, unfortunately, has a tough-sounding name: Job or Jail. It tells dads, "We will help you get a job. We will train you on the job. We will do whatever we can to connect you to the family and the job. But if you choose not to work, not to pay for the child, not to see the child, and to ignore your responsibilities, then you should go to jail. " There must be a consequence for bringing a child into the world and then ignoring it.
Moving from here to the 21st century, we have some of the pieces worked out. We know that taxes have to come down because, when taxes go up, they chase out wealth and intrude on private institutions. We know the crime control system has to work. We know that the streets, sewers, and sidewalks have to work and that the environment has to be amenable to investment. No matter how well we get these governmental pieces together or how much liberty we have in cities and in families, if we do not enhance the value-creating institutions--the family and the religious institutions--and help children be born with the right opportunities, we will have a very tough time in the 21st century. But if we get all those pieces correct, the cities will again return to the greatness that they had earlier in this century.
We're delighted to have with us another mayor--this time, a former mayor. Saul Ramirez, Jr., was mayor for seven years of Laredo, Texas. Before that, he was a city councilman for eight years. He comes from a ranching family outside Laredo. As mayor, he won many awards. Newsweek listed him as one of the 25 most dynamic mayors in the United States. He has received awards from the Boy Scouts and many other groups; in November 1997, he was confirmed as President Clinton's assistant secretary for community planning and development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The Federal Government Empowers
By the Honorable Saul Ramirez, Jr.
Let me first say that Mayor Goldsmith has done some tremendous things in Indianapolis. While reading his book, I formed the opinion that Mayor Goldsmith has three very important things to his credit: He's brought forth a philosophy of government that is coherent; he's putting that philosophy into practice; and he's written a very readable and engaging book. I encourage all of you who haven't read it to do so. It's usually academics who develop the theories on how government should work and what the right formulas are, but perhaps there really is a new breed of mayors in our great nation. They're not just good managers, but good writers, too. Dan Kemmis, who's a former mayor of Missoula, Montana, has written a book, as has David Rusk, a former mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Mayor Goldsmith is in that line. But Mayor Goldsmith has one up on the others: He accomplished the remarkable feat of not just writing a book, but writing a book while in office. He is to be commended for it.
Among the terrific things Mayor Goldsmith highlights in his book is the work he has done with the unions. He uses as an example the Indianapolis fleet service and how he was able to reform the operation in the maintenance of city vehicles in such a way that the unions not only do that work on a competitive basis but they also compete with the private sector in the open market.
Another example of the great work Mayor Goldsmith has done in reinventing government is the cooperation between Indianapolis and the surrounding suburbs. Instead of fighting among each other for business, they've in essence signed a peace treaty--that's how he refers to it--and he has worked with the business community for a terrific regional agenda. This agenda is a shared strategies agenda for targeting key industries, and not economic cannibalism. So, that is also to Mayor Goldsmith's credit, and a great example of leading the way to the future of the cities in the 21st century.
But most important, Mayor Goldsmith has dedicated himself to building better neighborhoods. These are the bedrock of any successful community. Mayor Goldsmith presents a new approach of dealing within America's cities, and he talks about a new relationship between government and the private sector. He emphasizes efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and competition--all very important. Here's the key: He doesn't advocate a wholesale, mindless privatization. He has specifically targeted areas so that it's not just an open philosophy, but a very targeted one that has a tremendous impact. He bases them on some very simple principles that he uses to guide his decision-making process in Indianapolis.
These are virtually the same principles that underlie our efforts at HUD. Mayor Goldsmith speaks of these fine, but very simple, principles: People know better than government what is in their best interests; monopolies are inefficient, and government monopolies are particulary inefficient; wealth needs to be created, but not redistributed; government should do a few things well; cities must not raise taxes or price themselves out of competition with excessive regulations. These all are very basic principles. At the same time, I was pleased to read in Mayor Goldsmith's book that he is not proposing to abandon completely the federal role within city governments. He still sees a role for the government, but in a different way.
People who share my free market philosophy may find it difficult to accept that no matter how much we want to withdraw government from the market-place, we cannot do it immediately. Poor communities have suffered so much from catastrophic government policies over the past thirty years, that government is needed to undo harm. 1
We cannot simply pull out of communities destroyed by poor services and unwise welfare state intervention. But government's involvement must take a new form fostering market produced prosperity instead of making income transfers through welfare. 2
Opportunity certainly will be the challenge for us in the 21st century. Mayor Goldsmith speaks to this in his book. What do we do to close the opportunity gap? In order to define the role of government, we need to ask: What are the most important challenges facing cities? Welfare reform is one of them, as are immigration, the concentration of poverty, public safety, and education--all of which Mayor Goldsmith touches upon in his book. But it all comes down to just one challenge: closing the opportunity gap. That's really what's happening at HUD, and in particular with our latest proposed budget. If there's one thing that I've learned in the past few years, it's that we need to tackle the problems of our cities holistically and comprehensively.
Speaking as a former mayor, one or two programs won't do it on their own. The old approach of coming up with a program to address a problem resulted in incredible inefficiencies, duplication, and wasted time and effort. So, what do I mean when I say "closing the opportunity gap"? I only can point to examples: We've created 14 million jobs in the past few years, but only 13 percent of those jobs were created in the cities. Home ownership is also a big dream for most Americans. Although we enjoy the highest percentage of home ownership--close to 66 percent--there still is a gap of almost 23 percent between home ownership in the suburbs and that in cities. Income inequalities also have grown; even though we have more millionaires in the history of our country in recent times, the gaps in income have widened between rich and poor. We still find ourselves on any given night with 600,000 homeless Americans. So what do I mean by "closing the opportunity gap"?
In our most recent budget for HUD, we identify two broad categories that cover a range of specific initiatives aimed at closing that gap: job and economic opportunity; and housing and home ownership. Job and economic opportunity is a category because it's clear that, even though we've made some progress, cities still lag behind in sustained economic recovery. Housing and home ownership is a category because they really are the key to a safe community and a stable family life.
So, what are we doing at HUD to make all this happen? I'm impressed with a few things that we've done in these past few months and in recent years that have really made HUD transform itself from a 1960s bureaucracy into an agency of empowerment for the 21st century. HUD is working to streamline its delivery system and broaden the flexibility of its programs at the local level.
One of these improvements is our continuum of care for the homeless programs. We have taken a holistic approach and allowed cities to prioritize their needs as they face homelessness in their communities. They can range anywhere from emergency shelter to transitional housing to permanent housing and the components that fit in between--whether it's job training or dealing with the mentally ill, recovering alcoholics, or drug addicts. We've left that kind of prioritizing to communities to go out there and compete for those resources to deliver those services effectively.
Another good example is HUD's new Consolidated Planning process, which requires communities to plan strategically and comprehensively to coordinate the various programs that we have available to cities. Mayor Goldsmith has done a tremendous job in that regard. And we've also implemented a benchmarking system that is taken directly from the private sector to gauge our success or failure as we move along.
What role should we play as a federal government, or even as state government in cooperation with the federal government? Well, as President Clinton has said, the era of big government is over. This doesn't mean government doesn't have a role to play, as some would argue. I would identify four key roles for government in meeting the needs of cities. The first is partnerships. There now is a rich history of government's partnering with the private and nonprofit community-based sectors, including faith-based organizations, in carrying out urban initiatives. The low-income housing tax credit, which has generated extraordinary partnerships among local governments, local banks, corporations, and intermediaries, is a fine example.
Another role for government is in the area of information and technology. If there's one thing that government should be doing more of, it is increasing access to information, enabling communities and individuals to take advantage of cutting-edge technologies. We've done that at HUD by using our Community 20 20 software, which is a comprehensive mapping system of our programs which allows the public to see where government funds are being spent in their communities.
Another role is leveraging private capital. Government has an extraordinary role to play in leveraging private investment into underserved areas. If you look at the history of the Community Reinvestment Act, it is a classic case study of how government can play a positive role in leveraging private capital. Our Section 108 program is a federal loan guarantee that raises funds from Wall Street for cities.
Another example of a key role for government is the elimination of regulatory barriers and paperwork. When I talk with builders, the main message I get is that they want government to get out of their way. What they really mean is that they need the permitting process--the application process, the procedures, the regulatory requirements--to be cut back. Mayor Goldsmith alluded to this as well.
Finally, I think government should encourage innovation. This is not something that government is typically seen as doing; usually, people think of government as stifling creativity. In underserved areas, government can pave the way through initial infrastructure grants, which we've done in Indianapolis, and throughout the country through HUD. Government can be involved as well in the preliminary planning process and by providing tax credits and other tax incentives.
Let's look at how this plays out in one area: encouraging "community capitalism" through increased access to capital and economic development. Mayor Goldsmith cites Robert Woodson, Sr., in his book, saying,
People of the political right fail to understand that participation in this market economy requires capital and requires information which a lot of poor people don't have. It is our role to help deliver that. 3
A recent article in The Washington Post shows how Mayor Goldsmith is rebuilding the Houghville neighborhood in Indianapolis, by tapping what Michael Porter and others call the "competitive advantage" of the inner city. HUD is heavily involved. HUD participated with a community development block grant worth more than $750, 000 to provide the infrastructure for this development. In this case, a plant was going to move to the suburbs, but because the mayor used the federal tools that were available to him--plus everything else he'd done at the local level--he was able to retain that plant and those jobs within the city.
To help catalyze this kind of initiative in other communities across the country, one of the things that's being proposed in HUD's fiscal year 1999 budget is a Community Empowerment Fund. It represents an enhancement of current economic development initiatives available through HUD. President Clinton is proposing $400 million in fiscal year 1999 that would leverage an additional $2 billion in guaranteed loans and as much as $2 billion in private-sector investments. It's an example of what government should be doing--raising capital from the private sector, limiting the cost to the taxpayer, and involving the community in the design and implementation of the program. We look forward to working with Mayor Goldsmith and leaders of other communities as we continue to reengineer our service delivery at HUD. We want to be able to provide the kinds of programs that give local communities the tools they need to allow them to carry out their agendas with the maximum flexibility. We are a government of empowerment and devolution.
Mayor Goldsmith mentioned a fine example of this kind of thinking, his Front Porch Alliance, in which he set up an even further devolution of government by getting brokers involved through faith-based organizations and other nonprofit organizations. HUD looks to continue partnerships in that venture by developing the kinds of programs with the goal of making sure that those programs empower. We will not advocate programs with cookie-cutter approaches, that is, with the traditional or the old way of doing business within the federal government, which is "We have all the answers and we are going to tell you how to do it. "
-- Saul Ramirez, Jr., a Democrat, is Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to joining HUD, he was mayor of Laredo, Texas, for seven years.
By Adam Meyerson
Thank you so much, Assistant Secretary Ramirez. I was delighted to hear of your agreement with so many of the conservative principles, or the commonsense principles, that are in Mayor Goldsmith's book. I can also say on behalf of my colleagues at The Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups: We may not always agree with all your policies, but in terms of closing the opportunity gap, we will do everything we can to make sure that the American dream becomes open to all Americans.