Joelle Gamble

 

Recent Posts by Joelle Gamble

  • What Is Economic Growth Without Shared Prosperity?

    Apr 14, 2014Joelle Gamble

    It's time for the U.S. to recognize that policies to push economic growth must focus on average Americans, not "job creators."

    It's time for the U.S. to recognize that policies to push economic growth must focus on average Americans, not "job creators."

    Rampant inequality is putting the future of the American economy in peril. The financial recovery we have experienced the past few years has only led to massive gains for top earners and little to no change for average Americans. Decades of policies that throw more benefits to the top have not “trickled down” to the average household.

    But more importantly, our current idea of economic progress is skewed. The wealthy have created this idea that “job creators” are a class of people who can magically restore out economy, ignoring the fact that entrepreneurship and innovation come from all economic statuses.

    America needs to shift our economic narrative away from a heavy emphasis on GDP-based growth and toward a model that promotes prosperity for everyone. We need to think about how we generate demand in order to create jobs. This demand comes from average Americans having the ability to engage meaningfully in the economy, with fair wages without discrimination in the workplace. In short: economic progress must involve prosperity for all Americans, not just “job creators.”

    Legislative battles at the local, state, and federal levels around equal pay and the minimum wage will prove crucial to changing our conception of what constitutes good economic policy. Victories in these fights represent tangible ways in which the average American worker can better his or her own economic prospects and simultaneously grow the economy.

    We are seeing progress now. In January, the city of Seattle began pushing to raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15.00 per hour. Earlier this week, the state of Maryland voted to raise its minimum wage from the federal $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Meanwhile, President Obama continues his push for federal action.

    Meanwhile, in the United States, women make an average of $0.77 for every $1.00 earned by men, but growing movements are pushing the needle in the right direction. The President signed directives to clamp down on gender discrimination by federal agencies and contractors. Americans show strong bipartisan support for paid sick leave and family leave. Municipalities, are pushing through bills to make this support a reality –in New York City, Mayor De Blasio has already expanded the paid sick leave law that was established in 2013.

    While the most sustainable and sweeping changes on these fronts may be best achieved at the federal level, many of the real policy battles are playing out in cities and states. This presents a real opportunity to involve a wide swath of Americans in economic justice work in their neighborhoods. If organizers on the ground build power to push a prosperity-centric policy agenda forward through both community building and new technology platforms, we can see a real shift in the narrative of what economic progress looks like in this nation.

    Joelle Gamble is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist.

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  • Citizens United for Real Civic Engagement

    Jan 21, 2014Joelle Gamble

    On the 4th anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC, consider the ways that citizens can engage beyond campaign donations and the ballot box.

    Today marks the 4th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission. The significance of this case is difficult to overstate as it gave limitless ability to mega-interest groups and corporations to spend money to convince voters to vote for or against a political candidate.

    On the 4th anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC, consider the ways that citizens can engage beyond campaign donations and the ballot box.

    Today marks the 4th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission. The significance of this case is difficult to overstate as it gave limitless ability to mega-interest groups and corporations to spend money to convince voters to vote for or against a political candidate.

    As Jeff Raines wrote for Next New Deal, the latest fights in the courts are less about individuals’ right to free speech and more heavily focused on how much monetary influence the wealthy have on our electoral processes. Even the McCutcheon v. FEC case, while concerning individual donor limits, is still centered in a debate around funding committees and other organized donor groups. While curbing the influence of Big Money on our democracy is a worthwhile fight, we sometimes lose the bigger question of how each voter shows up in said democracy in our attempts to talk about how voters as voting blocks and interest groups.

    While we know that the level of power that big money gained as a result of Citizens United is poisonous to our democracy, passing meaningful national legislative changes has been an arduous yet worthwhile battle for organizers across the country. Outside of contributing our voices to national efforts to overturn Citizens United, what can those of us without direct access to Washington, D.C. do to strengthen the influence of everyday Americans in the act of governing?

    The most immediate answer we come to is, of course, voting.  However, new innovations at the local level are creating fresh avenues for civic participation. Practices such as participatory budgeting and participatory zoning are just a few ways in which we can flex our civic muscle outside of the voting booth. Participatory budgeting, for example, allows community members to make decisions on how to spend a pre-allotted pool of funds from an agency or government’s budget. This approach balances efficiency of outcome, by only allowing participation in a small portion of the budget, while deepening investment and engagement amongst stakeholders.

    The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network values people-centric, policy work that engages young people in their own communities. As we articulated in our report, Government By and For Millennial America, how government engages citizens is foundational to its effectiveness as an institution. Voting and money in politics have a role to play in how much weight one individual has in government. But higher civic engagement at all levels is still important to ensuring that those elected produce results that the citizenry desires. After all, many of the nation’s local and state-level public financing laws have been implemented via legislative processes and grassroots organizing.

    Thus, as we continue to hear arguments regarding who has real power under U.S. election law, core questions at play are: what does it mean to have policies and rules that are people-centric? And how can we develop a system that is outcome-oriented and empowering to as much of the population as possible? Most Americans agree that eliminating a system in which some people have a wholly distorted level of financial influence over others is a good start. But by engaging in civic processes in our local communities, we can take our political engagement one step further, and increase individual empowerment in our system.

    Joelle Gamble is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist.

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  • Obama's 'Promise Zones' Have Potential if They Include Anchor Institutions

    Jan 10, 2014Joelle Gamble

    Efforts to promote economic development must shift to the local level, but they can't overlook some of the biggest players in these communities.

    Efforts to promote economic development must shift to the local level, but they can't overlook some of the biggest players in these communities.

    At a press conference yesterday, President Obama told the story of his time organizing in Chicago and highlighted the work local communities do to support their neighbors and prepare them to be contributors to the economy. This renewed emphasis on the importance of localities accompanied the President’s announcement of five “Promise Zones,” specially designated communities that will receive increased federal resources and coordinating support in their efforts to develop economically. This announcement comes as welcome news to advocates for equal economy opportunity in the United States, but the approach seems to be constrained by an overly narrow definition of community stakeholders.

    According to the White House, the Promise Zones, which will be established in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Philadelphia, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, will focus on replacing distressed housing, reducing crime rates, increasing student high school graduation prospects, and stimulating economic growth via tax incentives. As I’ve written before, the ineffectiveness of the modern United States Congress has made federal legislation to address rising inequality a pipe dream. Thus, the local level is the new battleground for tackling pressing economic challenges such as these.

    However, questions still remain as to whether these new Promise Zones take the best possible approach to generating sustainable economic development. At this point, information provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the White House focuses primarily on the usual community stakeholders: businesses, K-12 programs, the local government, etc. Given the financial constraints many localities and school districts are facing and the natural limitations of tax incentives, it would behoove the administration to widen the scope of the policies they implement in pursuit of growth.

    Anchor institutions, such as universities and hospitals, are an untapped source of job growth, financial investments, intellectual capital, and community support. Hospitals and universities spend over $1 trillion a year and employ 8 percent of the total U.S. labor force. My colleague Alan Smith recently wrote about the work that the Roosevelt Institute is doing to analyze the local impact of these anchor institutions through its new Rethinking Communities initiative.

    Identifying and engaging with anchor institutions would not be difficult. For example, local governments could recommend the allocation of federal grants to universities and hospitals that make targeted hiring efforts in particularly distressed portions of the Promise Zone communities.

    Shifting responsibility for economic development away from the dysfunctional legislative branch and toward our local communities will require us to think more broadly about what community means and what kinds of actors shape it. With this challenge in mind, Promise Zones would benefit greatly from the incorporation of anchor institutions in their strategies for promoting long-term growth and economic opportunity.

    Joelle Gamble is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Field Strategist.

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  • Local Government is the Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Economic Inequality

    Dec 12, 2013Joelle Gamble

    With Congress gridlocked, we must look to local governments to pursue more innovative strategies for promoting equal opportunity.

    With Congress gridlocked, we must look to local governments to pursue more innovative strategies for promoting equal opportunity.

    Americans don’t believe in guaranteed equal outcomes, but we do believe in equal opportunity and the ability to achieve a decent livelihood if one works hard. Unfortunately, the United States, despite being the world’s largest economy, is in the top quartile of the most unequal states, along with countries like Bulgaria, and is more unequal than all of Europe. In addition to high levels of income inequality, the United States still faces a jobs crisis, meaning that many people who want to work to achieve economic stability cannot find gainful employment.

    Given the congressional gridlock impeding efforts to promote economic opportunity at the federal level, we should look to community-based solutions to mitigate our unsustainable levels of inequality.

    Over the past several decades, political leaders have tried to stimulate the economy on the supply side. They have provided incentives for businesses to invest in capital improvements, loosened regulations to encourage business growth, and lowered tax rates to give investors an incentive to take risks and create jobs. But we do not have a supply-side problem.

    Our problem is on the demand side. Average Americans have so little wealth that they cannot afford to consume what companies sell. Income inequality has grown to the extent that those who are not at the very top can no longer afford to participate in the market.

    Hyper-partisanship and the special interests that fuel it make it impossible for the current Congress to address the declining wealth of America’s middle- and low-income communities. Just look to the Ryan-Murray budget compromise: Congress is refusing to extend unemployment insurance, claiming that an extension will discourage recipients from looking for new work, while at the same time, congressional Republicans complain that the president is not creating enough jobs for those same workers. While they focus on scoring political points, American workers continue to suffer.

    Given the intransigence and stalling at the federal level, what immediate actions can be taken to provide economic security and agency to average Americans? For this, one must turn to our cities and towns.

    This is not a simple solution, because local governments do not have the same fiscal tools that Congress has. Cities cannot levy a progressive income tax on residents to fund redistribution, but instead must work with sales and property taxes. These taxes are regressive and punish the very people localities want to support. Some municipalities have tried to attract high-dollar business and residential developments in order to bring in revenues to support progressive programs such as universal pre-K and housing support. Unfortunately, too much development to this degree will backfire by pushing out lower-income and middle-class families.

    In order to be effective, plans to address rampant inequality at the local level must be innovative. Instead of focusing on attracting developments solely as a source of tax revenue, local governments should incentivize the creation of local businesses that have fair and uplifting worker practices. For example, the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry in Cleveland Ohio, frequently referred to as the Cleveland Model, pays living wages and allows its employees to earn ownership in the company after a certain period of time. It is a prime example of providing an equal opportunity for American workers to maintain a decent livelihood and to move up economically if they commit to it.

    By providing direct loans, utility subsidies, bonds for capital purchases, and other incentives to cooperative model businesses that promote high wages and greater employee agency, localities can support the growth of living wage businesses in areas where they may never have existed before. This will jumpstart a cycle of quality jobs for underserved communities and begin to remedy the demand-side economic challenges our economy faces.

    While the detrimental effects of rising income inequality in America are widespread, we do not have to wait for federal action to start implementing solutions that will level the economic playing field. By supporting worker-empowering businesses close to home, local governments can both support job creation in their areas and provide workers with the opportunity they need to lift themselves out of their tough financial situations. 

    Joelle Gamble is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Field Strategist.

     

    Vintage U.S. map image via Shutterstock.com

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  • Every Day is Student Debt Day for Millennials

    Jun 5, 2013Joelle Gamble

    Young Americans demand action on the student loan crisis, and they have a plan to solve it.

    Young Americans demand action on the student loan crisis, and they have a plan to solve it.

    “Work hard. Get good grades. Go to a good school and you will be successful.” Our generation has been told time and again that through hard work and dedication, we will be able to live happy lives, have secure jobs, and start families built on comfortable finances. But on this day of action around student debt, it’s clear we need more than these easy answers to help Millennials cope with the growing burden of education costs.

    I come from a middle class family. Both of my parents served in the Marine Corps and got good jobs. My father works in law enforcement, and my mother is a teacher. They taught me that if I put in hard work, I would reap the results. So, I graduated at the top of my class in high school and went to a top (public) university. I worked all four years of college and graduated on time. Two days after graduation I started working at a good job.

    By all measures, I did everything “by the book.” I even saved up some money to make early down payments on the student loans that I accrued during school. Over the past four months, I have paid off more than was required by law, and currently I am paying more on the principal than on the interest. One would think that I would be in pretty good shape.

    But with $26,000 in debt, only slightly above average, I will still be making these payments for the next decade of my life. They will be as regular as my electric bill and rent. They will be considered before I think about how and when to start my family or buy a house.

    I am one of the lucky ones: employed with enough spare cash to make student loan payments. So many other recent college graduates are not in the same position.

    Student loan debt is one of the biggest economic and social justice issues this nation faces today. An entire generation of young, educated workers is being saddled with financial burdens that will follow them for the foreseeable future.

    Recognizing this, the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network joined with the United States Student Association to make proactive recommendations for addressing the student loan debt crisis. Our report, A New Deal for Students, offers policies by students and for students, past and present.

    In this report, students outline their arguments for a better system for financing higher education. Policy recommendations range from tax incentives for students committed to staying in their home states to raising the federal minimum range to supporting new graduates to teach in rural areas.

    What we want is a real debate and, above all else, action by our lawmakers on this critical financial issue affecting millions of young Americans.

    Joelle Gamble is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Field Strategist.

     

    Graduation cap and money image via Shutterstock.com

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