• Althea Erickson: What if the Etsy Economy Prevails?

    Jul 22, 2014

    The Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. In today's video, Etsy Public Policy Director Althea Erickson imagines a future economy based on digital entrepreneurship.

    The Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. In today's video, Etsy Public Policy Director Althea Erickson imagines a future economy based on digital entrepreneurship.

    Althea Erickson, Public Policy Director for Etsy, describes a possible future in which the "Etsy economy prevails." Over the next 20 years, she says, as the costs of entrepreneurship decline, more and more people will leave low-wage jobs for the gig economy. After an initial period of intensive price competition on market platforms like TaskRabbit and Etsy, the platforms will start serving as organizing institutions and will drive incomes up. Eventually, market platforms will begin to provide services to reduce the economic uncertainty of the gig economy -- the kind of benefits once offered by steady employers, such as retirement savings, health care options, training opportunities, and so on.

    "Overall, we will live in the utopian dream of a micro-gig economy where people are self-actualized," Erickson speculates.

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  • Lifelong Roosevelt Connections Help Students Lead Policy Change

    Jul 22, 2014Madelyn Schorr

    The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network model of students creating policy change has impact beyond the college years.

    The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network model of students creating policy change has impact beyond the college years.

    In 2004, when college students first started organizing under the Roosevelt name, I was still in elementary school. While they were busy working on national healthcare reform, I was busy watching The West Wing past my bedtime. Little did I know that ten years later I would be successfully starting a chapter of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network at The University of Alabama, while my predecessors are pursuing careers all over the country and the world.

    As Special Initiatives Fellow for the Campus Network, I recently spent a weekend with a group of alumni in New York City to discuss how to build our alumni program. I was amazed at how these alums – some of whom have been away from Roosevelt for years – are still dedicated to our founding principle that young peoples’ ideas matter.

    I know how big of an impact alumni can make in the work chapters across the network produce. Students benefit from connecting with alumni because not so long ago our alumni were students, too. We have similar values, and believe that young people are capable of producing solid policy ideas. When our students and alumni connect it creates something truly spectacular: a group of people, spread all over the world in different fields of work, willing to collaborate and facilitate discussion around current policy issues, then working with their communities to come up with innovative solutions.

    I loved getting to meet these alums and see the different things they are doing with their lives. They are working at nonprofits, going to law school, working on political campaigns, and more. Our alumni are found in every level of government from the U.S. Capitol and the White House to state legislatures to mayoral offices. They are still fighting to make the change they want to see in the world. And now, they're mentoring the new generation of Campus Network students and organizing their own policy projects.

    The Campus Network has grown a lot since it was founded. What started as two chapters has expanded into over a hundred. We now run Summer Academies in four cities, and in the past six years our publications have reached half a million people. This new generation of Roosevelt students is looking at local policy issues to create an impact in their communities. By avoiding the constant congressional gridlock my generation has grown accustomed to, and focusing on local community development, we are better able to turn our ideas into action.

    With almost ten years of change-making under our belt, the Campus Network is working to find new and unique ways to make being a Roosevelter a lasting affiliation. We have thousands of alumni and it is so exciting to build out a framework and vision that will help me stay involved far beyond graduation.

    From the long laughs during our regional team calls every month to building a thriving chapter on my campus, I will always appreciate the relationships I have formed through this amazing organization. This organization is like a second family to me; it’s hard to imagine not engaging with the Campus Network and all of the people I have met in it after I graduate. If you have recently graduated, or are looking to reengage, email me.

    Madelyn Schorr is the Special Initiative Intern for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and the Southern Regional Coordinator.

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  • David Autor: Why Technological Innovation Could Increase Inequality

    Jul 21, 2014

    The Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. In the debut entry in our new video speculation series, MIT economist David Autor talks about the future of economic polarization.

    The Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. In the debut entry in our new video speculation series, MIT economist David Autor talks about the future of economic polarization.

    There is a long-running debate between those who worry robots are taking our jobs and those who scoff at that “lump of labor fallacy” as just another version of Luddite thinking. In the video below, Professor David Autor, the MIT economist famous for his description of how technology has helped hollow out the middle class, outlines the debate and describes how it might be possible that both sides are right.

    Professor Autor discusses a scenario in which technological innovation continues to reduce the need for low-skilled labor while increasing the demand for higher-skilled workers, thus increasing wages at the top while reducing wages at the bottom.

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  • What Will the American Economy Look Like 26 Years From Today?

    Jul 21, 2014Bo Cutter

    Earlier this summer, the Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. Find out what they had to say.

    Participants in our recent convening speculated:

    Earlier this summer, the Next American Economy project brought together 30 experts from various disciplines to envision tomorrow's economic and political challenges and develop today's solutions. Find out what they had to say.

    Participants in our recent convening speculated:

    “The post-WWII model of full-time, permanent employment proved itself the historical aberration we predicted: in 2040, only 12 percent of the American workforce is directly employed by corporate enterprises or government departments, and the average length of time spent on any one job is under six months.”

    “New platforms and services will spring up to solve the problems of the micro-gig economy using distributed, peer-to-peer models of social insurance that will be hyper-local, but not based on geography. They will be based on the micro-niche identities that we build online -- accountants for bacon. Latinos who play Dungeons & Dragons. What have you.”  

    “In the late '20s, the Know Everything Party assumed their final national political victories of mandating every American household be limited to three robots, one 3D printer, and own a minimum of three guns would be enough to secede and be left alone. After 15 years of explosive growth in income and wealth inequality, unimaginable to us in 2014, it all came to a head in our second Civil War, or what historians are calling the Bloodless War.”

    Guided by the belief that we are on the precipice of fundamental and lasting economic change, the Next American Economy project gathered a group of 30 academics, business leaders, organizers, and technologists, and asked them to envision the long-term economic and political future of the United States. We gave our participants free rein to be bold in their speculations – to deviate from data, the conventional wisdom, or even their own expert opinions. The goal was not to predict the future, but to debate a series of critical questions: (a) Are we at an inflection point in the nature of innovation and technological change? (b) How will the rise of cities change the geography of economic activity? (c) How will economic trends alter the nature of work and employment? (d) Is the trend of widening income inequality likely to continue or stagnate?

    What followed was a series of prescient, thoughtful, and often hilarious three- to four-minute speculations on topics ranging from the gig economy to the future of finance, from imminent civil war to the transformation of Google into a car company, and many more. Each speculation on its own could foster a day of debate and a sea of responses. For this reason, we will release one video speculation a day for the next three weeks, starting with David Autor’s description of economic polarization.

    Our recent meeting was a first step toward our broader goal of identifying the trends likely to shape the future in order to identify the policy interventions needed to ensure the best possible outcome. The group identified key topics for further investigation and also found some areas of broad consensus.

    • 79 percent of participants believe “technological change will persist and will be big enough to disrupt business-as-usual."

    • 42 percent believe “a new paradigm of work is emerging and will change the nature of jobs for a large percentage of the population” and an additional 29 percent believe “a new paradigm has already emerged and you East Coast intellectuals are way behind the times.”

    • A total of 74 percent believe that even if an entrepreneurship booms leads to productivity growth it will not lead to job creation.

    • Nearly half (48 percent) believe that if inequality trends continue, the political backlash will be so extreme that our current system will change drastically in the next 25 years.

    You can learn more about our project and find our forthcoming research on our website.

    Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter is Director of the Next American Economy project. He was formerly a managing partner of Warburg Pincus, a major global private equity firm, and served as the leader of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) transition team. He has also served in senior roles in the White Houses of two Democratic Presidents.

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