Daily Digest - October 23: A Complex Financial System Begets Complex Regulations

Oct 23, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Dodd-Frank Spawns Software to Comprehend Dodd-Frank (Marketplace)

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Dodd-Frank Spawns Software to Comprehend Dodd-Frank (Marketplace)

Sabri Ben-Achour speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and others about the complexity of the Volcker Rule. Mike says the scrutiny of the courts has made some rules clunkier than necessary.

Unions Keep Pushing Emanuel to Challenge Interest Rate Hedges (Crain's Chicago Business)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Brad Miller has joined the push to convince the Chicago Board of Education to seek legal remedies for some bad financial transactions, writes Greg Hinz.

The Big Bank Backlash Begins (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger reports on the banks' take on current regulatory practices, after attending a conference where their lawyers discussed strategies for dealing with tough regulators.

Should the Poor Be Allowed to Vote? (The Atlantic)

Peter Beinart says voter ID laws are part of a long and unfortunate American tradition of distrusting poor people's ability to make reasoned political choices.

America's Middle Class Knows It Faces a Grim Retirement (LA Times)

Michael Hiltzik looks at a scary set of survey results from Wells Fargo, and says that expanding Social Security is the best option to ensure that retirement is possible for the middle class.

The Sharing Economy’s ‘First Strike’: Uber Drivers Turn Off the App (In These Times)

In what some are calling the first labor strike in the sharing economy, Uber drivers in five cities stopped picking up rides yesterday, reports Rebecca Burns.

Can Student Credit Unions Solve the College Affordability Problem? (The Nation)

Helene Barthelemy reports on a Columbia University group's attempt to open a fully student-run credit union on campus, with broad goals that include offering lower rate student loans.

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Daily Digest - October 20: Charity Never Helped Every Person in Need

Oct 20, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Iowa’s Tea Party Disaster: Joni Ernst’s Shocking Ideas About the Welfare State (Salon)

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Iowa’s Tea Party Disaster: Joni Ernst’s Shocking Ideas About the Welfare State (Salon)

Elias Isquith references Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's Democracy Journal article on voluntarism to explain why Ernst is so wrong about the place of charity in the social safety net.

Policymakers Slowly Acknowledge What Marketers Have Known for Years: Millennials Exist (Fusion)

Emily DeRuy reports on Millennials Rising, quoting Roosevelt Institute Vice President of Networks Taylor Jo Isenberg on why Millennials feel disconnected from policymaking.

Amity Shlaes: If Being Wrong About the Economy Is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait responds to Amity Shlaes's defense of a 2010 letter warning the Fed about inflation that never came. He points out the need to balance that risk with the reality of unemployment.

Rising Inequality: Janet Yellen Tells It Like It Is (New Yorker)

John Cassidy discusses the importance of the Federal Reserve Chair's Friday speech, which questioned whether rising inequality threatens American values of opportunity.

Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K. (NYT)

The current fight between Amazon and Hachette proves that Amazon is abusing its power, writes Paul Krugman, who compares Amazon's business practices to Standard Oil.

The Epic Struggle Over Retirement (AJAM)

Susan Greenbaum says that allowing Wall Street to attempt to fix pensions by turning them into defined contribution plans managed by Wall Street would be disastrous.

Workers Bring $15 Hourly Wage Challenge to Walmart (The Nation)

Michelle Chen reports on recent demonstrations by Walmart workers fighting for a better workplace. Walmart's willingness to "end minimum-wage pay" isn't enough to bring workers out of poverty.

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Daily Digest - October 17: The False Prophets of the Invisible Hand

Oct 17, 2014Tim Price

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What Markets Will (NYT)

Many economic analysts talk about the market as a kind of divine force, writes Paul Krugman, but they're only using it as an excuse to justify their own desire for more human sacrifice.

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What Markets Will (NYT)

Many economic analysts talk about the market as a kind of divine force, writes Paul Krugman, but they're only using it as an excuse to justify their own desire for more human sacrifice.

AbbVie Board Ditches Planned $55 Billion Shire Acquisition (Reuters)

The pharmaceutical company has abandoned plans to shift its tax base to the U.K., reports Ben Hirschler, because new rules make it harder to dodge U.S. taxes through such inversion schemes.

How the Fed Is Trying to Fill in the Gaps of Monetary Policy (WaPo)

Janet Yellen met with nonprofits and community developers in Chelsea, MA yesterday to discuss how Federal Reserve policy can better support working-class cities, reports Ylan Q. Mui.

Even Red-State Voters Want to Raise the Minimum Wage (The Nation)

Minimum wage increases will be on the ballot this fall in some states that lean heavily Republican, writes John Nichols, despite opposition from the top leadership of the party.

$10.10 Minimum Wage Would Save The U.S. Government $7.6 Billion A Year (HuffPost)

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute shows that a higher minimum wage would allow 1.7 million workers to stop relying on public assistance programs, reports Kevin Short.

Companies Warn That Income Inequality Is Hurting Their Business (ThinkProgress)

An analysis of corporate filings finds that many of the largest U.S. retail companies are concerned that their customers are not earning enough money to support sales, writes Alan Pyke.

The Volcker Rule: How a Simple Idea to Rein In Banks Got Supersized (Bloomberg View)

A straightforward proposal to ban proprietary trading has ballooned to hundreds of pages, leading some to call for the return of Glass-Steagall as an alternative, writes Yalman Onaran.

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Daily Digest - October 15: "Fifteen and a Union" Goes Beyond Fast Food

Oct 15, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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America’s Fastest-Growing Profession is Joining a Very Public Fight for Higher Wages (WaPo)

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America’s Fastest-Growing Profession is Joining a Very Public Fight for Higher Wages (WaPo)

Lydia DePillis looks at the differences in home health aides' fight for "15 and a union" when compared to fast food workers. For one, most home health aides are paid by Medicaid.

Gov. Scott Walker on the Minimum Wage: "I Don't Think It Serves a Purpose" (MoJo)

Andy Kroll places the Wisconsin governor's comments in context with his other remarks opposing the minimum wage, and his state's strong support for an increase.

Can Rehabilitating Prisoners Repair Wall Street’s Broken Reputation? (Buzzfeed)

Matthew Zeitlin questions whether financial products that fund social services are more than just a charm offensive meant to make Wall Street look nicer to the public.

Americans Face Post-Foreclosure Hell as Wages Garnished, Assets Seized (Reuters)

An uptick in "deficiency judgements," in which banks go after debt that wasn't covered by a foreclosure sale, is preventing people from moving forward after the Recession, writes Michelle Conlin.

When the Guy Making Your Sandwich Has a Noncompete Clause (NYT)

Neil Irwin says the noncompete clauses for "sandwich artists" at Jimmy John's typify the trend toward practices and procedures that leave low-wage workers even worse off.

Walmart’s Cuts to Worker Compensation Are Self-Defeating (AJAM)

By raising workers' share of insurance premiums, David Cay Johnston says that Walmart and other companies are only ensuring their own customers have less to spend.

The Real World of Reality TV: Worker Exploitation (In These Times)

David Dayen explains the difficult working conditions of the writers and editors who create "unscripted" reality television in light of one staff's recent push for unionization.

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Daily Digest - October 14: Americans Are Too Vulnerable to Downward Mobility

Oct 14, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Age of Vulnerability (Project Syndicate)

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The Age of Vulnerability (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz points out that inequality isn't just about lack of upward mobility, but also risk of downward mobility, and the U.S. economy has made people particularly vulnerable.

The Score: Does the Minimum Wage Kill Jobs? (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert say the answer is probably no; for one, the states that have raised their minimum wage this year are experiencing higher employment growth.

In Texas and Across the Nation, Abortion Access is a Sign of Women's Well-Being (The Hill)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn and Shulie Eisen connect access to abortion with the larger picture of women's health and economics. States that limit abortion don't do well on related issues either.

Youth Convention Gathers Crowds, Pols Over Brutality, Employment, Immigration, Ed and Transport (The Youth Project)

Jason Mast reports on the NextGen Illinois conference, profiling a few of the student organizers who are pursuing political change in their state now instead of waiting until they're older.

Revenge of the Unforgiven (NYT)

Paul Krugman says an excess of virtue surrounding debt is killing economic growth. Forgiving more debt would increase the other spending needed to kick-start the economy.

Them That's Got Shall Get (TAP)

Nathalie Baptiste follows up on the impact of the foreclosure crisis on black family wealth, focusing on the wealthiest black community in the country: Prince George's County, Maryland.

‘Citizens United’ is Turning More Americans into Bystanders (WaPo)

E.J. Dionne argues that massive independent political spending is turning voters off, as it deepens our divisions and the sense that no one will work together after the election.

New on Next New Deal

Does the USA Really Soak the Rich?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says that recent arguments against more progressive taxation use a nonsensical definition in which inequality drives up tax progressivity.

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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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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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Democracy, Economic Crisis, and “Rethinking Communities”

Sep 29, 2014Sabeel Rahman

The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Rethinking Communities initiative is emblematic of the model for democratic and economic reform needed in this New Gilded Age.

The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Rethinking Communities initiative is emblematic of the model for democratic and economic reform needed in this New Gilded Age.

As the latest Census report highlights, economic inequality continues to worsen. With a sluggish economic recovery, continued economic insecurity for many Americans, and ongoing political gridlock, it is increasingly clear that we live in a New Gilded Age. To successfully challenge this status quo, we must look to the lessons of past democratic reform movements as well as the innovative work that is being done on the ground even now in our communities.

Over a hundred years ago, the first Gilded Age witnessed a similar confluence of economic and political crises. It was the era of the rise of mega-corporations and trusts like Standard Oil. Not coincidentally, it was also an era of economic upheaval, recurring financial crises, and a growing anxiety about the ways in which economic inequality and concentrated private power would contaminate and corrupt politics, making it serve special and elite interests rather than the public good.

These crises provoked what became some of the most transformative reform movements in American history: the labor movement, the anti-trust movement, the Populist movement, and the Progressive movement. The common thread throughout these reform efforts was the desire to reclaim some form of popular sovereignty, whether through the creation of local-level policymaking powers for municipalities, the direct election of senators, the creation of national regulatory bodies to check corporate power, or the spread of direct democratic referenda procedures.

The ferment of these decades created the intellectual inheritance of the New Deal. When FDR came into office in the midst of the Great Depression, the members of his administration turned to policies initially pioneered by their Populist and Progressive precursors, especially when it came to banking, financial, and social safety net reforms.

But where the New Deal had decades of Populist and Progressive experimentation to build on, our current context is quite different. The present moment is similar to the early twentieth century in that our fundamental problem is one of dysfunctional democracy. To address economic inequality, we must first reform our democracy to make it more accountable and responsive. But this is not so easily done now that decades of political attacks have dismantled both the public’s faith in and the actual efficacy of democratic governance and the social safety net. The challenge of our generation is three-fold: address our ongoing economic crisis, rebuild the viability of and faith in democratic governance, and do so in a way that develops innovative models of democratic economic policymaking that we can spread and build on.

Cities represent a key frontline in this effort. There is a growing interest in the city as a unit of governance, and cities are unique economic engines whose population density and diversity make them critical drivers of innovation and economic growth. They are at the forefront of economic and policy innovation. They also represent one of the best hopes for reviving a genuine, grassroots democracy. Already participatory budgeting is starting to gain traction in U.S. cities as a way to create more robust grassroots participation while also improving the allocation of resources to underserved groups.

The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network’s Rethinking Communities initiative represents an exciting effort to drive this movement forward. By focusing on their own universities, Campus Network chapters can help reinvest in their local communities by pressing administrations to direct their investment or procurement policies to local businesses, or by broadening access to universities and community colleges by accepting public assistance, such as food stamps, on campus.

There are two particularly innovative dimensions to the Rethinking Communities initiative:

First, it represents a grassroots, democratic effort. The initiative itself was devised through a participatory strategy process within the Campus Network, through a series of bottom-up meetings and discussions in campus chapters and through a nation-wide convening at the FDR Library in Hyde Park. Campus Network chapters working with local stakeholders in their advocacy efforts further accentuate this democratic ethos.

Second, the initiative also reflects a growing push in economic development circles to reorient local economic development in a more community-oriented direction.

One conventional view of local economic development is that it is a competitive process in which the city is a product to be sold on the international marketplace. Residents and businesses alike, in this view, will choose to settle in the city that offers their preferred “bundle” of goods, services, opportunities, and tax policies. But this view tends to overstate both the degree of policy flexibility that cities have to tailor their “pitch” to outsiders, as well as the degree to which a city’s lifeblood depends purely on attracting an influx of outside dollars, talent, and investment. An opposing view is that local economic development is fundamentally parochial and redistributive, and its purpose is to meet the needs of the residents and businesses that are already part of the fabric of the city. This view has its own limits, underemphasizing the ways in which a locality’s prosperity and well-being are interrelated with regional and even global trends and flows.

More recently, however, a third view of economic development has emerged, which combines aspects of these two accounts. As Richard Schragger argues, we should view cities not as products to be sold on a competitive marketplace, nor as purely closed systems in which to pursue redistributive policies, but rather as path-dependent processes. In other words, cities evolve dynamically, through an interplay between already-existing local conditions and inheritances, and regional or global forces. The task of economic development policy, then, is to find a way to tap into the rooted, existing features of a city, and leverage those local resources.

Anchor institutions like universities are the quintessential lever for economic development in this process-oriented view. These institutions are fundamentally rooted in their communities; they cannot simply leave town the way other kinds of businesses can. They also have large ripple effects on their local communities based on who they hire, who they contract with, and how they employ their own resources. Anchor institutions thus represent valuable engines for local economic development—engines that, if redirected strategically, can help lift up the larger communities in which they are based.

These two features of Rethinking Communities – its democratic and participatory origins, and its focus on leveraging anchor institutions to accelerate local economic development – make it one of many contemporary heirs to the kind of innovation that came out of the first Gilded Age. Now, as then, there is an effort to take a more purposeful and directed approach to economic policy to help create the conditions for collective well-being. Now, as then, there is a desire to approach this task in a self-consciously democratic and participatory manner. And now, as then, it is likely that the lessons learned from (and the activists inspired by) this effort can contribute to a longer-term and larger movement for democratic and economic reform – which is precisely what we need to navigate our way out of the challenges of this New Gilded Age.

Sabeel Rahman is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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