Daily Digest - October 8: Government Should Push Back on Bad Financial Deals

Oct 8, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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City Hall’s Inaction on Interest-Rate Swaps Is Indefensible (Chicago Sun-Times)

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City Hall’s Inaction on Interest-Rate Swaps Is Indefensible (Chicago Sun-Times)

In a letter to the editor, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti points out what the Sun-Times missed in defending Mayor Emanuel's inaction to recover funds from these toxic deals.

Changing the Future of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (HuffPo)

In light of the Women and Girls Rising conference, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn and Campus Network Lower Northeast Policy Coordinator Ariel Smilowitz examine the policy shifts needed in the U.S.

Eric Schneiderman is Still Seeking Justice for the Financial Crisis (WaPo)

Katrina vanden Heuvel, a member of the Roosevelt Institute's Board of Directors, praises New York's Attorney General for almost single-handedly keeping up the fight to hold Wall Street accountable.

Amazon Warehouse Workers Head To Supreme Court Over Unpaid Theft Screenings (HuffPo)

Dave Jamieson lays out the arguments in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, which broadly looks at whether employers can require nonessential tasks – like security screenings – off the clock.

The Great Wage Slowdown of the 21st Century (NYT)

David Leonhardt examines President Obama's optimistic take on why wage growth will finally start to pick up in the next few years. Leonhardt isn't quite sold.

John Boehner Just Admitted on Twitter That Republicans Have No Jobs Plan (TNR)

Danny Vinik says that while it's fun to joke about Boehner's empty tweet, the truth is that without a real jobs plan, Republicans have caused significant damage to the economy.

Tens of Thousands of Walmart Workers Are About to Lose Their Health Insurance — and It's Good News! (Vox)

Sarah Kliff explains that while Walmart's decision was almost certainly based on saving money, this gives part-time workers access to subsidies on the exchanges and cheap insurance.

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Daily Digest - October 7: How Wall Street Wins When Cities Are in Debt

Oct 7, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Is Wall Street Making a Killing Off Cities’ Debt? (Next City)

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Is Wall Street Making a Killing Off Cities’ Debt? (Next City)

In an illustrated essay, Susie Cagle shows how Wall Street profits off swap deals tied to cities' municipal bonds. Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti explains pension obligation bonds.

Will the UN’s New Development Goals Downplay the Need for Gender Equality? (The Nation)

Barbara Crossette questions if reproductive rights will be given sufficient emphasis, drawing on the Roosevelt Institute's Women and Girls Rising Conference for female leaders' opinions.

Tax Cuts Uber Alles (Slate)

Jamelle Bouie explains why Paul Ryan needs a pretty unreliable mathematical model, known as dynamic scoring, to sell his proposed tax cuts as good for the economy.

Embrace the Irony (New Yorker)

Lawrence Lessig is attempting to destroy big money's influence in politics. All he needs, writes Evans Osnos, is for 50 billionaires to fund his SuperPAC.

Wages Should be Growing Faster, But They’re Not. Here’s Why. (WaPo)

Jared Bernstein suggests that raising wages is no longer part of American employers' model, and that wages won't increase until the labor market is much tighter.

SRC Cancels Teachers' Contract (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Kristen Graham and Martha Woodall report on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission's unexpected decision to unilaterally cancel the teachers' union contract.

New on Next New Deal

At NextGen IL Conference, Young People Set the Agenda for Their State

As attendees of the conference, the Campus Network's Midwestern Regional Team found themselves in a policy space where the goals and agenda were shaped entirely by their peers.

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At NextGen IL Conference, Young People Set the Agenda for Their State

Oct 7, 2014Julius Goldberg-LewisDominic RusselRachel Riemenschneider

At the NextGen Illinois conference, Campus Network leaders found a policy space shaped entirely by young people.

At the NextGen Illinois conference, Campus Network leaders found a policy space shaped entirely by young people.

Last Saturday, the Midwest Regional Team of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network met in Chicago to attend the NextGen Illinois conference, the culmination of months of discussion, caucuses, and ideas from around Illinois. NextGen IL, an initiative led by the Campus Network and Young Invicibles, is working to bring young adults in Illinois together to shape a youth policy agenda for Illinois. What set NextGen apart from so many other conferences was that its content, agenda, and execution were a direct outcome of power and coalition building among Millennials. NextGen’s attendees included high school students, college students, and graduates; they were organizers, activists, and policy wonks of every kind. Throughout the day, attendees were able to vote on a slate of statewide policy proposals that were the product of the dozens of caucuses that took place over the previous few months. Young people had the opportunity to shape the outcome of the conference and take ownership of their ideas.

One common theme that resounded through the day at the NextGen IL conference was that young people are capable of making a difference in their communities. We all have the knowledge, ability, and passion to make real change. This was thoroughly underscored by the number of young people and students that were panelists throughout the day. Each breakout session featured professionals working in the field, as well as Millennials already working to change the landscape. Whether discussing environmental policy or restorative justice, the young panelists were just as able to engage their audience in a variety of statewide policy issues.

The breakout sessions gave the audience a picture of the issues being addressed on the front lines of the progressive political fight, but the plenary sessions gave us a chance to hear from the elected officials who have the power to turn our ideas into action. Will Guzzardi, a 27-year-old candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives, and Amara Enyia, a 31-year-old running for Mayor of Chicago, both spoke about how young people need to step up to make a difference. They both referenced a common realization many young adults have about growing up. When you’re young, you are told to defer to those in charge, trust your elders, and wait your turn. These candidates stressed that in order to be taken seriously and have our issues adequately addressed, our generation must step up and realize that while our parents and grandparents have a lot to teach us, they don’t have all the solutions. This realization may be scary, but it is also empowering: if no one actually has all the answers, young people have the opportunity to create just as much of an impact as older generations. We have the opportunity to think creatively, and see our age as a benefit, and not a burden to creating and realizing innovative policies that better our communities.

If there was one message that we as participants and attendees took away from the NextGen IL conference, it was an echo of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1936 address to the Democratic National Convention: “There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” Our generation faces seemingly insurmountable problems, but if the NextGen space was any indication, we can expect bold solutions.

Julius Goldberg-Lewis is the Midwestern Regional Coordinator for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and a senior at the University of Michigan. Dominic Russel is the Midwestern Policy Coordinator and a sophomore at the University of Michigan. Rachel Riemenschneider is the Midwestern New Chapters Coordinator and a junior at Northwestern University.

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Daily Digest - October 6: Despite New Rules, Corporations Still Seek Tax Loopholes

Oct 6, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Are Obama's New Corporate Tax Rules Working? (Melissa Harris-Perry)

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Are Obama's New Corporate Tax Rules Working? (Melissa Harris-Perry)

As guest host, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren moderates a discussion of corporations' attempts to dodge paying taxes through loopholes like inversion.

Unemployment is Finally Under 6 Percent, But Don’t Expect a Raise Anytime Soon (WaPo)

Matt O'Brien says that while the September jobs report was solid, continued "shadow unemployment" and low wage growth will keep the Fed from increasing interest rates just yet.

Facebook’s Bus Drivers Seek Union (NYT)

The drivers who shuttle Facebook employees to their Silicon Valley offices, unhappy with their low pay and difficult split shift schedule, are seeking to unionize through the Teamsters, writes Steven Greenhouse.

The U.S. Has a Jobs Crisis. Here's How to Fix It (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore speaks to four experts – two politicians and two economists – about the best ways to solve the jobs crisis. Common themes include immigration reform and a minimum wage hike.

Huh? Walmart Foundation Battles Hunger As Walmart Workers Turn to Food Stamps (Inside Philanthropy)

David Callahan critiques Walmart for its big charitable push to solve hunger when it has been widely documented that its own workers are relying on the social safety net to eat.

U.S. Restaurant Patrons Support Minimum Wage Hike (Reuters)

Lisa Baertlein contrasts the restaurant industry's lobbying against raising the minimum wage with a new survey that shows broad support for a higher wage among its customers.

New on Next New Deal

A Crisis Turned Catastrophe in Texas

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn explains how the latest court decision on Texas's anti-abortion laws will bring Texas women's access to reproductive health care to the brink of disaster.

The Big Mistake in President Obama’s Economic Pivot: Overlooking the Grassroots

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Director Joelle Gamble says the President would be better served by focusing on local rather than federal initiatives to improve the economy.

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The Big Mistake in President Obama’s Economic Pivot: Overlooking the Grassroots

Oct 3, 2014Joelle Gamble

The president spoke about federal legislation to promote economic opportunity, but real progress is happening at the local level.

Yesterday, President Obama traveled to Northwestern University to give a speech on the new American economy. The speech was touted as a major pivot, both rhetorical and political, from a heavily international focus to a domestic one.

The president spoke about federal legislation to promote economic opportunity, but real progress is happening at the local level.

Yesterday, President Obama traveled to Northwestern University to give a speech on the new American economy. The speech was touted as a major pivot, both rhetorical and political, from a heavily international focus to a domestic one.

Obama’s speech highlighted some of the successes of his administration, pointing to a lowered unemployment rate, a higher rate of insured individuals through Obamacare, and an increase in manufacturing jobs since the 2008 financial crisis. He also laid out some proposed investments the U.S. can make to build a new economy, ranging from clean energy to education to wages.

This isn’t a critique of the President’s speech per se. What he had to say is not wrong; the problem is that his vision of how economic progress happens, like the vision of many other national leaders, does not have enough depth.

For example, President Obama mentions that the U.S. must “measure our success by something more than our GDP, or a jobs report.”

That is very much the right idea if we want to get a clearer picture of middle class opportunity. We already know that wages and incomes for most Americans have stagnated and that our current economic recovery has not produced substantial changes for working families. But what does the policy response look like?

Obama outlined several key solutions: Raising the minimum wage, equalizing pay for women, investing in clean energy, and pursuing college affordability. If we had a functioning Congress, the President would be right on the money, and this would be a productive speech that politicians and advocates could use to push for new legislation. However, we lost that functioning Congress long ago.

So, other than relying on federal legislation, what can be done? We need to build economic prosperity for working Americans from the ground up and create a grassroots economy.

The president says he plans to continue to work with “governors, mayors, CEOs, and philanthropists.” This matters, as local actors are the ones building the new economic future. One can look to the Campus Network’s Rethinking Communities Initiative to see how anchor institutions (major employers that are rooted in a particular community) have the ability to shape positive economic outcomes for towns, neighborhoods, and cities across the country.

To cite another example, the president points to Dodd-Frank as an important milestone in improving the American economy post-recession. But that raises the question of how advocates can continue to build on financial reform in this current political climate. Here’s one way: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti provides a new model for improving municipal finance that connects to grassroots work in communities.

To achieve the President’s vision for economic stability for America’s middle and working class, we need to start from the bottom, not the top. Grassroots economic change is the new engine for widespread economic prosperity. And once our leaders in Washington recognize that, we might see a real pivot in our political conversation.

Joelle Gamble is the National Director of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

Photo: White House

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A Crisis Turned Catastrophe in Texas

Oct 3, 2014Andrea Flynn

The Texan legislature created a crisis of women's health care with House Bill 2, and the latest decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will bring Texan women to the brink.

The Texan legislature created a crisis of women's health care with House Bill 2, and the latest decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will bring Texan women to the brink.

Last night, a decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals left Texas with no more than eight remaining abortion clinics. You would think by now the willingness of state lawmakers to deliberately create a health crisis among their constituents – and the willingness of the courts to allow it – would be of no surprise. But I continue to be shocked.

"All Texas women have been relegated today to a second class of citizens whose constitutional rights are lesser than those in states less hostile to reproductive autonomy, and women facing difficult economic circumstances will be particularly hard hit by this devastating blow,” said the Center for Reproductive Right’s Nancy Northrup.

House Bill 2 could be the grand finale in Texas's efforts to completely dismantle its reproductive health infrastructure on which women – particularly poor women, women of color, young women, and immigrant women – have relied for decades. Pretty soon there won’t be any clinics left to close. Just three years ago, conservative lawmakers gutted the state’s family planning program, which closed approximately 80 family planning providers across the state, caused 55 more to reduce hours, and left hundreds of thousands of women without access to reproductive healthcare. Even before those programs were eviscerated, they provided care and services to only 20 percent of women in need.

And as if that wasn’t enough, lawmakers introduced HB2, a bill that imposes onerous restrictions on abortion providers and demands that all clinics meet costly – upwards of $1 million – building requirements to qualify them as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). Lawmakers claimed these regulations were critical to protecting the lives and health of Texas women, but that’s simply not the case. Currently more than three-quarters of the state’s ASCs have waivers that allow them to circumvent certain requirements: unsurprisingly, abortion providers are prohibited from obtaining those same waivers. HB2 quickly closed the majority of the state’s 41 clinics that offered abortion services – clinics that also provided birth control, pap smears, breast exams, pregnancy tests, and a host of other services. There are few, if any, providers to take their place.

These new restrictions add an unbearable weight to the burdens that too many of Texas’ women already shoulder. Texas has one of the nation’s highest unintended and teen birth rates. The nation’s lowest percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in their first trimester. The highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. High rates of poverty and unemployment and a woefully inadequate social safety net. And lawmakers who refuse to expand Medicaid, leaving nearly 700,000 women who would qualify for coverage without it.

Just a few weeks ago, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court in Austin gave health advocates an iota of hope when he ruled HB2 to be an undue burden on women’s constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion. Yeakel’s decision wasn’t just significant because it delivered a win for humanity in Texas after countless losses, or because the concept of an undue burden was finally being used to protect – not erode – women’s right to chose, but because it was based on facts. Facts! Judge Yeakel relied on incontrovertible data to call bullshit on a law that purports to protect women, but has only ever been about abolishing abortion access.  

He argued that for many women, HB2 might as well be an outright ban on abortion. He asked how the eight (at most) providers left could ever each serve between 7,500 and 10,000 patients. How would they cope with the more than 1,200 women per month who would be vying for limited appointments? “That the State suggests that these seven or eight providers could meet the demand of the entire state stretches credulity,” he said.

Yeakel acknowledged the complex intersections of women’s health and economic (in)security:

The record conclusively establishes that increased travel distances combine with practical concerns unique to every woman. These practical concerns include lack of availability of child care, unavailability of appointments at abortion facilities, unavailability of time off from work, immigration status and inability to pass border checkpoints, poverty level, the time and expense involved in traveling long distances, and other inarticulable psychological obstacles. These factors combine with increased travel distances to establish a de facto barrier to obtaining an abortion for a large number of Texas women of reproductive age who might choose seek a legal abortion.

Yeakel warned that the stated goal of improving women’s health would not come to pass. And it won’t. The increased delays in seeking early abortion care, risks associated with longer travel, the potential increases in self-induced abortions “almost certainly cancel out any potential health benefit associated with the requirement,” he said.

But Yeakel’s arguments were not compelling enough for the 5th Circuit, which finds it perfectly acceptable that more than one million women now need to travel more than 300 miles (and many women even further) to access health care that is constitutionally guaranteed to them.

This decision will have a ripple effect. Other anti-choice lawmakers across the country are following Texas’ lead, imposing similar restrictions on clinics and physicians who provide abortions. The vindication of Texas lawmakers who have used their legislative power to wreak havoc on the lives of women and families will only continue to embolden other states seeking the same goals.

Conservatives like to argue that they are not waging a war on women. Today there are a whole lot of us who find it impossible to argue otherwise. 

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

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Daily Digest - October 3: Will the Senate Deny Minimum Wage to Home Care Workers?

Oct 3, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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GOP Senators: Don’t Raise Home Care Worker Wages (The Hill)

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GOP Senators: Don’t Raise Home Care Worker Wages (The Hill)

Ramsey Cox reports that this group of Senators claims giving home care workers minimum wage is unaffordable because of increased costs for Medicaid.

S.F., Oakland at Forefront of U.S. Minimum Wage Movement (SF Chronicle)

A proposition on the ballot this November will raise San Francisco's minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 2018, and it's expected to pass by wide margins, writes John Coté.

Americans Have No Idea How the Government Spends Money (WaPo)

Christopher Ingraham reports on a quiz given by the Pew Research Center. The results show that a third of Americans incorrectly think the government spends more on foreign aid than Social Security.

What to Watch on Jobs Day: Nominal Wages, Teacher Gap, and Upward Revisions (Working Economics)

Elise Gould explains why these three data points will be her focus in analyzing the jobs report, and says this month is a good time to look at the teacher gap to see whether public education jobs have bounced back.

People Who Warned the Fed Are Very Smart and Very Wrong (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Peter Coy looks back at a 2010 letter from a group of economists to the Federal Reserve, which warned against quantitative easing. He shares some of the writers' explanations for their incorrect predictions.

Poverty Isn't Just About Not Having Much; It's About Never Knowing How Much You're Going to Have (Vox)

Danielle Kurtzleben looks at data on the vast swings in monthly income that low-to-moderate-income households experience, which make it nearly impossible to plan ahead.

Chart: The Typical White Family Is 20 Times Wealthier Than the Typical Black Family (Mother Jones)

Dave Gilson explains that while the income gap between white and Black households is significant, the wealth gap is even greater – and it's the wealth gap that sustains generational inequality.

 

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Daily Digest - October 2: Democracy Has Become a Luxury Purchase

Oct 2, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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This Edition: K. Sabeel Rahman, Four Freedoms Center (Eldridge & Co.)

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This Edition: K. Sabeel Rahman, Four Freedoms Center (Eldridge & Co.)

Ronnie Eldridge speaks with Roosevelt Institute Fellow Sabeel Rahman about why democracy isn't working right now. He says public policy is mostly responding to the needs of the wealthy.

Not Enough Taxation and Too Much Representation (AJAM)

Amy B. Dean says the trend of companies moving abroad is just the latest strategy in tax avoidance. She argues that as companies further disconnect from American life, their influence on politics should be limited.

  • Roosevelt Take: On Next City, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Director Joelle Gamble argued for a stakeholder model of corporate governance to force companies to pay more attention to local communities.

“Payment on an Unpaid Basis” (The Baffler)

Charles Davis looks at the entertainment industry's reliance on unpaid work. Many companies he called for comment responded by taking down unpaid listings, but that's not an efficient way to fight back.

Lies, Fear and Tragedy: Maria Fernandes and the Crisis of Part-Time Work (The Guardian)

The death of Maria Fernandes, a part-time employee at three different Dunkin' Donuts stores, highlights the crisis created by low-paying employers, writes Jana Kasperkevic.

Loan Fraud Inquiry Said to Focus on Used-Car Dealers (NYT)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery report on new investigations into fraudulent subprime auto loans. The loans are smaller, but could create the same problems as mortgages in 2008.

Make No Mistake: Eric Holder Chose Not to Jail the Bankers (Medium)

The Department of Justice had the power to send bank executives to jail, writes Alexis Goldstein, but chose a more passive approach instead of pushing through real change in the industry.

Voter Suppression: How Bad? (Pretty Bad) (TAP)

Wendy R. Weiser highlights the variety of new voting laws which will serve to suppress the vote in 2014, pointing at North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin as the most important states to watch.

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Daily Digest - October 1: State Law Puts Profits Ahead of Primary Education

Oct 1, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Arkansas Internet Law Gouges Schoolkids (Bloomberg View)

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Arkansas Internet Law Gouges Schoolkids (Bloomberg View)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says support for the current law, which prohibits Arkansas from connecting K-12 schools to its high-speed fiber network, puts telecoms' profits ahead of kids.

Long-Term Jobless Perfectly Employable, New Report Finds (WSJ)

Pedro da Costa looks at a new study from the Economic Policy Institute, which says that while any unemployment creates serious setbacks, long-term unemployment doesn't create special skill loss.

The Hole in Holder’s Legacy (NYT)

Eric Holder had some real successes as Attorney General, but his efforts to prosecute the crimes of the financial crisis were "notoriously laggard," writes Joe Nocera.

The A.I.G. Trial Is a Comedy (New Yorker)

John Cassidy asks why this case, in which former American International Group CEO Hank Greenberg claims the company's bailout violated the Constitution, was even allowed to get to trial.

Prison Bankers Cash in on Captive Customers (Center for Public Integrity)

Daniel Wagner reports on how financial services companies profit off the families of prison inmates, who use these high-fee services so their relatives can buy basics like warm winter clothing.

Trust Is Waning, and Inequality May Be to Blame (Pacific Standard)

A new study examining what circumstances impact people's trust in institutions and one another finds that trust in other people drops as inequality rises, writes Nathan Collins.

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Daily Digest - September 30: Incarceration Keeps Growing, No Matter the Cost

Sep 30, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Score: Why Prisons Thrive Even When Budgets Shrink (The Nation)

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The Score: Why Prisons Thrive Even When Budgets Shrink (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert look at the growth of incarceration even in times when presidents preach against "big government," which the prison system certainly is.

Europe’s Austerity Zombies (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz says that European countries' continued push for austerity, which isn't fixing their economies, is tragic in light of the people who suffer without work.

Revisiting the Lehman Brothers Bailout That Never Was (NYT)

James B. Stewart and Peter Eavis report on previously unknown analysis from the New York Federal Reserve suggesting that the Fed could bail out Lehman Brothers. The analysis never reached top officials.

It’s the Inequality, Stupid (In These Times)

Emphasizing inequality is the best chance that Democrats have of engaging working-class voters who swing elections, writes David Moberg.

New York Mayor de Blasio Plans Expansion of Living Wage (Reuters)

De Blasio plans to sign an executive order that will expand the law to cover an additional 18,000 jobs and increase the living wage to $13.13 for workers without benefits, writes Alex Dobuzinskis.

California Pension Fund Gives the Boot to Hedge Funds (AJAM)

Dean Baker praises California's public pension fund for ending investments in hedge funds, which charge high fees. He says that funds should make the contracts that lay out these fees public.

Killing the "Nuclear Option" Will Not Save the Senate. It Will Ruin Obama's Final Two Years. (TNR)

When Senate Republicans say that they want to revoke the Democrats' "nuclear option," which eliminated filibusters on presidential appointments, they're planning a blockade, writes Brian Beutler.

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