What Will Obamacare Mean for the Low-Wage Work Crisis?

Jun 18, 2013Richard Kirsch

New health insurance marketplaces will make affordable care accessible to millions, but low-wage employees of big businesses may be left out.

One of the biggest issues that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is meant to tackle is the lack of health coverage among low-wage workers. While there is good news for many low-wage workers in the new law, many others will still find themselves locked out of access to affordable coverage. Solving their concerns will be one more part of the huge challenge of confronting the power of mammoth low-wage employers in the new economy.

New health insurance marketplaces will make affordable care accessible to millions, but low-wage employees of big businesses may be left out.

One of the biggest issues that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is meant to tackle is the lack of health coverage among low-wage workers. While there is good news for many low-wage workers in the new law, many others will still find themselves locked out of access to affordable coverage. Solving their concerns will be one more part of the huge challenge of confronting the power of mammoth low-wage employers in the new economy.

There has been a lot of coverage about the potential for fast food chains and other employers to cut the hours of some of their employees to under 30 a week in order to avoid having to offer them health coverage. To the extent that employers do cut back hours, it will accelerate a long-trend toward part-time low wage work; part-timers increased from 17 percent to 22 percent of the workforce just from 2007 to 2011.

The surge in part-time work is one aspect of the broader increase in low-wage work. Most of the jobs coming out of the recession are low-wage, which has hastened a trend going back 30 years of a growing number of low-wage jobs with no health benefits. The powerful eroding of good jobs is the greatest threat to broadly-shared economic prosperity. It destroys any promise of people living a middle-class life style, creates a two-tiered society, and undercuts the consumer buying power needed to move the economy forward.

The low-wage economy means more than just low wages. Post-World War II jobs, which came with employer-provided health coverage and a pension, are fast disappearing. Now more than four-in-ten workers do not get health coverage on the job. This includes many employees of small businesses, which do not offer any health coverage. It also includes millions of employees of large businesses, who either are not offered health coverage or can't afford the premiums.

Enter Obamacare. The good news in the ACA for low-wage workers who work for small employers (those with fewer than 50 full-time workers) is that many will have access to affordable health coverage for the first time through the new health insurance marketplaces. They will be able to sign up for subsidies that limit how much they pay in premiums to a percentage of their income and get plans with good benefits and moderate out-of-pocket costs. Those with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (about $15,000 for an individual) will be eligible for Medicaid in states that agree to expand coverage.

But for those who work for bigger employers – and some two-thirds of minimum wage jobs are at employers of 100 or more – it is not clear whether the ACA will deliver on its promise of affordable coverage. Ironically, part-time workers may come out ahead, with a much better chance of affordable coverage, while full-time low-wage workers may find coverage out of their financial reach.

Millions of people who don’t work more than 29 hours a week for any one employer will be eligible for affordable subsidized coverage through the new marketplaces. And even if employers trim back some workers' hours to get below the 30-hour mark, those workers may end up better financially and gain affordable coverage for the first time.

There will also be some employers who increase the hours of part-time workers to above 30 a week, as the Cumberland Farms stores, which employ 4,500 full-time workers and 2,700 part-timers, plan to do. Noting that  full-time workers stay with the business three to four times longer than part-timers, the Cumberland Farms CEO explains, ““Longer-tenured workers deliver a better experience for the customer.” According to the payroll-processing firm ADP, other businesses are also likely to encourage more workers to become eligible for employer coverage.

But it is not at all clear that full-time low wage workers for bigger employers will be able to get affordable coverage. That is because the big business lobby exercised its muscle in shaping the ACA in the Senate Finance Committee. All the law requires is that employers offer individual employee health coverage that does not cost more than 9.5 percent of an employee’s income in order for the business to escape paying a $2,000-to-$3,000 penalty. In addition, the ACA allows employers to offer plans with very high out-of-pocket costs.

Make no mistake about it; 9.5 percent of wages is a lot for anyone to pay for health insurance, and it is a huge amount for low-wage workers. By comparison, an employee who makes $12 an hour and works a 35-hour week would pay about 6 percent of his or her income on health insurance in the new marketplaces, for coverage which is almost certain to have better benefits and lower deductibles and co-payments.

And here’s the kicker: as long as a worker is offered the less-than-9.5-percent-of-income coverage at work, that worker is not eligible for the much better coverage in the marketplace. And if the worker decides that she can’t afford the premiums, she will be have to pay a penalty for not being insured.

The big outstanding question is, what will the bigger low-wage employers do? They could choose to offer affordable coverage to their employees. But the big fast food chains, retail giants, and box stores have a history of offering several levels of coverage to their employees, including bare-bones plans targeted at their lowest paid workers.  

Putting this all together, here is what health coverage for low-wage workers may look like after a couple of years of implementation of Obamacare: good coverage for those who work for smaller businesses and who don’t work more than 29 hours a week for any one employer, but either no coverage or coverage that is costly to buy and to use for many people who work more than 30 hours a week for the biggest low-wage employers in the country.

Seen in this light, Obamacare is one more step toward both improving and exacerbating the low-wage work crisis in the nation. The movement away from employer-provided health coverage is a huge step forward in creating a more just health care coverage system. But justice for low-wage workers at big businesses will mean confronting the power of companies like WalMart, McDonald's, and Bank of America (with its low-wage tellers). This is the same challenge we face in taking the other steps needed to modernize labor standards for the 21st Century: a higher minimum wage indexed to inflation, paid sick days and family leave, and overhauling labor laws so that workers’ rights to form unions is restored. It is fast becoming central to the fight for a new economy that works for all Americans.

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

 

Health care reform advocates image via Shutterstock.com

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Daily Digest - June 18: The Hunt for Good Jobs Continues

Jun 18, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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“This was really eye-opening for me”: Fed’s Raskin Shocked at Low Quality of Work at Local Job Fair (Reuters)

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“This was really eye-opening for me”: Fed’s Raskin Shocked at Low Quality of Work at Local Job Fair (Reuters)

Pedro da Costa notes that Sarah Bloom Raskin's comments at A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency on June 4th were surprisingly personal. Raskin's trip to the job fair helped her to understand just how difficult things are in today's job market.

Minimum Wage: Catching up to Productivity (Democracy)

John Schmitt suggests plans to increase the minimum wage so that low-wage workers get a piece of the pie from our massive productivity gains. Linking the minimum wage to CPI isn’t the solution, because that would just maintain the status quo.

  • Roosevelt Take: Watch John with Brink Lindsey, Ai-jen Poo, and Roosevelt Institute CEO and President Felicia Wong on the panel "Is Education the Answer?" at A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency.

Dems Rebrand Minimum Wage, Sick Leave As Women's Issues To Pressure GOP (HuffPo)

Laura Bassett and Dave Jamieson see these efforts as an intentional push against the GOP, since the Democrats have such large margins with women voters. By making economic issues into gender issues, they are already in the lead for voter approval.

Florida’s Governor Signs Business-Backed Bill Banning Paid Sick Leave (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert reports that Rick Scott has signed a bill that bans local governments from implementing paid sick leave legislation. Apparently Floridians are best served by bringing their infectious diseases to work.

Walmart Bill Vote Bumped to Next Week; Cue the Lobbyists (Washington City Paper)

Aaron Wiener writes on a D.C. City Council bill that would require large retailers whose workers are not unionized to pay a living wage of $12.50 per hour. Unsurprisingly, a Walmart spokesman doesn't like the exemption for organized labor.

Volunteering Lifts Job Prospects of the Jobless (WaPo)

Michael Fletcher reports on a federal study that provides data for something many have assumed: volunteering increases an unemployed person's chance of finding a job by 27%. For those without high school diplomas, who really struggle to find work, the effect is even greater.

The Current U.S. Economy: Text and Subtext (NYT)

Jared Bernstein thinks that the relatively positive IMF assessment of the U.S. economy requires annotation, which reveals the underlying struggles of the middle and lower classes and the problems with our current economic policy.

Will the Robots Steal Your Paycheck? BREAKING: They Already Have (The Atlantic)

Jordan Weissmann examines a study that shows that in countries where the cost of doing business has dropped, worker share of GDP fell as well. He argues that we need to consider how this change affects workers who are being replaced by technology.

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The U.S. Lacks Good Jobs, Not Good Ideas

Jun 17, 2013Jeff Madrick

A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency brought together leading policymakers, thinkers, and activists to discuss how we can get the U.S. to full employment and create more good jobs, but that was only the beginning of the conversation.

A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency brought together leading policymakers, thinkers, and activists to discuss how we can get the U.S. to full employment and create more good jobs, but that was only the beginning of the conversation.

Our jobs conference in early June covered a wide variety of potential solutions to what we call the jobs emergency, from major macro policies to local activist ones. Given how little is done in Washington to solve the problem, it is stunning how many good ideas are out there.      

Senator Tom Harkin, who has sponsored the most comprehensive jobs bill in Congress, set the stage with a keynote address that made no bones about it: we are not creating enough good jobs in America -- not by a long shot. Perhaps his key point of many was that we don’t have to choose between closing the budget deficit and making goods jobs. “Smart policies designed to reduce unemployment will also act to reduce the deficit,” he said. If we grow, create goods jobs that pay high wages, and encourage investment, the deficit will also fall, as it always has before when economies recovery strongly. It’s a win-win.

But Washington is stymying progress. That's why, he said, we must end the filibuster.

Alan Blinder, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, assured us there is no deficit problem for the next 10 years, so we shouldn’t be focusing on it. Several of our macroeconomists called for much more fiscal stimulus.

One cause of job deficits may well be Wall Street itself. Damon Silvers of the AFL-CIO talked about how Wall Street has misdirected investment from productive uses. Rosemary Batt of Cornell University discussed how privatization puts downward pressure on wages and jobs. Bill Lazonick of the University of Massachusetts Lowell stressed how cash-rich companies use money to buy back shares rather than invest in America.

Participants in the conference talked about creating jobs through infrastructure investment, community investments, and outright job creation by the federal government a la FDR. Others discussed the need to raise labor standards and enforce the existing labor laws.

Local activists offered refreshing perspective. Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion said we must not think that one-size-fits-all solutions are good enough. We have to bore down to the particulars. Ai Jen Poo wondered why we have so many unemployed when we have so many needs. For example, there is a desperate need for adequately paid care workers. Why can’t we get supply and demand to come together?

And Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin told us of her disappointing experience at a local jobs fair, where she saw the poor quality of jobs being offered. She asked the room why so many poor jobs were being created, and how long will this go on.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who also had a job creation bill before Congress, summed up the issue. “This is the seminal battle of our time," she told the conference. “A battle for our economy, a battle for fairness, a battle for the heart and soul of our country. This is a battle that has to be waged all around the country.”     

We at Rediscovering Government will make the jobs emergency our number one priority. Videos of the conference panels and keynotes are now available on our web site. We will also publish transcripts and eventually produce a book on the best jobs ideas in the country. We will provide background papers on policy proposals we make. Everyone in the nation should have a decent job if he or she wants one. As far as we are concerned, it’s one of our inalienable rights.

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick is the Director of the Roosevelt Institute’s Rediscovering Government initiative and author of Age of Greed.

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Daily Digest - June 17: When Interns Are Employees Too

Jun 17, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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When Unpaid Internships are Illegal (MSNBC)

On All In With Chris Hayes, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren discussed the normalization of unpaid internships in all sectors, even government, in response to last week's ruling that Fox Searchlight violated labor laws by not paying interns.

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When Unpaid Internships are Illegal (MSNBC)

On All In With Chris Hayes, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren discussed the normalization of unpaid internships in all sectors, even government, in response to last week's ruling that Fox Searchlight violated labor laws by not paying interns.

Faces of the Minimum Wage (NYT)

Annie Lowrey profiles six minimum wage workers and their struggle to get by. It’s hard to see what could help these people more than a minimum wage increase, but Republicans in Congress have blocked that option.

Are Long-Term Unemployed Taking Refuge in Disability? (WSJ)

Ben Casselman explains new research that shows few are taking advantage of disability: the law requires that a worker be unable to perform their last profession, and the job market is tight. Going on disability instead of finding a new career isn’t ideal, but it is legal.

BofA Gave Bonuses to Foreclose on Clients, Lawsuit Claims (Bloomberg News)

Hugh Son and David McLaughlin report that former Bank of America employees will provide evidence that the bank intentionally falsified documents related to mortgage modifications and slowed down that process in order to boost their foreclosures.

Chart of the Day: America's 30-Year Project to Make the Rich Even Richer (MoJo)

Kevin Drum looks at a chart from the Economic Policy Institute and the further calculations performed by Andrew Fieldhouse, which shows that thirty years ago, tax policy began to encourage income inequality on a massive scale. Under the 1979 tax code, the gap wouldn’t have grown as fast.

Want to Stop Flu Epidemics? Give Workers Paid Sick Days (Salon)

Katie McDonough says that researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have produced data to corroborate the common-sense assumption that lack of sick days contributes to the spread of infectious disease. One day off is enough to reduce flu infection transmission by 25%.

Great Gatsby Economics are no Party for the Middle Class (WaPo)

E.J. Dionne uses the music industry as an example of how the income inequality we're facing in the U.S. works, and argues that until those in the middle actually have a shot at huge success, our country will suffer..

Fight the Future (NYT)

Paul Krugman wants to stop focusing on the "long-run fiscal sustainability" of our economy, because we have no idea what the future will look like. Getting rid of sequestration and focusing on the short-term problem of mass unemployment is more important today.

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Daily Digest - June 14: When Labor Laws are Applied

Jun 14, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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New York Aims to Treat Underage Models as Child Performers (NYT)

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New York Aims to Treat Underage Models as Child Performers (NYT)

Eric Wilson reports that the New York State Legislature has approved a measure that changes labor laws affecting fashion. It's possible that this could force an aesthetic change on the industry, which produces clothes for women and shows them on girls.

Congress Turns Its Back on Rural America (Bill Moyers)

Greg Kaufmann continues to examine the effect of sequestration across the country, this time with an emphasis on rural areas. If the only Head Start center in a small town in Kansas is closed, the nearest option will be many miles away.

The Student Debt Crisis Is Everyone's Problem (The Nation)

Robert Applebaum reminds us that higher education is not a product to be sold but a public good and an investment in the country's future. The entire economy is dragged down when graduates lack disposable income due to their loan payments.

The Two Centers of Unaccountable Power in America, and Their Consequences (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich compares the powers of the intelligence community to that of Wall Street and the big banks. He doesn't trust either of these groups with the power they have, but the law provides little accountability for any of their actions.

Fortress Unionism (Democracy)

Rich Yeselson lays out a history of private-sector unions in the United States, with suggestions for what unions can do today to maintain their work despite an unfriendly legal climate and low union participation.

Are unpaid internships illegal? (WaPo)

Dylan Matthews discusses this week's ruling that Fox Searchlight violated minimum wage and overtime laws with its interns, and questions how it will affect for-profit versus non-profit sectors. Media coverage of current cases already has many companies reviewing their internship programs.

Sympathy for the Luddites (NYT)

Paul Krugman argues that as disruptive technologies eliminate jobs at all levels of skills and education, we must question whether education is still a solution to inequality. He says no, and that a stronger social safety net is needed to maintain the middle class.

Court: Human genes cannot be patented (CNN)

Bill Mears reports on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling, which concerned one of the ultimate cases of patent trolling: a company patenting a human gene. In this case, it was the breast cancer gene, which Myriad developed the first test for but certainly did not create.

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Daily Digest - June 13: Still Looking for the Jobs

Jun 13, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Fiscal Fixes for the Jobless Recovery (WSJ)

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Fiscal Fixes for the Jobless Recovery (WSJ)

Following his keynote address at A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency last week, Alan Blinder presents changes we could make to encourage more hiring. His solutions could appeal to Republican obstructionists: they may be government-based, but the jobs aren’t. Note: this article is behind a paywall.

What We Need Now: A National Economic Strategy For Better Jobs (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich disagrees with those who think technological advancements condemn part of our workforce to underemployment and low wages. Instead, they should push us to make many other changes that will get us to full employment and reduce income inequality.

Employers: Pay Your Interns. Labor Department: Bust Them if They Don’t! (EPI)

Ross Eisenbrey wants to see government enforcement of the six-part test of what constitutes an internship. When most internships fail the first requirement, that they be closely-supervised educational experiences, it's clear that we have a violation of labor laws.

Reminder: There Are Still 3 Times More Unemployed Workers Than Job Openings (The Atlantic)

Jordan Weissman doesn't want anyone to forget that the job crisis continues: there aren't enough jobs to go around in every major industry. This across-the-board problem continues to support the theory that the underlying issue is lack of consumer demand.

The Sword Drops on Food Stamps (The Nation)

George Zornick reports that Congress is officially going to cut SNAP funding, and the only debate left is how much to cut. Congress seems to be placing its priorities in all the wrong places: this will pass, but we can't get a jobs bill?

State Budgets are on the Mend (WaPo)

Michael Fletcher notes that state economies and budgets are on the mend, with 42 governors proposing increased spending next year. But he thinks this could be a momentary peak due to the spike in capital gains revenue at the end of 2012.

Boy, Is There Ever No Wage Inflation in This Economy (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein explains how we're seeing decent consumer spending numbers despite the absolutely flat growth in wages. He's worried that the spending is tied to housing wealth and savings, a familiar approach from 2008.

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Daily Digest - June 12: Economic Nostalgia

Jun 12, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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George Packer's U.S.A. (TAP)

In his review of The Unwinding, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Mark Schmitt examines how the novel can help us understand the effects of the financial crisis. Nostalgia for better economic times rules the day, and the book struggles to look forward.

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George Packer's U.S.A. (TAP)

In his review of The Unwinding, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Mark Schmitt examines how the novel can help us understand the effects of the financial crisis. Nostalgia for better economic times rules the day, and the book struggles to look forward.

Is a democratic surveillance state possible? (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal wonders if this concept is as oxymoronic as a cuddly hand grenade, but in a world where surveillance is so far reaching, democracy may be our only hope to check that power.

Fairness Doctrine (Democracy)

Timothy Noah thinks that we can't tie economics to morality in all cases, but when we do, we need to admit that moral policies won’t be fair for everyone. Part of our societal bargain must be that if you're doing well, you pay more to help those who aren't.

Revenue Blues: The Case for Higher Taxes (Dissent)

In four charts, Colin Gordon explains why we can and should increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on corporate income in order to sustain the society we want to see and reduce poverty.

Pushed Off The Job While Pregnant (NPR)

Jennifer Ludden reports for All Things Considered on the discrimination that routinely happens against low-wage pregnant workers, despite the fact that it is illegal. Could there be a worse time to lose a job than during a pregnancy?

Betting Against the Future: How Industry Loses When Interns Go Unpaid (ProPublica)

Intern Hanna Trudo writes on the intern economy, specifically how unpaid internships harm the talent pool available in certain fields. Her current role at ProPublica is the first time she's been paid a living wage since graduating in 2011.

Judge Rules That Movie Studio Should Have Been Paying Interns (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse reports that yesterday's ruling stated that the benefits unpaid interns got, "such as résumé listings [and] job references," were incidental to the value they gave their employer. The studio disagrees, because paying interns would throw off their multi-million dollar budgets.

Republicans to Wage 30-Year Budget War (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait is astonished that Senate Republicans are suggesting that we must fight the deficit based on 30-year projections when we can't accurately predict five years out (the 2008 prediction for 2012 showed a surplus).

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Daily Digest - June 11: Selling You Cracker Jack For Peanuts

Jun 11, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game — But Pay Me a Living Wage (Bill Moyers)

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game — But Pay Me a Living Wage (Bill Moyers)

Michael Winship writes on the side of America's pastime that isn't making the big bucks: concession workers. The company contracted by the San Francisco Giants pays their staff only $11,000 per year and puts impossible limits on obtaining benefits.

Why a Romney economic adviser wants the government to just hire people (WaPo)

Dylan Matthews spoke to Kevin Hassett, economic advisor to Republican candidates in the past four presidential elections, who has come to realize that unless the government intervenes, the long term unemployed are going to stay that way.

America Just Loves Firing Government Workers (The Atlantic)

Jordan Weissman is tired of watching Washington sabotage the economy by laying off federal employees. For every ten jobs we've added in the last three months, the government has shed one.

No, Public Sector Jobs Do Not Crowd Out Private Sector Ones (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein has run the numbers, and there's no proof that creating more government jobs would reduce growth in the private sector. That raises the question: why aren't we creating more government jobs so that more people are employed?

Unemployment Benefits and Actual Unemployment: An Analogy (NYT)

Paul Krugman makes an excellent analogy between unemployment benefits and speed limits. We would not expect less rush hour traffic if the speed limit were raised from 55 to 65, so why do people think cutting benefits will reduce unemployment?

I Would Desire That You Pay the Ladies (TAP)

E.J. Graff wonders how we are still dealing with the wage gap, fifty years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act. One option she suggests is that our real societal taboo is money, and perhaps by not discussing it women don't notice that it's missing.

The Quiet Closing of Washington (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich argues that as partisan conflict halts Congress, partisan control in the states is creating a deepening policy divide between red states and blue states. He's worried that this split will make it hard to see "one nation."

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Daily Digest - June 10: Abenomics Time

Jun 10, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Japan Is a Model, Not a Cautionary Tale (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz thinks that we should be following Shinzo Abe's lead, because even as Japan's working age population shrinks, their G.D.P. is still growing respectably.

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Japan Is a Model, Not a Cautionary Tale (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz thinks that we should be following Shinzo Abe's lead, because even as Japan's working age population shrinks, their G.D.P. is still growing respectably.

Student Advocates Back #DontDoubleMyRate Campaign, But Don't Support Obama's Proposal (HuffPo)

Tyler Kingkade writes that student groups, including the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, may be participating in the President's Twitter campaign on student loans, but they don't think his plan goes far enough. The variable rates make them understandably concerned.

The Big Shrug (NYT)

Paul Krugman worries that after a jobs report that he finds disappointing, policy makers are just not thinking about unemployment. We haven't reached "normal" yet, but you wouldn't know it if you asked them.

U.S. Is Still 10 Million Jobs Away From Normal (Bloomberg View)

Mark Whitehouse shares two numbers explaining Friday's jobs report: first, the employment-to-population ratio, which is the proportion of working-age people who have jobs, and second, the number of jobs that would take us back to pre-recession employment numbers.

Long-Term Jobless: Still a Bleak Picture (NYT)

Annie Lowrey suggests that the job market has mostly normalized for the short-term unemployed, but the long-term unemployed are facing a market that hasn't improved much. It's not because of a skills mismatch: employers are discriminating against them.

Austerity hampered job growth (Market Watch)

Heather Boushey looks at Friday's jobs report and thinks that the sequestration has slowed down the U.S. economy in a way that we just can't afford right now.

The jobs report was pretty solid. So why aren’t wages rising? (WaPo)

Neil Irwin argues that while we're slowly adding jobs, it's no surprise that wages aren't growing with employment, because growth is mostly in low-wage sectors. He thinks that until we are closer to full employment, there isn't much to be done here.

One way to help close the gender wage gap: raise the minimum wage (Washington Monthly)

Kathleen Grier suggests that President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage, which is stuck in committee, would not just serve as stimulus for the economy but also as an attack on the wage gap. This is one way we could raise wages despite the unemployment rate.

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Bored by the Jobs Numbers? We Need a Bold Solution.

Jun 7, 2013

This morning's new jobs numbers contained few surprises, and given the mediocre, low-wage recovery the U.S. has experienced for the last few years, that's a problem. On Tuesday, the Roosevelt Institute's Rediscovering Government initiative hosted "A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency," a daylong conference that discussed how this crisis of prolonged unemployment and underemployment came about and how we might fix it.

This morning's new jobs numbers contained few surprises, and given the mediocre, low-wage recovery the U.S. has experienced for the last few years, that's a problem. On Tuesday, the Roosevelt Institute's Rediscovering Government initiative hosted "A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency," a daylong conference that discussed how this crisis of prolonged unemployment and underemployment came about and how we might fix it. Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Rediscovering Government Director Jeff Madrick gave Next New Deal readers a preview of the discussion earlier this week, and Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch noted that the focus was not just on more jobs, but on quality jobs: “jobs that provide decent pay and benefits and the flexibility to be able to take care of one’s family.”

The conference was covered on the Campaign for America’s Future blog, where Derek Pugh provided a comprehensive summary of the day. MarketWatch also published dueling op-eds in response to the conference, with panelist Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute arguing that too much emphasis was placed on government and journalist Rex Nutting contending that the structural impediments to hiring that Furchtgott-Roth highlights have been around for ages -- and that in the end, we need government stimulus to create new jobs and increase demand.

Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin’s comments proved to be a highlight of the conference. Governor Raskin spoke on the lunch plenary, “Paving the Way for Good Jobs,” moderated by Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz. She discussed how she realized that most of the jobs being added to the economy are terrible after a visit to a local job fair. Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and Huffington Post all covered Raskin’s presence, and Reuters also noted that the stock market was jittery about what Raskin might say – perhaps more evidence of the “Jurassic Park problem” with Fed policy that Roosevelt Institute Mike Konczal recently pointed out.

Stay tuned for video from the event coming soon, and keep following the #jobsemergency conversation on Twitter!

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