For U.S. Mothers, Conservative Policies Can Be Deadly

May 12, 2014Andrea Flynn

This post is the first in the Roosevelt Institute's National Women's Health Week series, which will address pressing issues affecting the health and economic security of women and families in the United States. Today, a look at why conservative policies at the state level are leading to increased maternal mortality rates.

This post is the first in the Roosevelt Institute's National Women's Health Week series, which will address pressing issues affecting the health and economic security of women and families in the United States. Today, a look at why conservative policies at the state level are leading to increased maternal mortality rates.

For much of the last decade, maternal mortality rates (MMRs) have declined globally. But in the United States, they have consistently increased and are now at one of the highest points in the last 25 years. If conservatives have their way with social and economic policy, it’s unlikely the U.S. will make significant strides to improve the health of mothers in the near future.

According to a report released last week in the The Lancet, the U.S. now ranks 60th out of 180 countries for maternal deaths. China is number 57. Only seven other countries experienced an increase in MMR over the past 10 years. They include Greece, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. The report estimates that for every 100,000 births, 18.5 mothers die in the U.S. By comparison, 13.5 women die in Iran, 6.1 in the United Kingdom, and only 2.4 in Iceland.

It is no coincidence that the U.S. MMR has increased as poverty rates have steadily climbed. In 2010, Amnesty International released a report that showed women living in the lowest-income areas were twice as likely to suffer a maternal death. States with high rates of poverty were found to have MMRs 77 percent higher than states with fewer residents living below the federal poverty level. Women of color have poverty rates more than double those of white women, and black women are 3-4 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.

The numerous factors that contribute to the high U.S. MMR are complex, as are the solutions required to effectively address the problem. However, one solution is already in place and is working. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will significantly improve maternal health by mandating coverage of pre-natal, maternity, and post-partum care in all insurance plans. But some of the women in greatest need will remain uninsured and at increased risk because of the refusal of 21 states to expand Medicaid. Many of those states have among the nation’s highest rates of poverty and maternal mortality.

Expanding Medicaid would save women’s lives. A 2010 study conducted in New York City showed that the MMR for women with no insurance was approximately four times higher than for insured women, and that the rate for women insured by Medicaid was comparable to that of women with private insurance.

Many states have higher Medicaid eligibility limits that enable pregnant women with incomes above the standard Medicaid threshold to receive coverage. However, that coverage does not begin until women are already pregnant, and it is often terminated soon after their babies are born. This short coverage period leaves women uninsured for much of their lives and places them at higher risk for health problems that can lead to complications during and after pregnancy. Following implementation of the ACA, some states reduced eligibility limits for pregnant women, and loopholes in other states will leave many women without coverage during this critical time. Expanding Medicaid would provide continuous coverage for women whose incomes exclude them from the program and who do not qualify for subsidized insurance through the exchanges.

Despite the maternal health crisis unfolding in many states, conservative state lawmakers stand firm in their refusal to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and a minimum of 90 percent thereafter. Some states, like Georgia, are so intent on undermining the ACA that they have passed laws to prevent state employees from advocating for expansion and have made it more difficult for people who already qualify for Medicaid to enroll.

Conservatives do not have plans to solve this crisis. In fact, their plans will only make it worse. Family planning cuts and abortion restrictions in places like Texas have shuttered women’s health clinics and obliterated the health infrastructure on which poor women relied for their basic needs. And while many women and their families are still reeling from the recession, cuts to safety net programs like food stamps have led to greater insecurity in health, income, and food than ever before.

Last week’s Lancet report is a stark reminder that women suffer heavy casualties in the partisan battles raging in states across the country. But what we are witnessing today is more than a nasty game of politics: it is a violation of women’s human rights. We should be ashamed and outraged.

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

Image via Thinkstock

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Daily Digest - May 12: Walmart Sets the Wrong Example for a Progressive Future

May 12, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Did Obama Make a Mistake by Touting Solar Power at Walmart? (All In with Chris Hayes)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren says this speech rewarded a company that is failing on the environment and on inequality, which makes it a confusing political choice.

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Did Obama Make a Mistake by Touting Solar Power at Walmart? (All In with Chris Hayes)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren says this speech rewarded a company that is failing on the environment and on inequality, which makes it a confusing political choice.

Thousands in Pierce County Trapped in Underwater Mortgages (Tacoma News Tribune)

Kathleen Cooper speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal, who says these mortgages slow economic growth because homeowners spend so much on debt payments.

Making Ends Meet at Walmart (NYT)

When Walmart reviewed its financials to determine performance pay for executives, it made adjustments to ensure larger bonuses despite a rough year, reports Gretchen Morgenson.

Undocumented NYC Domestic Workers Clean Up with Collective (AJAM)

Forming an environmentally friendly cleaning co-op has ensured fair wages, steady income, and safety for some undocumented workers, writes Kaelyn Forde.

Heller May Try to Attach Unemployment Extension to Tax Cut Bill (Roll Call)

Humberto Sanchez reports that an upcoming set of corporate tax breaks with bipartisan support could be key to a deal that would renew unemployment benefits.

FCC Head to Revise Broadband-Rules Plan (WSJ)

Gautham Nagesh says FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is trying to address public backlash with this latest revision of rules, which could be a good thing for net neutrality.

New on Next New Deal

For U.S. Mothers, Conservative Policies Can Be Deadly

Maternal mortality rates have increased in the U.S., and Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn argues that conservative policies like refusing Medicaid expansion make things worse.

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Daily Digest - May 9: Higher Taxes on the Rich Are Nothing to Fear

May 9, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Now That’s Rich (NYT)

With so much wealth now concentrated among a small financial elite, writes Paul Krugman, we should set aside fears that higher taxes would punish workers and job creators.

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Now That’s Rich (NYT)

With so much wealth now concentrated among a small financial elite, writes Paul Krugman, we should set aside fears that higher taxes would punish workers and job creators.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz spoke to the Senate Budget Committee about how policy, like higher taxes, could address inequality. His testimony was based on a forthcoming Roosevelt Institute paper.

People Don’t Vote With Their Feet When it Comes to Taxes, Report Finds (WaPo)

Niraj Chokshi reports on a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study, which found that interstate moves, which are rare to begin with, have almost nothing to do with income taxes.

Warren and Allies Said to Reject Fannie Mae Overhaul Bill (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Six Democratic senators have decided this plan to replace government-owned mortgage firms is unworkable, reports Cheyenne Hopkins, and without them it's unlikely to pass.

Unions Warn Obama on Walmart Visit (WSJ)

Jeffrey Sparshott reports that labor groups are unhappy with the president's planned talk about energy efficiency at a Walmart. They suggest another topic: income inequality.

Janet Yellen's Favorite Phrase, Explained (Vox)

Danielle Kurtzleben notes that Yellen often refers to labor market "slack," which means people want work but can't find jobs. Yellen's concern is how the Fed can address that problem.

Rand Paul Clearly Doesn't Understand Why the Economy's Still Struggling (TNR)

Danny Vinik writes that the real problem in the economy is low demand for goods and services. Cutting spending won't solve that problem, but full employment would.

New on Next New Deal

Collaborative Democracy in Action: The Summer of Rethinking Communities

Alan Smith, Roosevelt Institute Associate Director of Networked Initiatives, writes that students across the country are asking how their schools can better support local communities.

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Daily Digest - May 8: More Questions Than Answers for the Federal Reserve

May 8, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Bernie Sanders Asks Fed Chair Whether the US Is an Oligarchy (The Nation)

John Nichols says Yellen did not directly answer the senator's question, but she expressed concerns about growing inequality and how it shapes participation in democracy.

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Bernie Sanders Asks Fed Chair Whether the US Is an Oligarchy (The Nation)

John Nichols says Yellen did not directly answer the senator's question, but she expressed concerns about growing inequality and how it shapes participation in democracy.

Yellen Won’t Be Pinned Down on Plans (NYT)

During her testimony to Congress yesterday, the Federal Reserve chair avoided giving specific timetables for Fed policy even when pressed, reports Binyamin Appelbaum.

  • Roosevelt Take: Before she became Fed chair, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal praised Yellen for her work leading the way on monetary policy.

Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage Agreement: Collective Bargaining Reborn? (TAP)

Harold Meyerson suggests that the Seattle minimum wage plan could create a new model for collective bargaining outside of unions that still involves businesses and labor groups.

Largest Fast Food Strike Yet Will Include Rallies on 6 Continents (MSNBC)

The fast food workers movement continues to grow, reports Ned Resnikoff, with strikes planned on May 15 in 150 cities nationally and solidarity rallies planned abroad.

  • Roosevelt Take: Harmony Goldberg, the Program Manager for the Roosevelt Institute's Future of Work Initiative, looks at another major issue facing fast food workers: wage theft.

Welfare Photos Shame Shoppers as States Target Abuses (Bloomberg)

Mark Niquette writes that photos on benefit cards may be meant to stop fraud, but they're increasing costs and potentially dissuading people from getting the benefits they need.

Lies, Lives and Obamacare Statistics (U.S. News & World Report)

The simple fact that the GOP ignores about Obamacare is that access to health insurance actually saves lives, says Pat Garofalo. That fact makes repeal hard to swallow.

Even Millionaires Think The Rich Should Pay Higher Taxes (HuffPo)

Robert Frank reports on a CNBC survey of millionaires, which shows that they agree that inequality is a problem, though their proposed solutions split along party lines.

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Daily Digest - May 6: Will the Robin Hood Tax Hit the Mark?

May 6, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Most Popular Tax in History Has Real Momentum (The Nation)

Katrina vanden Heuvel, a member of the Roosevelt Institute's Board of Directors, says that if Europe's "Robin Hood" tax is successfully implemented, it could boost efforts to implement a financial transactions tax in the U.S.

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The Most Popular Tax in History Has Real Momentum (The Nation)

Katrina vanden Heuvel, a member of the Roosevelt Institute's Board of Directors, says that if Europe's "Robin Hood" tax is successfully implemented, it could boost efforts to implement a financial transactions tax in the U.S.

Which States Are Givers and Which Are Takers? (The Atlantic)

Maps depicting states' reliance on federal funding lead John Tierney to ask whether the framework of givers and takers is useful, or whether we should instead focus on how the government creates an American community.

Blackstone Unit Invitation Homes Sued Over Rental House's Condition (LA Times)

Amid concerns about investment firms' ability to properly maintain the thousands of rental homes they've acquired, Andrew Khouri reports on one family's lawsuit over a slum-like house.

Gallup: Uninsured Rate Is Lowest We've Ever Recorded (TNR)

Jonathan Cohn reports on a new poll from Gallup, which has been asking whether people have health insurance since 2008. He warns that this isn't proof that more are getting health care, but it's a good start.

Millennials Have Stopped Trusting the Government (Vox)

Andrew Prokop breaks down a new survey by Harvard's Institute of Politics, which shows Millennials' decreasing trust in government over the past few years. Their biggest concern is unsurprising: the economy.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Vice President of Networks Taylor Jo Isenberg introduces the Campus Network's 2014 10 Ideas series, featuring top policy proposals from students across the country who still see ways for government to create a better world.

Nutter to Sign Minimum Wage Executive Order (Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Philadelphia mayor is following President Obama's lead, reports Claudia Vargas, by requiring a higher minimum wage in city contracts and subcontracts.

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Daily Digest - May 5: Yes, the Haves Still Have Most of It

May 5, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Is Net Neutrality Dead? (Bill Moyers)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is prioritizing political expediency over a real solution to the problem of net neutrality, such as declaring the Internet a utility.

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Is Net Neutrality Dead? (Bill Moyers)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is prioritizing political expediency over a real solution to the problem of net neutrality, such as declaring the Internet a utility.

Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist? (All In with Chris Hayes)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren discusses the ways that racial attitudes, which are different from racist behaviors, impact policy. 

Inequality Has Been Going On Forever ... but That Doesn’t Mean It’s Inevitable (NYT)

Inequality could be turned back, writes David Leonhardt and improving education might be an easier route than French economist Thomas Piketty's much-discussed suggestion of a global wealth tax.

Why the Jobs Report Isn’t All Good (The Nation)

George Zornick says that until the jobs report from the survey of households is just as positive as the one from the survey of businesses, Americans shouldn't be assured there's been economic growth.

Mary Jo White Doesn't Scare Anybody (TNR)

Alec MacGillis writes that while President Obama framed his choice for new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission as a push back on Wall Street, in fact White's regulatory approach has been lacking.

New on Next New Deal

The Minimum Wage Index: Why the GOP's Filibuster Will Hurt Workers

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch lays out the numbers that show how raising the minimum wage is necessary for today's economy.

Cliven Bundy's Window into the War on the Poor

Cliven Bundy's description of the social safety net as a form of slavery reflects a common conservative ideology of poverty as personal failing, writes Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn. That framework enables the GOP's push to dismantle the safety net.

No More Sterlings: It's Time for Communities to Take Ownership of Their Sports Teams

Alan Smith, Roosevelt Institute's Associate Director of Networked Initiatives, writes that a fan-owned Los Angeles Clippers could be a model of how a sports team could truly support its community.as an anchor institution. 

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The Minimum Wage Index: Why the GOP's Filibuster Will Hurt Workers

May 2, 2014Richard Kirsch

Opponents of a higher minimum wage claim it would have a negative impact on the economy and workers. The numbers tell a different story.

Opponents of a higher minimum wage claim it would have a negative impact on the economy and workers. The numbers tell a different story.

This week, a minority of United States senators blocked a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from coming to a vote, overruling the 54 senators who supported the bill. If the bill had passed, it would have been only the fourth time the minimum wage was raised in the last 30 years. The Republicans who led this filibuster effort will claim a higher minimum wage would hurt the economy, but don’t let them fool you: American workers are the ones left hurting as a result of their actions. Here are the real dollars and cents of the minimum wage debate.

$7.25: The current federal minimum wage, established in 2007.

725%: The increase in CEO compensation from 1978 to 2011.

$10.86: How much the federal minimum wage would be if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years.

$21.72: How much the federal minimum wage would be if it had kept up with productivity since 1968.

$16.62: The hourly wage needed to meet the basic needs of an average person.

$32.19: The hourly wage needed to meet the basic needs of one adult with two children in Philadelphia.

$2.13: The federal minimum wage for tipped employees, established in 1991.

$5,915,186: Average net worth of U.S. Senators who blocked a vote on the minimum wage. 

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.

Image via Thinkstock

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Cliven Bundy's Window into the War on the Poor

May 2, 2014Andrea Flynn

Republicans were quick to distance themselves from the Nevada rancher after his remarks about slavery, but he points to a deeper issue with conservative policy.

It’s tempting dismiss Cliven Bundy – the Nevada rancher who last week suggested that blacks were better off under slavery – as a fringe conservative unworthy of any more airtime. But his remarks provide a window into the underbelly of today’s conservative movement and are worth a closer look.

Republicans were quick to distance themselves from the Nevada rancher after his remarks about slavery, but he points to a deeper issue with conservative policy.

It’s tempting dismiss Cliven Bundy – the Nevada rancher who last week suggested that blacks were better off under slavery – as a fringe conservative unworthy of any more airtime. But his remarks provide a window into the underbelly of today’s conservative movement and are worth a closer look.

Bundy was a little known entity until earlier this month when his two-decade long refusal to pay cattle grazing fees escalated into a face off between his own armed militia and agents from the Bureau of Land Management. The episode launched him into the national spotlight and endeared him to conservatives like Senators Rand Paul and Dean Heller, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, among others.  

Bundy capitalized on his moment in the spotlight to expound on the grazing rights of his cattle, abortion, and slavery.  He suggested that government subsidies have caused “negroes” to abort their “young children” and “put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.” He went on: “And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

Conservatives scrambled to distance themselves from Bundy by denouncing his comments as offensive and racist. But they were rather quiet on Bundy’s characterization of the safety net as a modern form of slavery. Their silence reflects a common ideology uniting conservative politicians to the likes of Bundy, one that lays the blame for poverty squarely on the shoulders of poor people – particularly poor people of color – and the government programs meant to support them.

And it’s hard to argue that the GOP’s recent social policy proposals aren’t fueled by the same fire that propelled Bundy’s diatribe. Rand Paul has equated universal health care and government programs such as food stamps to slavery. Congressional candidates from North Carolina to Arizona have argued that entitlement programs are simply a way for government to assert power over the people. Paul Ryan, whose latest budget slashes spending for Medicaid and food stamps, has warned that the safety net is on the brink of becoming “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.” Mike Huckabee suggested that by supporting mandated contraceptive coverage, Democrats were suggesting women needed “Uncle Sugar” to control their “libidos or reproductive system.”

These notions have motivated conservatives' strategic dismantling of the social safety net. Cuts to food stamps, with more to come should Paul Ryan have his way. Refusal to participate in Medicaid expansion, leaving more than 3 million low-income people uninsured. Rejection of the minimum wage increase. Opposition to extending federal unemployment benefits. Repudiation of equal pay measures. The imposition of funding cuts and regulations that have shuttered women’s health clinics across the country. And a government shutdown spurred by opposition to the ACA, specifically the law’s contraceptive mandate.

Who bears the greatest burden of these actions? Poor women, particularly women of color, who have long been blamed for perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Bundy and conservative politicians alike rely on historic notions of poor women being lulled to complacency by government subsidies. Those notions – in addition to being racist and classist – are simply incorrect. The majority of subsidy recipients work, but don’t make enough to support themselves or their families. As of 2011, 70 percent of low-income families and half of all poor families were working, but research suggests that nearly one-third of all working families do not make enough money to meet basic needs.

Republican cuts to government subsidies will only further erode the economic security of American families. Instead of laying blame – indeed, punishment – on poor women, we should bolster the foundation on which they stand. The Roosevelt Institute recently released a report that made the case for economic policies that would support working families: raising the minimum wage; expanding the earned income tax credit; instituting paid sick and family leave; and strengthening the right to organize; among others.

As my colleague Ellen Chesler and I recently argued, all of these recommendations are necessary but will be meaningless if women are not able to make free and fully informed decisions about their reproductive health, including planning the timing and size of their families. As such we must expand the nation’s family planning program, push for all states to expand Medicaid, and tear down the other policy barriers that prevent low-income women from accessing care.

Conservative leaders are desperate to convince the poor that social safety net programs are the chains binding them to poverty, thereby legitimizing the destruction of the very system built to lift up America’s poor families. Perhaps we should thank Bundy for using such ugly terms to shed light on the conservative substitute for the war on poverty: a war against the poor.

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

Image via Thinkstock

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Daily Digest - May 2: What Piketty Tells Us About the Power of Big Thinkers

May 2, 2014Tim Price

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We Read Seven Thomas Piketty Think-Pieces For You (The Brian Lehrer Show)

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We Read Seven Thomas Piketty Think-Pieces For You (The Brian Lehrer Show)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal joins Brian Lehrer to explore some notable responses to Capital in the 21st Century, from the Financial Times to Esquire to Mike's own piece in the Boston Review.

Poll: Americans feel system is 'stacked against' them (Now with Alex Wagner)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren talks to Alex Wagner and Heather McGhee about the fight for a living wage, and notes that progressives are succeeding at the local level even when the federal government is unresponsive.

The Tech Deficit & Living in Afghanistan (The Weekly Wonk Podcast)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, Fuzz Hogan, and Dan Tangherlini discuss the lack of tech expertise in the public sector and how to build a culture that makes government work more appealing. The segment begins at 12:24.

Seattle Mayor Says He Struck a Deal for a $15 Minimum Wage (WaPo)

The deal requires large businesses in the city to raise the minimum wage in three years, reports Niraj Chokshi, but allows small businesses seven years to comply. The City Council will take up the bill next week.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong delivered the closing remarks at the mayor's recent symposium, where she said calls for a higher minimum wage were calls for democracy.

Why Economics Failed (NYT)

During the Great Recession and its aftermath, writes Paul Krugman, leaders ignored the textbook macroeconomics that could have restored full employment and prevented so much suffering.

Can We Have More Jobs and Less Work? (In These Times)

Jessica Stites speaks to progressive thinkers who call for seemingly opposite approaches to making life better for waged workers in today's economy: full employment, and less work with a universal basic income.

Why Poverty Is Still Miserable, Even if Everybody Can Own an Awesome Television (Slate)

Consumer goods like TVs and cell phones are cheaper than ever, writes Jordan Weissmann, but for low-income families, essentials like health care and education are getting further and further out of reach.

New on Next New Deal

Good News for Progressive Economics: Big Thinkers Like Piketty Are Back in Vogue

Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong writes that Thomas Piketty's success is no fluke. He and other progressive thinkers have redefined the debate around inequality with the power of their ideas.

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Daily Digest - May 1: Why Won't Washington Listen to Workers?

May 1, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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America's Workforce Radio (WERE 1490 AM)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch joins Ed Ferenc to discuss how organized labor has used its power to ensure a fair deal for the middle class. Richard's segment begins at 15:55.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

America's Workforce Radio (WERE 1490 AM)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch joins Ed Ferenc to discuss how organized labor has used its power to ensure a fair deal for the middle class. Richard's segment begins at 15:55.

Republican-Led Filibuster Blocks Minimum Wage Bill in Senate (NYT)

Jeremy W. Peters reports on yesterday's filibuster, which killed the proposed $10.10 minimum wage increase. Republicans claim they're protecting a weak economy, but Democrats say the problem is poverty wages.

Why the Minimum Wage Vote Failed Today (PolicyShop)

Heather McGee ties the minimum wage filibuster to campaign finance. The wealthiest Americans have a very different opinion on the minimum wage than others, and they're who Congress hears from most.

Why Economic Growth Ground to a Halt Last Quarter (Vox)

The harsh winter was probably a cause of the slowest economic growth since the fourth quarter of 2012, says Danielle Kurtzleben, but this early estimate of GDP is still subject to revision.

Fed to Scale Back Bond Purchases by Another $10 Billion (WaPo)

Ylan Q. Mui reports that despite the news about slow economic growth, the Federal Reserve continues to demonstrate confidence in the recovery by tapering its stimulus program.

Paul Ryan Won’t Let Poor People Testify At Hearing About Poverty (ThinkProgress)

Yesterday's hearing wasn't the first time that advocacy groups were turned away from testifying at one of Ryan's hearings, reports Bryce Covert. Experts may study poverty, but they usually aren't experiencing it themselves.

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