Monday, July 28, 2014

How One Powerful Think Tank Gives Grants

It may be one of Washington's newest think tanks, but it has a lot of money and a lot of powerful backers.  More precisely, it was founded by someone who is arguably President Barack Obama's most influential adviser - John Podesta.

Now that Podesta is back at the White House, what has this "think tank within a think tank" - Washington Center for Equitable Growth (WCEG) - been up to?  Well, it appears that, among other things, it has been giving away lots and lots of money.

A recent Washington Post articles outlines the think tank's efforts to get economists to study and write about inequality and how it has been difficult for the liberal think tank to get conservatives on board.

Here is a clip from that article:
She’d [Heather Boushey, head of WCEG] come dangling money, or at least the promise of it. That helped her stand out among the several thousand researchers gathered for the annual just-after-New-Year’s meeting of all the big American economic societies. She was offering grants, and jobs, and a blend of academic idealism and Washington strategy. What she wanted, Boushey said, was to fund an intellectually honest investigation of arguably the hottest issue in American economics right now: the widening gap between the richest Americans and everyone else. She wanted to learn more how and why that gap might hurt the nation’s overall economic performance.

Here is more about the grants that have been given:
Boushey and the center have selected their first frontiers of inquiry. They’ve awarded 15 grants, totaling nearly $500,000, to researchers studying how three channels through which inequality might affect growth: human capital (the skills and talents people bring to the economy), consumer demand (who buys what, and how much of it) and changes in government and labor market institutions (public policy, broadly speaking).
There are no identifiably conservative economists among the grantees, however. There are a lot of well-renowned economists, and a lot of promising recent graduates of doctoral programs, but not the ideological diversity Boushey repeatedly said in Philadelphia that she was looking for.

Here is more on WCEG from the same Washington Post article:
...[Heather] Boushey was newly installed as the head of a start-up Washington think tank, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, which had been spun out of an existing, quite identifiably liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, which, like a lot its peers in Washington, was known for supplying analysis to partisan policy disputes. Boushey is a former CAP economist who has testified many times before Congress, often at the request of Democrats, speaking in favor of policies Democrats generally support. The equitable growth center is funded in large part by the Sandler Foundation, which traditionally backs liberal causes.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on WCEG.

What if you missed the first tranche of grants from the think tank?  Have no fear, a new request for proposals is coming this fall, with grants generally ranging from $25,000 to $125,000, and smaller proposals up to $15,000 also being considered.