Joelle Gamble

 

Recent Posts by Joelle Gamble

  • Taxes Are Never Just a Class Issue

    Sep 4, 2014Joelle Gamble

    Tax reforms can't solve all economic inequality, because they won't change the reality of race in the U.S. economy.

    Tax reforms can't solve all economic inequality, because they won't change the reality of race in the U.S. economy.

    The threat of corporate inversions to the American tax base sprung an interesting political dialogue around tax reform in the United States. We’ve seen debates on how to stop the spread of inversions and arguments that they aren’t a problem at all. Some call for the abolition of the corporate tax rate as a whole and others completely reject such suggestions. I find these discussions of tax reform and its effects on the economy informative yet simultaneously slightly disappointing.

    What bothers me about how tax reform debates shake out is how absent they can become of socio-political realities, particularly the reality of race.

    One line of progressive argumentation follows simply: If everyone pays their fair share of taxes, we can support public spending and job growth, and we’ll all do better. The argument firmly stands, but there is an important caveat.

    It’s easy to harken back to the 1950s when tax rates were high, social services were relatively steady and economic security stretched across economic strata. But who was really secure then? Even the high points of job security for the American economy still left African Americans (and other racially marginalized groups) behind. This a structural phenomenon, instituted by socially racist institutions and a deep history of systemically harming the Black community.

    We can’t take race out of conversations around economic inequality. The reality of race is that even fixes to the broader federal revenue landscape don’t always address the structural barriers of racism. A rising tide can’t lift all boats, if some boats are bolted to the seafloor.

    Black unemployment consistently exceeds that of whites, both post-Recession and since such data has been available. Gaps between white unemployment and black unemployment shrank in 2009. This was not due to falling black unemployment but instead due to skyrocketing white unemployment.

    This racial gap in economic success extends beyond the employment rate. In fact, it is deeply entrenched in the way wealth is distributed in the U.S. The gap between median Black wealth and median white wealth stands at about $236,000 dollars. Flagrant discrimination, in part, contributes to this gap. But it is perpetuated by generations of asset accumulation policies that are targeted at those who already own assets.

    Corporate tax reform alone isn’t sufficient to fix the effects of decades of second-class status conferred on African Americans. The government does not just need sufficient funding to create equality within the economy. Distribution of these dollars is equally important. It needs to reflect the nuances of structural inequalities built into multiple aspects of our tax code.

    Take federal housing spending policies as a prime example. Ending ineffective tax incentives, such as the mortgage interest reduction, can start to tilt the scales toward those who are not already wealthy. Seventy-seven percent of the benefits of the mortgage interest reduction accrued to homeowners with gross incomes of above $100,000. We need to rethink housing subsidies so that the benefits of federal programs do not heavily favor those who already own homes.

    We need corporate tax reform to ensure that all participants in our economy are paying their fair share. But we also need a federal benefits structure that ensures that the concept of a "fair share" considers our history of discrimination when determining which Americans need those benefits most.

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

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  • Campus Network Looks Ahead for Policy Engagement

    Aug 22, 2014Joelle Gamble

    The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network has nine years of success under its belt, and is ready for more in its tenth.

    “We know the old way of doing things isn’t going to cut it anymore. We want to pioneer a new process of civic engagement…” This is the opening line of the purpose statement our Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network staff articulated for this year. Its brazen rejection of the status quo and forward-looking promise of a new mode of policy change encapsulates the ethos of our network as we move into a new year.

    The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network has nine years of success under its belt, and is ready for more in its tenth.

    “We know the old way of doing things isn’t going to cut it anymore. We want to pioneer a new process of civic engagement…” This is the opening line of the purpose statement our Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network staff articulated for this year. Its brazen rejection of the status quo and forward-looking promise of a new mode of policy change encapsulates the ethos of our network as we move into a new year.

    We believe that local, people-centric policy change can ripple into larger national change. We believe in the power of communities organized into networks to innovate, incubate, and promulgate impactful ideas.

    This statement also pulls on the history of innovation and impact that the Campus Network has had over the past nine years. Founded on the conviction that student voices matter beyond Election Day, we have seen our members from across the country inject powerful ideas into the political debate and make tangible change in their communities. From starting revolving loan funds in Indiana to creating educational access in New Haven, from building capacity for non-profits in D.C. to combating student homelessness in Los Angeles, we have been and will continue to be committed to an unconventional and effective model of policy change.

    Even in the past year of the Campus Network (2013-2014), students have taken enormous strides toward building a forward thinking, locally driven, and more inclusive policy process. Our presence has grown to over 38 states, with chapters at a diverse range of institutions, public and private, community college and four-year university. Ideas generated from our network have been read over a half-million times and our work has been featured in outlets like The Nation, Al Jazeera America and Time Magazine Ideas.

    But, more than the power of the ideas or the prestige of the platforms which support them, the people in this network are what excites me the most about the years to come.

    This first week of August, we hosted our 9th annual Hyde Park Leadership Summit at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. We gathered the leaders of Roosevelt chapters that have been around since our founding and the leaders of new chapters growing this year for a weekend of community-building, training and strategic thinking.  The overflowing energy, big thinking mentality, and willingness to pound the pavement summit attendees displayed was invigorating and holds the promise of a highly impactful year for our network.

    And, we need that kind of energy and passion. We have a great deal that we want to accomplish.

    • We’re rolling out a new training curriculum to support chapters as they do policy research, organize their peers, and engage with stakeholders.
    • We’re pioneering a state-based approach to engaging young people in policy with our NextGen Illinois initiative and our new Chicago staff presence.
    • Highlighting that our network is about people, we’re investing deeply in our chapter leaders and national student leadership team, increasing opportunities for training, conferences, and publishing.
    • With specific, actionable projects under our belt, we’re launching another year of our Rethinking Communities Initiative. (Check out our new toolbox here.)
    • Through increased and innovative usage of online tools and social media, we’re building community amongst the members of our network. We recognize that you don’t necessarily have to be in the same room as someone to be connected to them.
    • As we approach out 10th year as a network, we’re making a special effort to engage and reengage our distinguished alumni. Roosevelt alumni have gone amazing places; we’re reconvening them to help chart the course ahead with us.

    With our powerful team of national student leaders, an expanded level of staff capacity, and a little grit, we will continue to grow and strengthen the Campus Network to tackle issues today and build progressive leaders for tomorrow.

    Let’s get to work!

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

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  • 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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